The Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams, talks about the security challenges in the South-West and the continued flouting of court orders by the current regime among other issues.
What have been the challenges of your office as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland and are the elders in the region cooperating with you to advance the socio-political and cultural interests of the South-West?
Since I became the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, I have never collected a dime from any government or leader. I run the office with my little resources. You know that the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland doesn’t collect salary. But he lives on contracts and patronage from the government and corporate organisations.
We know about the history of the13th Aare Ona Kakanfo, Samuel Ladoke Akintola. We know about the late Chief MKO Abiola. As the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo, he was rich but also a contractor. He handled contracts on telecommunications. It would be two years on January 13, 2020 that I was installed as the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo.
Like I said, I have never collected money from either the Federal Government or governors. But I am not complaining. The spirit of the position will empower me at the right time. There is no Aare Ona Kakanfo that will not be rich in the future. But I was not poor before I became the Aare Ona Kakanfo. I was comfortable in my own level. But notwithstanding, the challenge behind the office is resources.
I should be able to solve some problems. Every month, I receive about 40 cultural invitations for the celebration of days in some communities across states. Days such as Osogbo Oroki Day, Ode-Omu Day etc. For social engagements like weddings, I receive about 30 every month. We had to create a manifest for the programme so that some of my chiefs-in-council can be at the ones I am unable to attend. And for my security details to plan their programmes whenever we are to go out.
My charity cause is still there as people visit my residence to see me. But I have ensured that people should be allowed in for such purposes only on appointment.
There are also cultural programmes in the Diaspora which I attend. In Nigeria, we have cultural promotion through which we hold 18 festivals in a year. Even some communities in Yorubaland who hitherto don’t promote their cultures are now doing so. They need the support of the Aare Ona Kakanfo.
On the issue of security challenge in Yorubaland, some people demanded to know what I was doing about the situation. Some of them have forgotten that the Aare Ona Kakanfo we have now is not more powerful than the olden days Aare Ona Kakanfo. The old Aare of the Oyo Empire was during the time of (Obadoke) Latoosa. The modern Aare started during the time of Akintola, MKO and myself.
Notwithstanding, one of the reasons the Imperial Majesty, the Alaafin of Oyo, Oba Lamidi Adeyemi and Yoruba monarchs conferred the Aare Ona Kakanfo title on me was because I have a group that could assist Yorubaland in terms of cultural promotion, unity and security.
Also through the followers, we can bring more development to the region. I have to try my best in my own way. I talked to many people and even wrote letters to governors in the region and traditional rulers.
After a year, the governors decided to hold a security summit which I attended though we didn’t end it as there was no communique. There was also another conference in Ibadan, Oyo State, where I spoke and the then Inspector-General of Police also organised a security summit and issued a communique to partner with the Oodua People’s Congress.
That was what set the ball rolling for us to operate. I move beyond the OPC. I am not only the leader of the OPC in the South-West as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, I am a shadow patron to other groups in the region whether I am installed as the patron of the groups or not. I have also called other groups in the region for a security meeting.
How do you rate the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) in the areas of economy, social justice and respect for the rule of law?
We’re not feeling the economy at all. It’s becoming more biting by the day on the people. People don’t analyse economy on the pages of the newspapers. The masses have to feel the impact of a good economy. People have to see food on their tables and essential commodities have to be affordable for them. There should also be jobs. Many are losing their jobs. Banks sack their workers and industries are collapsing.
From Anthony to Apapa believed to be industrial areas, many firms have closed down. When we talk of social justice, the regime appraisal in this regard is poor. Even as president, the late Umaru Yar’Adua always said the rule of law was important. Even during the legal process on his election, he admitted that the election that brought him to power wasn’t perfect. He was a northerner mind you. That tells you someone with conscience. We’re not being sentimental. He respected the rule of law. He obeyed court rulings. It’s funny that this government doesn’t believe in the rule of law.
We must not keep quiet about it.
When I became the Aare Ona Kakanfo, I promise to limit my radicalism. But we have realised that if we don’t talk, it will consume us and the gains made in the struggles we partook in. We fought for the enthronement of democracy and we must protect it by abiding by the rule of law.
The leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, also known as Shi’ites, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky and a former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (retd), were granted bail but the government refused to obey the rulings.
