ON Monday, March 16, 2015, the national coordinator of Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Otunba Gani Adams led an anti-Jega protest which caused heavy traffic on Ikorodu Road, Lagos. The rally has since been generating reactions from different corners of the country, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC) camp, which has accused the Arigidi Akoko, Ondo born activist of taking sides on the issues concerning 2015 general elections.
However, when ENCOMIUM Weekly spoke with Adams on Wednesday, March 18, 2015, on this, he debunked it all. He also opened up on other issues.
On Monday, March 16, 2015, you led a protest against the Chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, and that has been generating controversies from different quarters of the country, especially the All Progressives Congress (APC). What’s your reaction to this?
There shouldn’t be any controversy at all. In my opinion, I don’t know why they are so much bothered about the rally that wasn’t against them. The rally was meant specifically to register our displeasure over the activities of Professor Jega, especially on the shortage of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). Right now, the South-West has not got up to five million PVCs and election is just a few days. Even in some parts of the South-East, they have not got up to 15 per cent of their PVCs likewise the South-South. In the North-East where we have Boko Haram crisis, most of them have collected their PVCs. But there is an estate in Ikotun called Diamond, the residents there went to the INEC office to get their PVCs, the INEC official told them their system was corrupt. In Odogunyan, Ikorodu, Lagos, most of the people there haven’t got their PVCs. About three or four weeks ago, the governor of Ogun State, Senator Ibikunle Amosun went to the INEC office in the state, complaining that not up to 50 per cent of people of Ogun State have got their PVCs. In the South-West, it’s only Ondo State people that have got about 70 per cent of their PVCs and we want to run an election in less than five days.
Second, the issue of registering under-aged children in the North which is illegal. We saw all their pictures in the internet, Jega has not made any categorical statement on all these. If we agree to these elections, the PVC will be a permanent instrument of every registered citizen of this country. That means whatever happens now will still continue. Whatever scenario we experience in 2015 elections will continue to repeat itself in the subsequent elections. The fourth one is the 30 per cent polling units illegally created by Jega and which he tactically called voting centres. Why do you create polling units two months to the elections? If you remember about two months ago, the Afenifere issued a press statement that Jega shouldn’t create any additional polling units. The Southern Nigeria People’s Assembly too was against it and other organizations as well lent voices to the issue. Jega had systematically created those polling units and that’s the beginning of rigging. It’s as if the elections have been rigged before they’re conducted. So, the only way to have peace in any country during and after elections is for the INEC to make the elections free, fair and credible. But where there is injustice, violence is inevitable. Definitely, I am just sending signals to the whole world, not Nigerian people alone. The issue of 1993 is still in our memories. We all know what happened then but we don’t want such to repeat itself because I don’t believe a country can survive three crises and remain one again. We had a civil war which ended in 1970, we had June 12, 1993 crisis as a result of the annulment of the presidential election won by late MKO Abiola and if anything happens now, I don’t think Nigeria can survive it.
So, we must do everything to avoid crisis so that we can remain a nation that we can be proud of in the whole world. That’s the reason we staged that rally. And let me point out something, the platform we used was not only OPC, it’s the platform of Coalition of Concerned Nigerians.
But it was coordinated by OPC?
No, it was coordinated by me as a national coordinator. We can’t call it an OPC affair because we had a lot of Nollywood and music stars among us. Most of them came from the East, some from the Niger-Delta. So, you can’t call it an OPC thing. And all of them were more interested in the protest more than those of us OPC members. They were even very agile and strong. They were not tired for about three or four hours of the protest. They did everything for free and it was very peaceful.
But how come the picture of an OPC man carrying gun?
That’s a blatant lie, wicked propaganda. Nothing like that happened during the protest. That picture you saw was culled from the internet to discredit the rally. It’s a picture of the warning protest by Dr. Fredrick Faseun’s group on December 8, 2011. That’s when the group staged a warning protest to Boko Haram insurgents against coming to the South-West. The critics now went into the internet, tapped the picture and sent it to media houses, painting it as the picture taken during our anti-Jega protest, which was very peaceful. What kind of propaganda is that? Is that the party that wants to rule Nigeria? I don’t know why APC is against the rally. After all, APC is not the target. We’re not against APC. The content of the leaflets we circulated did not reflect anything negative to APC. Why are the APC people defending Jega? What’s their interest in the matter? Why do they want to sustain Jega’s position? Doing that, it means they are just confirming the allegation against them that they held a meeting with Jega to rig the election. They should have known that I am beyond the kind of person that any party can rubbish his image. I am a freedom fighter, not a politician. I started this struggle at 23. My enemies had put many impediments on my way, I crushed them. I am not contesting any election but I hold the responsibility of protesting the interest of good people of my country, and my people as Yoruba race, home and abroad. And I have a responsibility to defend the interest of six million members of my organization. You can’t suppress everybody because you have media power.
But it was alleged that your people damaged the posters and billboards of APC contestants along Ikorodu Road, during the protest, what’s your reaction to this?
To give you the appropriate answer to that, I will show you all the newspapers that covered the rally and you will see their pictures compared to the make-belief one being circulated by APC (shows reporter some copies). You can see a lot of crowd without any sign of violence at all. They just took the picture of someone damaging a billboard and there was no crowd around that person. And in that protest, there was no place you won’t see a crowd. Very massive crowd for that matter. They doctored the picture and sent it to the media just to discredit the protest. There was nothing like that at all. APC is not our enemy. Those in APC are also our brothers and sisters. But not believing in APC as a party and not adopting Buhari as a Fulani doesn’t make me an enemy. You can’t shout Jonathan’s name in the North, they will walk you out. So, what are we talking about? We own this country together. You can’t be intimidating Jonathan’s supporters in the North and still do the same thing to those who support him in the South. What is Jonathan’s sin or offence that Bola Tinubu has never committed? Somebody they showed his documentary that he had embezzled more than N1t and he went to court to get an injunction. Why did he get an injunction? He should just come out and clear himself, tell the whole world that his hands are clean. He has travelled to many countries, he knows what obtains in each of the countries. You can’t steal even 10,000 pounds in Britain, you go to jail. You embezzled that kind of money and you went to court to get an injunction. It’s a stain on our image. How long are we going to continue with that kind of rubbish. It’s a shame.
