ENCOMIUM Weekly was at the palatial structure of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) leader, Otunba Gani Adams in Abule Ado, Lagos on Sunday, April 18, 2015, where we had an encounter with him on national issues, especially those bordering on his role at the just concluded general elections. He also spoke on few other ones.
2015 general elections have come and gone, what’s your assessment of the whole exercise?
There were lots of shortcomings on the elections, including shortage of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC), which we complained about, complaints of irregularities from political parties, complaints about security agents that some of them took sides in some areas. There were a lot of complaints, especially about the governorship and state Assembly elections against the INEC. I am very sure, by next month, Nigerian lawyers will be busy challenging the results of the elections. I must at this point sensitise Nigerian public that when a group says that certain thing is wrong with a system, they must take it serious. When we came out with the protest against PVC, especially in the South where there was shortage of PVCs, even Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) didn’t take us as a serious group, while All Progressives Congress (APC) also saw us as another opposition group after PDP. Now, we have all seen the whole thing. But we have elected a new president, in person of General Muhammadu Buhari (retd). I need to salute his courage that one day he will win an election and become the president of this country after many attempts. And I will also thank the President of Nigeria, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for conceding defeat even before the declaration of Buhari as winner by INEC. He deserves to be appreciated because he saved this country from unnecessary crisis after the election. If he had raised any issue about the irregularities that characterized the elections, Nigeria may not be the same again. We may not be as we’re today.
Although, we’re not politicians, we learnt a lot in these 2015 general elections. We learnt a lot in the process, during and after the elections.
One of your fears earlier was that if Jonathan didn’t win the election, what you people agreed on at the National Confab may not be implemented. Now that he didn’t win and Buhari is succeeding him, what’s your advice to Buhari on the resolution of the Confab?
I think the cardinal point of Gen. Buhari is change and one of the reasons Nigerians voted for him was that they wanted change. And the slogan, change was first used by President Barack Obama of United States of America, the first time when he was campaigning for Presidency. He said he needed fresh blood in the politics and governance of America. Moreover, for us to achieve a total change in Nigeria, our country must be restructured. If there is no change in structure, no federalism, it would be very difficult for us to achieve transparency. I have listened to the comments of president-elect, and one of the true statements from him is transparency. And everybody that wants to work with him, including the ministers, special advisers, permanent secretaries must all be clean. They must declare their assets in the court of law. I think, that’s part of the ingredients of transparency and accountability. And second, he said pensions of former governors will be reviewed which is a welcome idea. Then, if he doesn’t include the recommendation of the National Conference, I don’t think there is a way he can achieve a total change because it’s very important Nigeria has to be restructured. If Nigeria is not restructured, definitely we can’t witness peace. Nigeria is nations within a nation. We need to review the corporate existence of this country, not by breaking up. We need to review the structure. How we got the structure from the United States of America in 1979. You will agree with me it’s not the true federalism they’re running in the US that we’re operating in Nigeria. It’s quite different. And that’s one of the reasons we’re running from pillar to post, and the centre could not hold. And we find it difficult to move forward. So, I will advise the president-elect he should not throw away the good things that President Jonathan did during his time. Most of the countries in the developed world, no matter the change of baton from one party to another, there is always the spirit of continuity in policies. But it’s only here in Nigeria when a new government comes in, that government will push aside all what its predecessor had done and start afresh. That alone is a waste of money and time in governance. If you inherit a credible policy from your predecessor, you don’t need to throw it away. But the one you know can affect your integrity, you can do without. And the issue of National Conference is not a policy from President Jonathan, it’s people’s will. It’s what almost about 500 people sat down in not less than four months to agree on. It’s a resolution that will make this country move forward. We need a new Nigeria.
But how can this be actualized when some people including Sheu Sanni have opposed the recommendation of the Confab, even the APC itself which will now be at the centre didn’t support the recommendation. How do you now think that APC, being in power will buy all these ideas you’re pushing forward?
APC may not support it as a party but all the governors of APC sent their representatives to the conference. Even Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano State was using their government liaison office in Abuja to host most of the delegates from the North. And almost all the APC governors in the South-West held meetings in their own Government Houses in Abuja. We held a meeting in Osun State three times, we held meetings in Ogun State two times. It’s only in Ekiti and Lagos States that we didn’t hold any meeting. Ondo State arranged permanent secretariat for us in a hotel. Our resource persons were working there 24 hours. So, if APC as a party were involved, so what are we saying? Governor Ajimobi was part of us even when we’re endorsing the South West position of the National Conference in Ibadan, Oyo State. Also all the representatives of the governors from the South West were there. Now, politics has gone, we have to face reality. Although, when we’re in politics, most of the decisions that come from the incumbent president may not be agreed with by APC as an opposition. But at the same time, they managed to partake in it. They have pushed their position into the content of the Confab. Now that politics has gone, I believe those in APC, as reasonable progressives, would support the recommendation of the conference. As it is now, you will realize most of the states need their own internal security. We need state police. We need the Supreme Court in the state. And the states need to develop their solid minerals. For instance, Kano alone has about 30 solid minerals, Plateau has about 25, Nassarawa has about 25 also. So, part of the recommendations at the Confab was that five per cent of our budget should be used to develop these solid minerals so that states can develop at their own pace. And the issue of funding too, a blank cheque was given to the states so they can generate money, so that every governor will not be depending on the centre before such a governor takes care of his state. And in the percentage, the issue of three-tier of government was played down at the Confab. We agreed on the two-tier of governments. We agreed over 40 per cent of the allocation should be for the federal while 50 something should go for the states. And the states should be left to determine what happens at the local government level. So, the states should be prepared to even create more local governments and fund them through the allocation they are getting from the centre because already their allocations have been increased. So, every right thinking person must agree to the recommendations at the Confab if we want to move this country forward.
