The National Public Relations Officer of the New Era Oodua Peoples Congress, Adesina Akinpelu, says that the announcement of Gani Adams as the next Are Ona Kakanfo by the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, has relegated the importance of the title
Why did you name your group New Era of the Oodua Peoples Congress?
The name of the group is actually Oodua Peoples Congress, New Era. It used to be the foot soldier arm of the OPC under Gani Adams before we discovered that he betrayed the entire Yoruba race though his dishonest activities, using OPC as a shield to defraud the Yoruba race. The foot soldiers decided to leave him to form our own group in order to protect the interest of the Yoruba race and preserve our integrity as a nation.
What did Adams that forced you to form your group and label him a betrayer?
In 1998, there was information that the founder of the OPC, Frederick Fasehun, collected N20m from former President Olusegun Obasanjo. Adams told us at the coordinating council meeting of the OPC that Fasehun collected the money in order to sell Yoruba nation to the Hausa/Fulani. We were not there when he collected the money but there was a standing rule that anyone who had information that concerned the group must not hesitate to share it with the rest. But Fasehun did not do that. He allegedly acted unilaterally.
At the time, Adams was like the second-in-command to Fasehun while Evang. Kunle Adesokan was the general secretary. We believed whatever Adams told us because we saw him as the representative of the foot soldiers in the higher order of the group. That was how we started the campaign against Fasehun; Adams began the campaign. But at the end of the day, we discovered that Adams had a different mission. He wrongly accused Fasehun, using us against the leader.
In the ensuing battle between the two factions of the OPC led by Fasehun and Adams, many lives were lost. On March 1, 1999, we announced Adams as the new national coordinator of OPC to weaken the influence of Fasehun in the group. On that day, the police killed more than 20 members of the OPC because Fasehun had influence in government and he had the money to mobilise the state against us.
He used every power he had against us but we were determined to stay strong despite that. It also strengthened our opposition to Fasehun and allegiance to Adams. Adams should tell the world the number of the OPC members that were killed between 1999 and 2005. He should be bold enough to tell the world the number of property of Yoruba influential figures that were destroyed in Ibadan, Lagos, Abeokuta and other major Yoruba cities.
He deceived the group in Abeokuta when former Ogun State governor, Gbenga Daniel, tried to broker peace between our group and Fasehun group. Daniel appealed to us that all he wanted was peace between two Yoruba major groups. When we returned to Lagos, Adams inspired us to continue the war against Fasehun. He said he told Daniel that he had accepted to work with Fasehun so that he could collect money from the governor. We were shocked at his response.
At that point, the foot soldiers from both sides (Fasehun and Adams factions) decided to bury our differences and come together. We realised that Adams had been misleading us. When he realised that we were united against him, he turned against us. We are not as rich as he is but we have resolved not to approach politicians to raise money because that was what Fasehun was alleged to have done and which caused disharmony in the group. That is what Adams is still doing which weakens his group and caused disaffection.
Why are there constant clashes between your group and Adams OPC?
The constant clash is as a result of Adams policy. He does not want peace in Yoruba land. He is using al the powers he has to cause bloodshed. The problem started on March 16, 2015 when Adams staged a rally against the then Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Attahiru Jega, in Lagos.
We challenged him and told him that the OPC should not be seen as a partisan group taking sides in politics. We told him that what he was doing confirmed the report that he truly took money from the government of the day. He said he did not collect money from the government. But when the problem escalated, he accepted that he took money on behalf of the group and that he was ready to give us a share, but we rejected his proposal. We told him that under (former) President Goodluck Jonathan, Yoruba was only given a second fiddle role to play.
How is your relationship with him now?
We are not in good terms for now but I still regard him as a person who loves the Yoruba agenda. All these problems centre on the defence of Yoruba race. The problem I have with him is between us but unfortunately, it has caused factions in the OPC.
You are aware of the pronouncement of the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi, that Adams is the new Are Ona Kakanfo of Yourba land. What is your reaction to this?
