Aare Gani Adams, the Kakanfo of Yoruba land, has said that there is nothing wrong in any region wanting to break away from the country.
Adams in this interview with Sunday Sun also spoke on the state of the nation, restructuring, EndSARS protests, Oyigbo crisis in River State, among others. Excerpts:
How do you feel about the EndSARS protest organized by the youths?
It was one of the most peaceful protests in the globe. It was well organized and those behind EndSARS protest are not activists. They are young promising Nigerians who decided to agitate for their rights and fight for their future in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Even when they were fighting for democracy from the military we have never been so well-organized to protest like the one done by the EndSARS. I give kudos to them for making that protest very peaceful until when some urchins started attacking them from Abuja, Kwara and some other states. The protests of EndSARS is about their future, it’s about having a very good future, it’s about not allowing their future to be mortgaged, it’s about having a prosperous nation called Nigeria. Part of their demands is change of constitution, which is germane for the progress of Nigeria. When you are talking about change in constitution, without changing the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria there is no way Nigeria can move forward. When there is a change of institution, there will be a very good and balanced structure, when there is a balanced structure there will be a very good institution. Talking of the education sector, talking of health, talking of power and talking of different infrastructure. When there is a very good institution there will be a very good and organized society, a peaceful society, a prosperous society, so in the seven demands of the EndSARS, the remaining demands revolve around change in the constitution. Definitely, the protests of the EndSARS was well organized, very peaceful, and very orderly until when they were being attacked at the Lekki tollgate and when hoodlums hijacked it using it as an opportunity to loot and vandalize property. But those who looted and vandalized property were not the peaceful protesters.
Hoodlums went to the Oba of Lagos’ palace and took away his staff of office; as a tradionalists, what does that imply?
It’s unfortunate. It’s something we don’t pray for. It’s an ugly incident. The issue of the attack in Oba’s palace, even if you are not a traditionalist, you won’t encourage that. It’s an ugly incident that we don’t pray for. It was not only the palace of Oba Akiolu that was invaded, two other Oba’s palaces were also affected. It would have happened in other palaces if not for the intervention of our group, OPC, as we made valiant efforts to secure the palaces. In any community, there is no king that will not have his own enemy. What happened was that the Oba’s enemies now used the opportunity of the protests to invade the palace. The traditional rulers have a limited role to play in governance. Even the chairman of local government area is more powerful than some traditional rulers. They just have an influence, though to lay the blame of the country or the economy on the traditional ruler is uncalled for. It’s not accepted, so I sympathize with the Eleko of Eko, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu on the issue and I appeal to him that by the time he comes back to the palace, he should mend fence with those people that are not happy in Isale Eko because if they are happy enough they could have protected their heritage, but we noticed there’s a missing link between Kabiyesi and his subjects, but I condemn it in totality, vandalizing and looting the palace of any monarch. It is not the right channel to show your grievances to the traditional ruler.
Restructuring is now on the front burner, in which area of the polity would you want to see restructured?
It is by two ways, if the government does not want to listen to agitations for restructuring, people will be thinking about secession. But I believe the first choice now is for Nigeria to restructure to regionalism. We don’t need to deceive ourselves. We have to trace where we are coming from, how we got our independence in 1960. The agreement we made to come together in 1914 was not with people’s consent. Before then what we had was the northern protectorate and southern protectorate, after Lord Lugard brought us together for amalgamation. Even with the amalgamation, everybody runs his government based on self-government. In 1960, we got our independence. Now, how should we run a peaceful and prosperous nation where there will be no crisis or rancour, but mutual respect and love within different major tribes and ethnic nationalities? As it is now, it is very obvious that Nigeria cannot move forward. We don’t even have money to fund our governance. Now, Nigeria is borrowing money from Brazil, $1.2 billion. There was a time Nigeria gave Brazil money in 1976. Now, Nigeria is borrowing money from Brazil. How much is $1.2 billion with the potentials given to us by Almighty God? But the structure we are using now turned everyone lazy; turned our governors to governors going to Abuja to collect allocation from the Federal Government without looking inward. The solid mineral is getting rotten in most states. The Northwest has not less than 25 to 30 solid minerals, Nasarawa has more than 30 solid minerals, Kano has about 33 and Plateau has about 34. Recently, we leant that Zamfara has 22 carat gold. So, the majority of the Northwest have their own solid minerals even though they don’t have oil. Apart from solid mineral they have agricultural advantage. So, what are we yearning for, when you have your own region you can’t generate money to the centre? Definitely, it’s either restructuring or let us go peacefully through referendum. These are the two options. I can’t keep on shouting restructuring for the past 32 years without result and still shouting restructuring without thinking of alternative. I can’t continue to be a toothless bulldog in the media, shouting restructuring without giving an option to the people that build the obstacle to that restructuring. People will not take you seriously when you continue agitation.
What is your take on what happened in Oyigbo in Rivers State?
