…AN HOUR WITH IBA GANI ABIODUN ADAMS, THE 15TH.
Iba Gani Abiodun Adams, the 15th Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land, is a man of few words. He speaks less and acts more. He prefers to drive home his points more with manneristic gesturing and body language. But amidst those scanty spoken words, he drives home his points with a deadly punch, that one can safely conclude after a session with him that he hit the proverbial nail straight in the head.
His mien, even his carriage does little to describe him as an activist, not to mention the larger than life title of the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land. He appeared gentle and innocently looking young man in his oft white apparels. But beneath this gentle mien is a tough spirit, a determined soul, that never wavers once he starts a cause he believes in.
Very young, perhaps the youngest Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yoruba land in the history of warrior generalissimo title, but deeply rooted in Yoruba culture and traditions. Unlike the two immediate past Aare Ona Kakanfos, Aare S. L. Akintola, a lawyer-cum politician and Aare Moshood Kashimawo Abiola, a business mogul-cum politician, Iba Gani Adams came into the office on the platform of ethnic struggles and cultural identity. Born in Arigidi-Akoko, Ondo State on April 30, 1970, he has spent the vast majority of his life fighting for one Yoruba nationalism cause or the other since the blind annulment of the 1993 Presidential Elections and the subsequent incarceration of the and the murder of the winner of that election, also, fortunately, his predecessor in Office of the Aare Ona Kakanfo.
A veteran of the Oodua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) many struggles and agitation, a liberation struggle General, a cultural revival and above all a Yoruba nationalist. But in all these, he still keeps his head low. ‘I have gone through a lot of political trials that are meant to keep me out of circulation. To dehumanize you. Victimize you. This is part of the sacrifice you have to make to become a leader. Anyway, it is becoming part of our history, particularly here in the West. No leader in the West would not go through that school of thought. If you are jittery, if you compromise, at that point, you are finished. You must suffer detention and all forms of attacks before emerging.
‘I have been clamped into detention many times, over trump up charges. All these were meant to break me, to silence me’, he recounted.
His house within the Ikeja metropolis is befitting of his status, but inside, the Aare mixed and mingled with everybody with jovial mien. Nothing suggests an Aare Ona Kankanfo of the olden days in his surroundings, excepts when he has to make a vital statement. He simply gives orders and faces the next task.
Outside the OPC, Iba Gani Adams he a cultural ambassador. He founded the Oodua Progressive Union (OPU) as a socio-cultural union for the Yoruba sons and daughters in Diaspora in 2011. He surmised the reason behind the formation of OPU ‘as a body to rally Yoruba sons and daughters all over the world to identify with the race and their roots at all times’
Looking at his smooth baby face, one was tempted to ask if he’s ever emotional or reacts to issues emotionally. ‘I don’t cry. I’m emotional though. But I don’t cry. Never. When I’m sober about something, once I breathe deeply and heavily, it’s gone. And I move on. I have lived with my struggles between happiness and sadness. If I’m the type of person that cries every day, my spirit would have been broken, long time ago’, he said.
He was also quick to recount the dark and lonely days of the OPC struggles in the aftermath of the annulment of the 1993 Presidential election won by his predecessor, Aare Moshood Kashimawo Abiola and particularly during the first term of President Olusegun Obasanjo in Office. ‘Let’s look back at the time of OPC struggles when they struggle was still hot, every day you get to hear sad news, bad news. Even between 1999 and 2004, the majority of the news you hear about our members were sad news. Deaths of close associates, friends, and all that. But in all these, God has prepared me adequately for the task. So the issue of crying or becoming emotional does not arise. But deep in my heart, I would be sad, even more than the person crying. But I have to control it’, he explained.
Sitting majestically on his well-decorated white chair, himself decked in full white apparels, with the insignia staff of the Aare Ona Kakanfo dangling leisurely beside him, this Monday morning, one may mistakenly conclude that the Aare’s schedule for the is light or any other day for that.
But no. Every day is loaded with scheduled appointments. This is just his nature. He respects every appointment and takes time to attend to every little detail brought to his notice, including phone calls. His office is on the Island. His staff, both the domestic and the office, are on a snap, attentive to the day’s schedule. The security details made up of OPC operatives are also at alert. All in sync working together at the same speed.
He unwittingly displayed his sad nature during the chat. His spirit became low and his eyes rolled up and down. A mere mention of the criminality among the youths in the country today, particularly among the Yoruba of the South West depressed him greatly. He went philosophical. He delved into Yoruba proverb that says: Amukun eru e wo, o ni oke, ni e nwo, e o wo isale. He blamed both the parents and the government for the rising criminality among the youths.
According to him, ‘it was the government that failed to manage the characters of the youths very well. When the government, the leaders are corrupt. When corruption has been institutionalized, the youths who are largely oppressed, those who do not have access to government funds, may devise a means of meeting the standards of those who oppress them with looted funds’.
‘The criminality among the youths’, he blamed ‘on how the government managed the crises arising from cultism in the universities. Those involved are the children of who-is-who in the country. The government could not do anything to bring them to books. This led to widespread involvement of pothers in cultism’, he noted sadly.
He also dwelt on the issue of internet scams now rampant among the youths. ‘The issue of Yahoo Yahoo scams have already soiled the image of the country all over the world. In the 80s and 90s, what we heard was fake Oil License, contracts papers variously called 419. But now that the youths now have the knowledge of information technology, they now moved into the advanced areas of scamming people on the net. The menace has now developed into ‘Yahoo Yahoo thing. This is putting the country in negative narratives internationally’, he said.
Sadly, he noted that many parents do not even care about what the children are doing to make money. ‘Imagine a parent saying, oh he is into Yahoo business?’ And before you know what they would rituals into it, to hypnotize their victims and collect their money. This is really sad and the government should urgently do something about it.
Story written by Afolayan Adebiyi, from Lagos, Nigeria.