What Alaafin did has never been done in Yoruba land. No Alaafin in the old Oyo Empire ever installed two Are Ona Kakanfo during his reign. So Oba Adeyemi has made history. Oba Adeyemi installed M. K. O. Abiola, who brought us to the battle for the emancipation of Yoruba land.
Installing Adams is like creating crisis because Adams has turned Yoruba people against themselves and caused bloodshed among us.
Are you saying that Alaafin is creating problem for Yoruba people with his choice of the OPC national coordinator?
The OPC believes that the pronouncement is a mockery of the title. When you look at the antecedents of the last holder of the title, Abiola, and that of Adams, you will realise a huge gap begging to be filled. Take a look at the issue of 2015 elections where he worked against the interest of Yoruba people. What has been the major contribution of Adams to Yoruba progress that could earn him the title?
Alaafin said he chose Adams based on merit after considering several factors and Adams himself said that he deserves the honour. Notable people have also congratulated him. Are you questioning the authority of the Alaafin?
We are in no way disrespecting our father, Iku Baba Yeye, the Alaafin, in any way as a group or individuals in the OPC. But there are fundamental questions that must be asked. There must be something that Adams must have done for the entire Yoruba race to qualifies him among all Yoruba sons as the occupier of that exalted office.
The OPC is not against it. What we are asking is that based on the antecedents of a man that has never worked for the interest of Yoruba nation, why is he the most qualified person for that honour? Adams has always worked for his personal interest hiding under the banner of the OPC. He enriched himself as a leader of the group in the past.
If you had remained in his group and he was made the Are Ona Kakanfo, would you have supported him?
I would not have supported him in any way because I know the kind of person Adams is. I was talking with one of our respected leaders a few days ago. He said Adams was desperate to become the Are Ona Kakanfo because he had lost the confidence of the people and needed something extraordinary to launch himself back into the minds of the people. What he wants is just fame and an office to use to continue his activities.
Adams is no longer popular among the people because of his activities. He is like a man who has yet to secure a land but goes ahead to purchase a mat to spread on the land. We urge Alaafin to have a rethink on the decision.
Were you surprised when you heard the news?
It started like a rumour but we waved it aside because we were of the opinion that the Alaafin would not consider such person for such a respected position. The last time such rumour came up, Alaafin said when Abiola was chosen, he had outstanding qualities that endeared him to the people. He was a popular choice and no one queried the choice. Has Adams measured up to that quality?
The monarch should be able to highlight the contributions of Adams to the development of Yoruba nation. To us, he has done nothing tangible to merit that position.
Have you met the Alaafin to express your reservations?
I have been to the palace about five times with letters seeking audience with the monarch. We have never been called. I don’t know if our letters reached him. But each time I make enquiry to know what is happening, palace sources will tell me that our letters are with the Alaafin but they cannot force him to act on them. I can understand their position.
A former Lagos State governor, Bola Tinubu, did a lot for the OPC. He rescued us from molestation in the hands of the police. He built a house for us at Abule Ado in Lagos which Adams took possession of. He was financially responsible for the wedding ceremony of Adams. At the end of the day, Adams fell out with Tinubu. A senator in Osun State bought a new jeep for us and gave the key to Adams. Today, Adams is against the man.
Does Tinubu recognise your group?
Tinubu is a Yoruba leader we respect so much. He is aware of our existence. What we want is a situation where all groups will be harmonised.
Will you attend the coronation ceremony of Adams?
Adams came to the Yoruba Summit in Ibadan a few weeks ago and gave an order to his boys to take my life. I was almost killed in the fight but God saved me and our members from the attack. It was a journey we were not supposed to complete but we sailed through even though with injuries. I was hospitalised after the attack at the police Hospital in Eleiyele. But I thank God that I survived. Is there any moral justification to go and dance at the installation ceremony of such person? What if another attempt is made on my life? I am not going and no member of our group will attend the ceremony if it is ever held.Punch