I think the governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has come out to debunk it that he didn’t give any instruction to the army. However, my take on the earlier statement credited to the governor where he said he’s giving executive law to proscribe IPOB, I must say I disagree with that. I must advise the governor that he should be careful. He should look beyond as governor of Rivers State, one day; he will finish that tenure and will be aspiring to have a national position. If there is crisis in your state, don’t use every force in your power to descend on that crisis and you don’t act as a military. He should remember that he is a civilian governor in Rivers State; he should not talk as if he’s talking to the opposition. Orders are very sensitive on how you handle issues with diplomacy. And to make sure as a leader you weather the storm. Even if the Federal Government called IPOB a terrorist group; it’s not in your power to say you will insert the law to call them terrorist in your own state because there’s a slight difference between the Igbo and the Rivers people. I understand during the state creation, part of Igbo land was cut to join Rivers State. When you build enmity between the major tribe it will count on you as a politician. Maybe in 2023 after his tenure he would want to be a president or vice president and you want to go and campaign in the Southeast, they will remember what you did to their own brothers. Even though not all the Igbo share the ideology of IPOB, but they won’t be happy when you instigate or instruct Nigerian army to kill their sons and daughters. But he has come out to debunk it. He knows the implication. But he said one thing that he won’t care of future ambition; he has to protect his own state. But he should understand that same issues that happened in Rivers, happened in Ebonyi, almost all the states in the South, in the aftermath of killing in Lekki, turned to violence and most of the governors managed it without using executive power. Even within the crisis of the EndSARS, there was crisis between the Yoruba and Hausa, but the Lagos State government and the security agencies managed it so that there won’t be two crises at the same time. I don’t see him managing that issue very well. He should talk less, on the crisis in the media. He should allow his commissioner for information to talk on his behalf. If you notice the statement has boomeranged you can debunk it as a governor. That’s why a government has different ways of communication, when he tests the waters with the statement and the statement did not go down well with the people, he should now come out as the principal to debunk it and say something in a diplomatically way that will not cause tension. I will appeal to him that the issues in Oyigbo should be managed very well. This is race that are business people, scattered in different places in Nigeria. What happened in Oyigbo can cause a reflection of interest of the Igbo all over the world today and we don’t want something like that to happen in future.
During that period of EndSARS, there was a notice that all Igbo should leave Lagos, how did you see that?
That statement came from one lone ranger who wants cheap popularity. The guy resides in London. The statement is not accepted even by one per cent of Yoruba people. I don’t know his motive, when he wants to talk he attacks the Igbo, I don’t know who built that hatred in his mind. I don’t know when he left Nigeria, but we, the Yoruba, don’t have any problem with the Igbo. Immediately different statement condemned it, Wole Soyinka condemned it. Most of the socio-cultural groups in Yoruba land condemned it. Somebody who sits down in his comfort zone in London cannot just do video and Igbo people would listen to him. The guy in question is not even up to 40 years. He always wants to jump into controversy; the statement is not from Yoruba leaders. We in Yoruba land don’t have problems with the Igbo. I lead a grassroots organization, for the past 26 years, that OPC has been in existence, I have never seen any street that the Igbo confronted us directly in Yoruba land. Other ethnic nationalities have confronted us, but not the Igbo. Immediately there’s crisis, they call us to manage it, but they have not confronted us. Even when they bought land if the Yoruba people give them problem most of them come to me for settlement to the extent they will pay money for peace to reign. So, why are we having problem with them?
Nnamdi Kanu always claims that you are his friend, is this true?
Yes. Nnamdi Kanu is my friend too. I salute his sagacity, I salute his courage and I will be the last person that will condemn his belief in self-determination. Self-determination is in the charter of the United Nations and African Union. You have the right, just 10,000 people and say we want to have our own nation in United Nation, if you document it very well, fight it intellectually; you will get a whole nation. So, if someone says he is tired of this country, there’s no crime in it, inasmuch as you are not pursuing that struggle on violence, you are not forming a guerilla warfare, you are not attacking the public and private property and installations. So, when you are agitating the government of the country needs to negotiate with you, it’s not by calling that person or the organization names, it can’t solve the problem. Even though you kill the messenger you can’t kill the message. There’s no way you can bamboozle someone who has the conviction and the spirit that he wants to liberate his people. We must learn from history. As a government we must prepare to dialogue. If you don’t want to give him all the demands, you give him some. That’s how civilized countries behave. Kanu has internationalized his struggle. Those who call him names in Yoruba and Igbo, he is moving. Conveniently he runs his broadcast twice or thrice a week.
A lot of people believe Nnamdi Kanu is talking rubbish sometimes, even some Igbo,do you agree with that?
I don’t believe that. Anybody who says Kanu is talking rubbish, that person did not learn from history. So, you now say Ojukwu is wrong if Kanu is taking rubbish; what Ojukwu did in 1967-70, you now say he is wrong; there’s no any living Igbo will abuse Ojukwu. They now see that since he lost that civil war, they have not become the president. Even Ekwueme by accident became the vice president. It was just ceremonial, he was not given power. You now see someone that says he cannot be a second class citizen, if you don’t want to give us power, we want to go. That person is not a good Igbo person, he’s a slave within the Igbo, he’s somebody we call a coward that allows his economic interest to cow him within the society. He is not talking rubbish. I have never met Kanu one on one, but that notwithstanding, last time that we spoke I told him not to abuse Yoruba people again. Continue with your struggle, don’t abuse our people, and since then he has stopped. Let the Igbo face their own problem and let the Yoruba face their problem. Even the statement he made about Tinubu, someone has corrected him, we know how to resolve our problem in Yoruba land, and you should not abuse Tinubu. Face your Igbo people and we will face our Yoruba. When somebody made a mistake we correct the person. Human beings are born to make mistakes. Somebody that makes mistake can do a better thing tomorrow that is leadership. He has been corrected is not enough to disorganize the unity between the Yoruba and the Igbo people. People are looking for a way to cause disunity between Igbo and Yoruba and it can’t work, we have learnt our lessons even with the Niger Delta, we can’t afford not to be together.