Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, Iba Gani Abiodun Adams has said accused the Federal Government of frustrating efforts by the Oodua Peoples Congress’s (OPC) to dislodge terrorists from states in the South-West.
In an interview with VINCENT KALU, Aare Adams insisted that the Federal Government must release Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally and without delay. He also noted that the authorities in Benin Republic and their Nigerian counterpart must also set Yourba Nation activist, Sunday Igboho free immediately.
You issued a statement that terrorists have invaded the forests of Osun, Oyo and Ogun states. How did you come about this?
That was an intelligence report and my office as the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba; I do have access to certain information on the Yoruba. If you want to circulate the information individually, it would be very difficult. The only thing you can do is to issue a statement that will get to everybody in the affected communities and also the security agencies so that they can act. Psychologically, it is to prepare us to defend our region. My statements have always been accurate. This information very true. I cannot give false information for any reason.
As Aare Onakakanfo, people say you only raise alarm but take no action. Why can’t you and your foot soldiers storm the forests and drive the criminals out?
It will be very difficult for you to take action given the structure we operate in this country today. Aare Onakakanfo of the olden days only needed the approval of the Alaafin to go to war. But now, the Oyo Empire in not in existence anymore. When you are talking of security, don’t forget the fact that the only security the entire Yoruba land had then was the one coordinated by the Aare Onakakanfo. That was why they called him Generalissimo or Field Marshal by then. But now, you have state governors on ground; there is also the fFderal Government and the local government. The President of the Federal Republic is in charge of all security agencies and the governors are the chief security officers of their states. Local governments chairmen are in charge of security at the local governments. Even in a community, you cannot just move your men to the forests without the approval of the traditional ruler of the community. You cannot move your men to those forests without the support of the state government and the local government, even if you don’t have the support of the Federal Government. It would be extremely difficult.
We have had many experiences. When we started security activities of OPC in 1999, we moved without the consent of the traditional rulers of the communities; we all found ourselves to blame at the end of the day. The traditional ruler would even say we came to his community to cause security breach. The government would blame you, asking if you were a registered organisation to be involved in the security activities of the Federal Government. So the little you can achieve is when you have an understanding between you and the security agencies, when they realised that there has to be synergy for their operation. We have written letters to the state commissioners of police to have synergy on the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway because of the kind of thing that takes place on the road. But they didn’t listen to us. The Director of Operation of Lagos State about a year ago said we were not registered. Are you talking of registration or security to protect lives and property? We have made many attempts. We wrote to Lagos State Commissioner of Police; the directors of the DSS of Lagos, Ogun and Oyo Commands through the Southwest Security Stakeholders, but they refused to have synergy with us. When we realised that we were helpless, the only thing we could do was to put security information in the public opinion. That’s what I did, maybe they can reason. What happened at Owo was a great embarrassment to me. It may not be an embarrassment to the police authorities. For the position of Aare Onakakanfo, people believe that I have a role to play, especially my background as an OPC leader that has structures in the entire Yoruba land. That was the reasons the late Alaafin gave me that position. But you can’t operate without the support of the government; you can’t operate without the support of the traditional rulers of an affected community; it will be very difficult. I was one of the people that pushed for Amotekun before it was founded. I was the first person after my installation as the Aare Onakakanfo in 2015 that wrote to all the governors and others that there is need for them to organise a South-West security conference. That was what led to the establishment of Amotekun. I’m also one of its leaders. This morning, I spoke with the Commander of Ondo State Amotekun on the security threat to the South-West. If I don’t talk on the security in Yoruba land, who would talk? It is part of my responsibility to raise the alarm. If you watch the videos of what is happening in the North, you have to make sure that you prepare yourself to protect your region. I heard this morning that about 30 people were kidnapped on a highway in the South-East. As volatile as the South-East is because of the issue of self determination, these terrorists still operate in that region. In the South-West, we are handling our struggle via diplomacy. The procedure you have on ground in Nigerian because of its sovereignty cannot allow you, even though you have the most powerful machinery like Russia; you can’t equate the government security without the approval of the government, or you will find yourself to blame at the end of the day, as you will be adjudged to have committed treasonable felony, murder and unlawful possession of firearms. Assume the security agencies ask OPC to come and assist them, within three weeks, we will flush these terrorists out.
Do you mean that the government is frustrating your efforts?
