On Saturday, April 30, 2016, National Co-ordinator of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams will clock 46, and it’s going to be massively celebrated. A lot of programmes are lined up for the birthday celebration as usual, with the grand finale holding on Saturday, April 30, 2016, at The Batten House, Plot A2, Block G, MKO Garden Road, Beside Adonia Court, off CIPM Avenue, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, and it’s expected to attract dignitaries from all walks of life.
The Arigidi Akoko born activist spoke on this elaborately when ENCOMIUM Weekly visited him in his Omole (Lagos) white house on Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Come Saturday, April 30, 2016, you will clock 46. How do you feel adding another beautiful year?
I feel good about it, my birthday has become an annual celebration. And as usual, every year I always think of giving thanks to God in a unique way by dining and wining with people from different cultural backgrounds, different spheres of life and all that.
Out of the 34 programmes we run within a year, my birthday is the only avenue where we invite people from different segments of the society unlike festivals, seminars and symposium that we normally select the kind of people we want. But for my birthday, we usually invite people from different backgrounds because it’s a social event. It’s a day of giving thanks to God
for sparing my life. I started celebrating my birthday when I was 30 years old which was initiated by my group.
That was a turbulent period for me. That was the time the former Commissioner of Police for Lagos state declared me wanted for what I knew nothing about.
The sympathy my members had for me brought about the first birthday celebration which took place at Mapo Hall, Ibadan, Oyo State. And was very massive. As large as the hall is, was filled to the brim. Since then, there was no year my birthday was not celebrated. It’s God that has been celebrating it for me. I believe what happened then was as a result of divine intervention. When I was in detention in 2005, my birthday was celebrated in prison and was also celebrated in my house in Lagos. I was in Abuja then.
So, I think it has been designed by God to happen. Even the enthusiasm and clamouring for the invites always give us serious concern. Even this year, about two months to the birthday, people have started alerting us over the invitation cards. Everybody wants to know when, how and how is the programme going to go this year.
So, people are always ready to key into the birthday more than any of our programmes. It’s beyond my imagination. So, I always see it as a day for thanksgiving.
Most people believe celebration of birthday elaborately should be for a landmark age, not an annual thing. Why do you celebrate yours elaborately every year?
I think when I started doing that, a lot of people were asking me why I was celebrating my birthday annually. But you will notice that most prominent people in Nigeria today have also started celebrating their birthdays elaborately. They do it every year. I started celebrating my birthday in 2000. It was then we had the former governor of Lagos State celebrating the 8th edition in a loud way which was not like that before.
Even, the former president of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s birthday was hardly known before, but now it has become an annual thing. For the past five or six years, Obasanjo always celebrates his birthday loudly. Most people you may not even think of also do that. It’s just something I want to be doing so that it can serve as an avenue for me to thank God.
I am not a party person. I am not a socialite but a freedom fighter. But I embrace people from different walks of life. My way of life accommodates people irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliations. It’s very easy for me to mingle with people from different backgrounds. And those who understand what I am doing are always happy to associate with me. They will even partake in it. it’s not something I do to rake in money. Even, when the struggle was so hot I spent my money. And I can tell you, I always contribute up to about 98 percent of the total amount needed for the birthday.
And when the leaders in the association pick an interest to support me, what they usually do is maybe give me a car or a very unique gift. And the more I grow, the more the grassroots members think I can do everything myself even without their support. I think that’s the only day when I get people from many parts of the society around me.
I celebrate different Yoruba cultural heritages. Some for 21 days, seven days and all that. But my birthday celebration has always run for five or seven days. This year’s will be five days. The celebration will kick off on Wednesday. We will go to the motherless babies, give them some packages. Then on Thursday, April 28, 2016, we will visit the old people’s homes, we will give them some food stuffs. Then on Friday, April 29, we will go to mosque to thank Almighty Allah. That will be Central Mosque, Festac, Lagos. And Saturday, April 30, 2016, is for the grand finale which holds at The Batten House, Abiola Garden, Lagos.