Now, SaharaReporters publisher, Omoyele Sowore, that didn’t steal Nigeria’s money nor carried guns was granted bail. But the Department of State Services invaded the court premises to rearrest him. It’s unfortunate but some leaders who read partisanship into these cases would be consumed at the end of the day if care is not taken. The security agencies may not know the consequences of what they are doing now. But the global village will paint the country black and any aids or grants meant for the country would be blocked.
By the time we realize it, there will be sanctions from countries. When sanctions are slammed on the country, the people in power will not feel it. It’s the masses that will bear the brunt. If countries block trade advantages against Nigeria, the masses will feel the effects.
Today it’s Sowore, do we know who is next? I am not an ally of Sowore. I know what he did to me during the 2015 election and through 2017. Most of Sahara Reporters’ stories about me were malicious. But the issue at stake now is not about Sowore. It’s about protecting the judiciary; one of the most reliable institutions in a democracy. When judiciary fails, democracy has collapsed.
The last hope of any common man is the judiciary. But in a situation where the government refuses to obey court judgements, democracy has definitely collapsed. I am one of those who fought for democracy so I can’t keep quiet.
Also, the executive has cowed the legislature by installing its principal officers through the party machinery. The senate president has said they would act on any requests from the executive. It’s not supposed to be that way. The legislative arm is supposed to be independent. Courts now grant DSS orders to hold suspects in custody when such persons should be arraigned immediately. Many things are changing in our political system. Our institutions are being broken.
I will be 50 next year. I don’t carry any country’s passport other than Nigeria’s. I am a citizen of Nigeria. Whenever we’re abroad, Nigerians in the Diaspora molest us, asking “what are you doing about our country?” They believe we’re part of the system. Even at the points of entry into some countries, Nigerians are often separated to be interviewed because of their nationality.
The permutations for 2023 have started with some politicians subtly moving against zoning while others are clamoring rotational presidency for power to go to the South. What is your take?
I am not interested in 2023 now. It’s a serious distraction to the incumbent leader in the country. He was sworn in on May 29, 2019 and not up to two months, someone is saying he wants to occupy the position. It’s a distraction.
It’s like someone who becomes a king and immediately after, another person is eyeing the position. It’s too early to be talking about 2023. We can be talking about 2023 in 2021 but not in 2019. The permutations about 2023 show our politicians’ lack of concern for the political system. They are only interested in money and power. They don’t care about our political institution and see it only as a business. They don’t see it as a way to develop the states. They don’t see it as a way of empowering the people or working for the country. To me, it’s tactless for anyone to be talking about 2023 now.
What is your view on the hate speech and social media regulation bills before the Senate?
The sponsor of the hate speech bill should be tagged ‘Enemy of democracy.’ The main content of any democracy is free speech. Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the wellbeing of the people. Someone then smuggled into Nigeria the contents of a Singaporean law to be replicated in the country. He didn’t copy the good developmental model in Singapore for us to copy in Nigeria.
That lawmaker, I say again, should be tagged, “Enemy of democracy.” Yoruba say “When one is sent the message of a slave, one should deliver it with the character of a freeborn.” It’s unfortunate we have such a person in the legislature. His senatorial district shouldn’t return him to the Senate.
The senate president should be careful as all eyes are on them. They are supposed to be friends of the masses. The Head, Directorate of Military Intelligence, during the late Sani Abacha regime, was Col. (Frank) Omenka. The DMI was like the DSS now. He was in charge of mistreating people at the time in an underground cell in Apapa, Lagos.
But today, nobody remembers Omenka. They talk about Abacha. Nobody remembers the people Abacha used to perpetrate evil during his regime or those that carried out bad actions on his behalf. It’s only Abacha people remember today. Many things were even done in Abacha’s name by the people who he didn’t even give such orders. If the current leaders in the country don’t care, the same thing would happen to them in the future. Before they know it, 2023 will come and they will become former occupiers of the offices. Even if they installed someone, the person can’t save them.
Nigeria cannot continue the way it’s going. If it continues like this for the next six years, I’m afraid the country will burn because the level of hardship, insecurity and battered image is too high. There’s a high level of visa denials against Nigerians by countries. If the frustration gets too high and the people realize that the government’s actions are responsible for their plight, they would be angry with the government.