Yes; definitely. I will give you some examples. When we had serious issues in Yoruba land, we came to the rescue. OPC came to the rescue. Do you remember Akala? In 1998 / 1999, Akala was the criminal den in Mushin, Lagos State when Buba Marwa was the military governor of the state. Marwa tried all his best to flush them out, but to no avail. Three times, the governor loaded LSTC buses with security men to dislodge the criminals, but they were repelled. The criminals continued until they killed one of our members. Then we invaded the place and dislodged them and they are no more. People have erected buildings there. If you knew the place before, and you get there now, you can’t believe it is the same Akala area. Secondly, during the time of Badoo in Lagos and Ogun states, Mr Fatai Owoseni, the Special Adviser on Security to Oyo State governor, who was then the Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, refused to act. The IG was calling him to stop the Badoo, but he could not. When Owoseni went for lesser Haji, the IG called the deputy commissioner of police, Operation, Edgar Imohimi to stop the Badoo. Edgar reached out to me (I was not the Aare Onakakanfo then) and invited me to his office. He told me that he needed my assistance, that Badoo issue was giving him serious problem, and they wanted us to work with them on this issue. After that, we had another meeting with all the leaders of OPC. I brought the five leaders of the organisation in Ikorodu and we now gave insight into how Badoo started. After two or three meetings, we went for the first operation and arrested about 155 suspects. Du=ring the second operation, we arrested about 148. And after the third operation, about 450 suspects were arrested. Edgar set up a panel that exonerated innocent people from the suspects. The people involved in that evil activity were about 148, and they were charged to court. That was how we ended Badoo.
The third instance was the Mile Two-Iba area. There was a recurrence of kidnapping in that area – Festac, Shoba, Amuwo Odofin and Iba to the extent that they kidnapped the Oba of Iba and kept him for more than two months. The Commandant of Ojo Military Cantonment called our leaders in Oriade and Amuwo Local Governments, but they told him that they couldn’t do anything until he contacted their boss. That was me, then Otunba Gani Adams. I had a conference call with the Commandant and we agreed on the operation. There is an Island in between Shoba and Ikotu where some Niger Delta men had become a nuisance in the area; kidnapping, raping and killing people to the extent that they killed a two-star military officer, which was what provoked the cantonment commandant. An operation involving the army and the OPC was carried out and within three days, we dislodged all the criminals in that area, arrested many of them, and the army handed them over to the police and they were prosecuted. That ended the criminality in that area.
The fourth one happened last year. I’m telling you the major ones that I was involved in directly. Our people thought that Wakili operating in Ibarapa was a spirit that could not be apprehended. But within two weeks, we apprehended his second in command and three people. Within four weeks, our members apprehended Wakili and handed him over to the Divisional Police officer in Igbora. The three people that went to hand over Wakili to the police were equally arrested, and at the end of the day, they were charged for murder along with Wakili. They were charged for murder, arson, unlawful possession of firearms. I explained to the Commissioner of Police, but he said there was nothing he could do as an order was received from Abuja that he had to charge them. It took us about three or four months before the OPC members got their freedom. So, we are acting based on experience. You can’t just go on operation without the cooperation of the government, the police and the traditional ruler of the affected community. We have to look for a strategy, but we operate by sensitizing the people living in that area so that they can be aware of the danger around them. Information is power.
What is being done to prevent another Owo massacre beyond raising the alarm?
That was exactly what made me to issue a statement to alert the public that another one is coming. Assuming we were proactive, we wouldn’t have lost about 40 lives, with about 80 people still in the hospital. It’s one of the reasons that we have keep our eyes open and our rears on the ground to listen and know what will happen. Information is power and what happened in Owo was a serious embarrassment to our race. I had to write a letter to the United Nations, copied to more than 60 different internationals organisations. How long would we be writing letters to UN without action? I saw Owoseni talking about planning based on intelligence. He shouldn’t say something like that. When I was raising the alarm on Okeogun three years ago; raising alarm on Ibarapa, he was one of the people that told the governor that it’s a lie until the crisis almost consumed that village in Oyo State. Go and Google what I said on Igbora. Igbora is about 20 minutes to Igangan, to Ayete, where the terrorists had constituted themselves in the bush and they operated with motorbikes. I said it about three years ago, but they didn’t take it so seriously. Look at what happened in Ibarapa; the trauma led to the death of the monarch when they burnt his palace. He was not killed, but they burnt his palace. He couldn’t withstand it anymore and we lost him, and also more than 40 people. The same thing in Ayete. We got the information on Kishi and I called the OPC vigilantes and hunters and we went to the Kishi forest in Oke-ogun, which is about 18 kilometres to Niger State, and Kishi to Iseyin is 18 kilometres and there is a forest linking the two communities. These terrorists have been troubling our people in Abuare, until the people of the community gave me the information and I issued a statement. On the second day, I moved our men to that place and they flushed them out and all the arms, ammunition, charms they recovered were handed over to the Area commander. So they now moved to Ibarapa and that’s how we had a lot of problem there.