Then on Sunday, May 1, 2016, there will be thanksgiving at Holy Michael Church of the Lord, Surulere, Lagos. That’s the plan from our end here. But after all these, there are about two local government chapters that want to host me. There’s one in Shangisha here in Magodo area and our people in Eti Osa local government are also planning a big party for me at Four Points by Sheraton, Victoria Island, Lagos.
That will hold on either May 6 or 7, 2016. Likewise some of my members in different countries are planning to celebrate my birthday for me. I must be very grateful to God because I am not a governor nor president. I am not even a politician. I have never held any political office. But God has given my followers and well wishers a kind of love for me. That’s why they’re always willing to celebrate him at every of my birthday. So, I need to be thankful to God. Definitely, if I am not doing the right thing, I won’t be accorded that kind of honour compared to what some enemies of progress in Yoruba land are doing or some detractors that are ganging up to malign me. But we thank God, the more they plan evil against me, the higher God lifts.
No doubt, the birthday celebration is huge and will definitely gulp a lot of money. But instead of spending that kind of money on a birthday why not channel it towards impacting people’s lives, especially the less privileged?
(Cuts in) On that, I spend money on people every day. I am a kind of person that his door is open for charity every day. I have a foundation, Gani Adams Foundation which is saddled with a lot of responsibilities. And sometime, I don’t use the foundation for that purpose but I have a coordinator for the foundation that maps out how it operates.
This year alone, we have about 12 programmes for the foundation. Last year it was just two programmes. We had a day for humanitarian programme held at the Muritala Muhammed Airport, Ikeja, Lagos. We spent a lot of money on motherless babies. And about 20 something motherless homes were given gifts that day. We have about 50 students trained to be artists.
Most of them can draw and design which I spent not less than N3 million on. So, those were the programmes of Gani Adams Foundation. And now talking of how my doors are open to all and sundry. A lot of people come to me for one assistance or the other, especially for school fees. At times N50,000, N100,000 and even more. Also those that come for different needs, including payment of rent and all that. I have never complained of being tired of that.
It’s not the same money I spend on my birthday that I will spend on impacting people. There’s no reason one should affect the other. So, it’s quite different. Every day, I give out if I am financially buoyant. And even if I don’t have, I will promise you. I always do the right thing at the right time. That’s the kind of person I am. I don’t need to be saying all these on the pages of papers or magazines. If I am a bad person, I won’t have the number of followers I have.
And even if I don’t have at that moment, I will look for a way of resolving the issue later. So, definitely my birthday is not a form of charity day. Even though, on that day, a lot of people benefit from the birthday celebration in terms of economic empowerment.
Let’s talk briefly about national issues. What’s your assessment on Buhari’s administration since he took over from former President Goodluck Jonathan?
I have made up my mind that before I assess Buhari, it will be after May 29, 2016, when the administration will be one year. But so far, I know a lot of people have been disappointed. Not what they expected that they’re experiencing now. There is confusion within the government circle every day. And what happens at the Federal level affects most of the states.
When you have a government that has not got its direction, it will definitely affect a lot of people, especially the everyday fuel scarcity, hike in electricity tariff, multi-taxation policy and all that.
Nigerians are not used to all these multi taxation and other anti masses policies. They want a government that will create an enabling environment for their businesses to thrive so that they can pay their children’s school fees, take care of their family and all that. They need a government that has a policy that will attract foreign investors, a democratic government and not a dictatorial one that will be introducing draconian laws that will be inflicting more hardship on the people. However, I will balance my position, I wouldn’t want to be sentimental.
There are certain things, one way or the other, that you can’t condemn Buhari’s government for when you notice them critically. Of course, there’re certain characters he’s bringing into the government that one way or the other will change our thinking, psyche, orientation and all that. People are now realising that being in government is not to enrich yourselves.
But by and large, when you’re introducing all these, as a president, you still need to think about the standard of living of generality of the citizenry, not only the elite you’re fighting.
Those who really voted for you were not the elite you’re using your policies to reduce their corrupt practices. It’s the grassroots that have never been in power before, and some of them are not even thinking of being in power till death. All they want is a government that will create an enabling environment for them to do their little businesses, have shelters, small cars and all that.
If they don’t even have cars, they just want to be able to afford transport money and board the bus without any stress. So, President Buhari must look beyond the elite.
- TADE ASIFAT