Our electoral system has been destroyed. Now, regardless of the good image you have, you cannot win elections. Money politics and god-fatherism rule our electoral system. We cannot continue like this and think the country will last. I’m advising Muhammadu Buhari to do the right thing.
The issue of insecurity is getting worse. We have a partial war going on in the North-East. Kidnapping in the North-West, North-Central, South-East and South-South. Kidnapping and ritual killings ongoing in the South-West. These cases are underreported. In advanced countries, governments partner with retirees, drivers and citizens to share intelligence with security agencies. I must however commend the IG for coming up with community policing to partner with the relevant groups to tackle insecurity.
The South-West governors initiated a security architecture codenamed ‘Operation Amotekun (leopard)’ to combat insecurity in the region but it has yet to take off. Do you think the governors are doing enough to stem insecurity in the region?
I think the governors don’t know what to do with ‘Operation Amotekun.” We wrote them and I also spoke with two of them. We gathered that a leader of the ruling party who is also an ex-governor called some of them not to allow the OPC to be part of the security initiative.
We laughed when we heard that because if the governors refused to secure the region, the person who told them not to involve the OPC would have destroyed them. We will not keep quiet. We are not even asking only the OPC to partner with them. We are bringing different organisations but have to coordinate them.
We also heard that the Lagos State Government intended to use the Neighborhood (Watch) to combat insecurity in the state. Some members of the group were recruited from the OPC. But by the time they left the OPC, the spirit of our group left them. By the time they lured away our members without my knowledge or consent, the OPC spirit leaves them immediately. I have a joker (card) in my hand. If they don’t carry me along in this issue of insecurity ravaging the South-West, some of them would be disgraced. I know where I am coming from. God has a reason for bringing me here this time to play my role. But if some people say because of political interests or god-fatherism they would not let me play my role, the owners of Yorubaland would ask them.
Can you tell us the joker card?
I cannot reveal it to you. It’s the last card one plays in some games. Yoruba will hear from us. The governors are only South-West governors for now and not permanent. Yorubaland is permanent. They have to do the right thing to secure the people and Yorubaland.
Do you think the operation can check the security challenges facing the South-West?
It will tackle insecurity in the region if it’s not politicized or infiltrated by godfathers. What are we even talking about politics? It’s when the atmosphere is secure and there’s peace that we can talk of playing any reliable politics. For how long will the lives of our people be wasted before we do the right thing? The wave of insecurity is blowing from the South-East, North-West and North-Central to the South-West.
There are lots of kidnappings ongoing along the Lekki-Epe axis. When we concluded the 2019 edition of the Ajagunmale Festival in Lekki, Lagos, we drove within Epe and Ikorodu for one and a half hours without seeing more than three vehicles on the road. Motorists have deserted the road. You then say Neighborhood (Watch) would handle that. We know those who can lay down their lives to protect the Yoruba.
Do you think Nigeria can progress without restructuring?
Nigeria cannot progress without restructuring. For Nigeria to progress, it has to restructure. Nigerian government has failed without adhering to the agenda of our forebears that upon independence that there must true federalism.
Immediately (first Nigerian military head of state) Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi changed the country’s system from true federalism to unitary system, within one year, there was a civil war. Nigeria was no longer the same since the war ended in 1970.
Many people have different concepts for restructuring. What is your idea of restructuring?
In my perspective, there are two phases. One, zonal arrangement where every region will have its police, economy and certain percentage given to the centre.
Two, a return to the 1963 Constitution when each region had self-autonomy and about 25 percent of each region’s income went to the centre. That’s simple. Every region should determine its electricity, economy, agriculture and the external affairs such as army, navy, air-force, customs should be handled by the centre. But every region should have its own police.
How best can Nigeria curb violence becoming a permanent feature of its electoral process?
Our electoral system has to be overhauled and the rule of law must be obeyed. The Electoral Act 2018 (Amendment) bill denied executive assent should be signed into law.
Look at what happened during the Kogi governorship election. A women leader of an opposition political party was burnt alive. If we don’t address the issues affecting our electoral process, we will continue having rubbish output every time. And if care is not taken, we will run ourselves into anarchy. Most of the African countries at war today started gradually and the people there didn’t take care to resolve the contending issues that confronted them. Those in power now should endeavor to leave a legacy by solving the country’s problems on the basis of true federalism.