So, when you are talking about intelligence, it doesn’t hang in one place. You may have your own in this place and I may have my own also in this place. There are thousands of ways of getting intelligence. It is not peculiar to you even if you are a general in the Nigeria Army that serves in the Intelligence unit. It is also not peculiar to retired policemen who didn’t perform in Lagos and Benue states and you say you are an expert in intelligence. Even a common man who didn’t go to intelligence school can give you information that you can act on. Most of the informants that the DSS, the police are using are stark illiterates and they are delivering in terms of giving them information. In the rural villages, you can’t use the elite; you use the commoners to give you intelligence. Then, you are comparing yourself with someone who has members in the entire Yoruba land. Even in the remote villages, we have members there and those who give us information are people who can die for the cause of Yoruba nation.
Sunday Igboho is still in Benin Republic. How should the government handle his case?
The Federal Government should release Igboho unconditionally. He didn’t commit any offence; he was just exercising his opinion in the defence of his people. He didn’t kill, he didn’t rape, and he didn’t commit arson. Why should you give him a temporary freedom in Benin Republic? Leave him to come to Nigeria and continue his business and even continue his struggle for Yoruba people. It is not about political solutions; he didn’t commit any offence. He was a businessman before he rose up and started fighting for his Yoruba people. So, he should be released unconditionally. They gave him temporary freedom; I don’t see anything in it. It was a politically motivated bail between the Benin Republic and Nigeria. Something like that will not give Nigeria a very good history in future. Even the international community is seeing how Nigeria is intimidating its citizen, who is only saying that his people should be free. This is adding to the country’s poor human rights record.
Do you think the government should address the Nnamdi Kanu’s case politically?
The government shouldn’t wait until the United Nations teaches them what to do, as it has urged the Nigeria government to release Nnamdi Kanu. Do you know the detention of Kanu has cost the government so much in the South-East? The South-East is becoming a no-go area even for the government, INEC, even for the international community. You detain a popular leader and you thought his popularity will diminish. By the time you detain a popular leader, he becomes more popular and then a hero. Even when the leader is killed, another person will take over. It is a message. You can kill the messenger, but you cannot kill the message. If you think that by detaining the messenger you will stop the struggle, you miss the point. Take Chief M. K. O. Abiola as an example. The moment the government detained him, the struggle took a higher pitch at the global village. He died in 1998, but his spirit was not killed. He was not allowed to be president. Buhari came and declared him president posthumously some years ago. Those who denied Abiola from becoming the president don’t have a name in the society and some of them have died.
When you are trying to frustrate justice, you are frustrating your future. Kanu should be released. The UN will not make a case for a criminal. It is the most important and highest organisation in the whole world. For it to urge the government to release him and give him freedom means they have realised that he is not a criminal, and this is what his people want. We have given many suggestions to the government that let us restructure this country to douse the tension of self-determination, but they refused.
This is a government that believes in centralising operations. You refused to agree on state police; you refused to agree on regionalism and you are coming with Water Resources Bill to take away water from the state, take away our Osun from us in Oshogbo, you take away Oba from us in Oyo and Iwo and you now take away our sea from us based on what Ahmadu Bello said that he would throw his sword and it would land in the sea. He had Ahmadu Bello Way, which is beside the sea, and you want to take the sea from us, it is not possible. You can’t take it away from us. God is a God of justice. One of the reasons the Nigerian government is not moving forward and we are landing in catastrophe everyday is that we are running a government on the basis of injustice. It is unfortunate that all our institutions have been tampered with. All that made Nigeria to be together has been tampered with in the seven years of Buhari. The only thing that will save this country is to return to true federalism; how we agreed to be before we got our independence.