I won’t react to Sheu Sanni’s issue at all. Everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. National Conference is beyond any president. This man has just laid foundation for it. And he has built the house to a stage I think Buhari should continue so that we can be in harmony. We should have the feeling that we’re Nigerians, not I am Hausa, you’re an Igbo or Yoruba.
It was obvious you identified with President Jonathan during the election which he lost, what’s going to be your relationship with the new government under the leadership of Buhari?
Identifying with the party that lost an election doesn’t mean you’re not a Nigerian anymore. As a Nigerian, you have the right to vote for a party of your choice. We had 14 presidential candidates in the just concluded presidential election, and surely I must have voted for one out of the 14. Not supporting Buhari doesn’t mean he should be my enemy or I should be his enemy. Whether or not I like it, come May 29, 2015, he will be the president of this country and I will be one of the citizens under him. The fact is he must not nurse any grudge against those who didn’t support him during the election. He is ruling both those who supported him and those who didn’t. About two million people voted for him in the South West, how will he identify those who didn’t vote for him? Can he differentiate between the kind of services he will be rendering to those who voted for him and those that didn’t? About 98 per cent of people in the East and South voted for Jonathan, will Buhari deny them the necessary projects, no. That’s politics. Obama won an election against the Republicans, he didn’t take them as his enemies. Life must move on. Even those that didn’t support you during the election may even be more useful to you in your government. Those who supported you in the election maybe your enemies when you assume power. So, there is no permanent enemy or friend in politics. I personally believe in relationship. I didn’t know my support or my organisation’s support behind PDP but the relationship I have with President Jonathan since he was the vice president of this country. And definitely if I have a relationship with Buhari and he is doing the right thing, I will not betray him. I don’t betray people. I am not like politicians that decamp because Jonathan had lost. I always have a relationship with a person. I believe he is a brother, friend and a leader. Definitely, if my relationship had started with Buhari, I would have done the same thing I did for Jonathan for him.
So, there is no regret concerning your action?
No, I don’t have any regret. At 45, I would be stupid to say I regret supporting Jonathan. Before we decided to support him, we weighed both the pros and cons. And it wasn’t a single handed decision by me. That was why when a set of parasites were issuing a statement, we were just laughing at them. It was not a decision that came from Gani Adams, it’s a joint decision by all the structures of the organization. We took the decision about a week to the presidential election. We invited all the zonal leaders in Lagos State and we called representatives of all the 33 zones. We met in Amuwo Odofin, where we made our position known and everybody present agreed with us. Assuming there was a stiff opposition to that decision, I would just ask them to vote for the candidate of their choice. But I, Gani Adams, I would vote for the candidate of my choice.
Now that Buhari will come on board as the next president come May 29, what’s going to happen to the pipeline contract you secured under Jonathan administration?
The contract is a non-issue. I believe Buhari is a matured person that will not be so vindictive to the extent that because we didn’t support him during the election, he will now work against us concerning the contract. Inasmuch we’re doing the job very well, I don’t think he can do that. The most important thing is for us to reduce those vandals to the barest minimum because the more we reduce them the more the gains the government will make from petrol and diesel. But if he now injects sentiment into it and allows those who normally connive to do it, it will be at his own loss because he won’t be able to make money to execute all his projects, including free education, free health and all that. And at the same time, I will appeal to the Inspector General of Police (IG) to withdraw the police from certain area in that pipeline. Although, there is no way we can do it without involving the police, they should allow us to officially write the police to give us supporting hands so that the job can be done effectively. The NNPC has written the IG but he refused. And our integrity is at stake. We have overstressed this pipeline issue and the whole world is watching that this contract has been awarded to Gani Adams-led OPC, Frederick Faseun-led OPC (or certain group in the Niger-Delta). And as a matter of fact, the name of the company was published by a major newspaper. So, we don’t want a situation that at the end of the day, the Nigerian public will now be blaming us for not doing the job well. I am appealing to the IG to withdraw his men for the sake of his personal integrity because he has the copy of the document signed that the contract has been awarded to us.
– TADE ASIFAT