By Dapo Akinrefon
TO different people, he means different things. While some perceive him as a cultural advocate, others hold contrary views. Whichever way he is viewed, Otunba Gani Abiodun Ige Adams is unarguably a leading promoter of Yoruba interest worldwide.
This is a cause he has chosen ever since destiny made him the National Coordinator of the Oodua People’s Congress, OPC, in 1999. It has been a journey that saw him transforming from a militant youth leader to a socio-political activist of national and global repute. Born April 30, 1970 in Akoko North-West, Ondo State, Gani Adams’ entrance into limelight began immediately after his secondary education at the popular Ansarudeen Secondary School in Isolo, Lagos.
His foray into the struggle for a return to democratic rule began in 1993 after the annulment of the June 12 presidential elections. Sensing the urgent need to stand against the injustice meted out to the late MKO Abiola, a Yoruba man, Adams founded the Oodua Youth Movement to champion this cause. In a move aimed at advancing the cause of the Yoruba, he was among the nine people that founded the OPC on August 25, 1994 at 110, Palm Avenue, Lagos.
The OPC, however, became a force to reckon with and a thorn in the flesh of the military government of the day. As a way of reducing the growing popularity of June 12 activists, the military government clamped down on, among others, the founder of the group, Dr. Frederick Fasehun. While Fasehun was incarcerated by the military regime, Gani Adams soon took up the mantle of the OPC leadership.
Adams admitted he started under Fasehun, noting; “He was my leader from the beginning.” He was also quick to add that he was mentored by the late fiery human rights lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi and Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti. “As activists, when some of us had problems, we usually went to the chambers of Chief Gani Fawehinmi. He (Fawehinmi) discovered my determination and that was one of the reasons we were close,” he said.
While sensing the need to remove the negative toga critics associated with the OPC, Adams veered into advancing the rich culture of Yorubaland. He said: “The OPC has done a lot of good in Yorubaland; most of the cities in Yorubaland are secured by the private security of the OPC.
“I can tell you authoritatively that 75 per cent of members are artisans or technicians. Out of the 150 National Coordinating Council members, we have about 33 graduates in various disciplines. The elite are fond of disparaging the good side of any group without letting the people get to know of them. Some ignorant elite know how to portray any group, not in their good books, in a bad light.”
In 2002, the OPC leader set up the Olokun Festival Foundation with the view of promoting the rich cultural heritage of the Yoruba race. Interestingly, the annual Olokun Festival has become an important tourist and local attraction throughout Yorubaland by various Yoruba people and groups. Aside the Olokun festival, he also established the Oodua Progressives Union, OPU, which seeks to sustain Yoruba identity.
He said Yoruba people all over the world must have a sense of belonging and identify with their roots all the time. It is instructive to note here that the OPU has presence in 74 countries. There is no doubt that Gani Adams has paid his dues over time and has endeared himself to those who see him as champion of the Yoruba race. As the mantle of Aare Ona Kakanfo falls on him, it is expected that he would bring his cultural experience to unite the Yoruba race.