APC deliberately sent area boys to damage the billboard and took the picture so that they can poison the mind of the public against us. What’s our business in destroying Ambode’s billboard? We’re not a political group. You can’t classify the group as a political party. Even when we got to Jimi Agbaje’s campaign office at Obanikoro area, about 20 people were about joining us with PDP cap, we stopped them. We didn’t allow them to join. We told them they can only join us if they remove all the party identities on them. You can’t wear any party’s cap or T-shirt or carry any banner of any political party because we’re not partisan politicians. We all know how politicians behave, if you allow them to join us, they will hijack the protest and turn it to a political rally. I also know Jimi Agbaje. He’s a brother to me but what we’re doing is not about any political party. We’re only trying to send a signal to Nigerians and the whole world about Jega’s activities. And immediately these people heard that, they tactically disappeared. We didn’t allow area boys to penetrate the rally because we had about 2,500 security men and we also contacted the Lagos Commissioner of Police to tell him we’re holding a rally. He asked if the thing won’t cause problem. We told him no problem about that, that’s why we contacted him. He said he would give us about 15 police vehicles to monitor the protest. I told him we didn’t need up to that because it could be intimidating. I now concluded that he should give us just six. And immediately, he directed me to the Deputy Commissioner of Police. The Deputy called me, and I gave him the contact of one of our guys so that they could be linking each other on phone. Before we knew, they had deployed the policemen to meet us at the toll gate. And when we kicked off, two of the vehicles were in the front, two in the middle and the last two at the back. We had a lot of people, including entertainers. Obesere was with us, Pasuma, Saidi Osupa and others were there. We had actors and actresses from English and Yoruba genre. We had some activists in the rally. What they’re trying to do is to puncture the success of the rally. We should all know APC is good at that. The party has a lot of propaganda machinery, and can go any length to poison people’s mind against anybody or party that wants to stand on its way. But I want to tell the public clearly, I am not a PDP member. I am beyond that.
Election is just a few days, what exactly do you want from Jega?
Jega should revert to the old polling units. I mean, he should cancel all the newly created ones. If he doesn’t do that, we don’t have confidence in him.
But you’re actually canvassing for his removal?
Yes, that’s if he does not revert to the old polling units.
Don’t you think the removal of Jega can truncate the whole process of the elections?
God forbid, if Jega dies, won’t we conduct the elections. Assuming anything happens to Jega, God forbid, few days to the election, won’t another person take over and finish the elections. We should not be fooling ourselves. I am not praying for that but election must be conducted and we will move forward. Heaven will not fall. He had already connived with the opposition. If not, what’s his business about the military? He should allow the parties to slug it out. I agree they shouldn’t use the military to monitor the elections where there is no crisis but what of the North-East zone where Boko Haram insurgents are terrorizing people? Can anybody there vote without the military? He has to consider that. We don’t need the military in the South-West, we don’t need them in some other states but we can’t organize a successful and peaceful election in places like Yobe, Borno, Adamawa without the military. Even in Kano. So, I think Jega has to be very careful because I don’t see his interest in joining issues with any political party about military or no military. Although there was a court judgement in Ekiti which negated the use of the military, that doesn’t reflect in other states. And if that’s the case, what are we doing about the war zone? Elections were held in Syria and Afghanistan where their cases were even worse but the military monitored the exercises. We should not because of election waste more lives again in this country. We should be less desperate to power. After all, they are not being desperate to liberate Nigerians but only to enrich themselves.
But there was this rumour that you’re only defending the pipeline security contract Jonathan gave you which is worth N9 billion. How true is this?
It’s not a rumour, it’s a statement from the APC Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed. He is a liar. It’s unfortunate that somebody of Lai’s age can issue a statement without substantiating it. How do you mention a figure without any concrete evidence? One of the reasons Lai issued that statement was to put a hold to that protest. By the time people would see that, most of those who wished to join the protest would be discouraged and weakened. They would be suspecting the rally had economic interest. So, that’s the reason for the propaganda. The pipeline contract has not been packaged properly. Even some of the items we included in the package have not been included in the proposal because they just gave us three months to prepare first. After which, they will now package it as a contract. You can imagine how much we lose to oil theft in a year. It’s more than N1.3t. The money that will be spent to secure these pipelines won’t be up to N3b in the six areas we’re supposed to secure. We’re talking of Line B, Line Ibadan, Line Ora. We have three lines in the South-West, there lines in the Niger-Delta. And we’re losing more than N1.3t in a year. And not only oil, we’re also losing lives. Every day the cartel kills people. They use explosives to destroy the property of Federal Government, and the government has the responsibility to protect our common wealth. Government had used various security agencies including the police, the National Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC). They have all failed. Now, they’ve resorted to using community security. And the choice of OPC is because we have structures on ground in every community. The instruction given to us is make sure we employ those who belong to every community that the pipeline passes through. It does not have to be OPC members per se.
So, the contract is not N9 billion?
Yes, it’s not. It’s just unnecessary propaganda by APC. It’s just a contract of minor security. The only difference is that the NNPC has given us standard that those who will work there must not be paid less than N50,000 in a month for each of them. It’s another way of generating employment for the youth.
– TADE ASIFAT