Otunba Gani Adams, the Oodua People’s Congress generalissimo breezed into the venue of his own birthday gathering with the confident swagger of a decorated war hero. Unlike the archetypal war commander in full combat gear and walking stick, Adams wore a flowing white agbada while two strands of chunky, long white beads sat on his neck. You could detect an air of ‘no shaking’ in his demeanour. No war songs but all smiles.
Gani Adams is celebrating his 40th birthday superbly twinned with a lecture titled “The Yoruba Race: Forging a Common Front”. The assemblage on the high table included a robust mix of Ambassador Segun Olusola, Professor Ibidapo Obe, Akogun Tola Adeniyi, the guest speaker, Mohammed Fawehinmi, Dare Babarinsa, and Rauf Aregbesola, the people’s Oranmiyan. Before the event proper, Adams fell back on memory and recounted his pariah and wilderness years when he was being hunted by the state. It was his season of infamy when so many legends were woven to his name. He was feared and seen as a deity who could disappear at will. He was seen as the elusive unicorn that could melt into thin air at the smell of his hunters. He was the unreachable warlord, the melting general, the untouchable god who floated unseen but lived within. It was the days when Adams walked in the path of thunder and dared the menacing eyes of the storm. But the invisible conquistador was eventually nabbed, arraigned and defended by Gani Fawehinmi. The rest is now history.
The history of OPC is beyond my ken. I blush with shame that such an action-oriented Third Force or rather the paramilitary defender of the Yoruba nation does not come under my foremost knowledge. I could lay the blame on my shielded years in the wilderness of Diaspora where news about the daring exploits of Adams and his foot soldiers cascaded down through the words of mouth and reports on the Internet. What else could cheer the chilly surrounding of a Yoruba man in the Diaspora than the story of Adams who went about fighting to restore the honour and pride of the marginalized Yoruba race? Then the ear-tingling tale of how a mere egg could combust and set buildings ablaze at contact. Then the endless warring assaults on any Northern dominated ‘sabo’ colony in the South West. OPC’s daring raids forged through its valorized tenet of ‘Who Dares Wins’ has won it many admirers.
It has also won it many adversaries who felt piqued that Adams splintered version aptly tagged as the military wing of the Real OPC is a collection of illiterate, ragtag hooligans who, when oftener dazed with weeds, went about molesting perceived enemies in the South West zones. This perception and government smear campaigns against Adams and OPC eroded his respect and that of his organization. Today, Adams has mellowed. His valorized, fire-spitting and hell raising years are now softened by the influence of publicly respected individuals who harbour sympathy for his cause.
The guest speaker, Akogun Tola Adeniyi could not hide his passionate embrace of Otuba Gani Adams and his rebellious cause. Akogun fits the bill of any hardcore rebel in and outside his different persona. As Akogun, as Araba, as Aba Saheed what flows through these different personas is nothing but rebellious rebuke both in his journalism, his oratorical skill and other polemical exercises. The baby-faced, seemingly ageless and handsome Akogun Tola Adeniyi as the guest speaker did not disappoint his Oodua audience. Akogun is the Yoruba irredentist, historiographer, cultural ambassador and connoisseur, defender, documentarian, provocateur, pundit and purist.
There is Delphic wisdom of ‘Know Thyself’ in his “The Yoruba Race: Forging a Common Front” when he began to drop the bomblet of his lecture on the audience. Akogun Tola Adeniyi calibrated the ugly dichotomies, complexities, the valour, heritage cultural superiority, nomadic and trail blazing spirit of the race, its present maginalisation, its gloriana, past exploits and now its cultural, social, political, educational, economic and material subjugation by the exploding forces of modernity that had caught the Yoruba nation napping.
Akogun as a cultural rejuvenator, fixer and observer, observes: “our collective failure are in 4 core areas: first our dwindling, almost vanishing political relevance, our bastardization, vulgarization, subjugation and outright liquidation of our cherished cultural vales, our loss of sense of history of who we really are, as well as the loss of our pride of place in the comity of nation.” The profundity of Akogun Tola Adeniyi’s observation and challenge goes deeper than his moralizing rhetoric of Yoruba collective failure. To bail out the Yoruba nation out of its dwindling fortune and cultural cul-de-sacs, Akogun Tola Adeniyi finds solace in the radical new concept of Omoluwabi as urgent intellectual and cultural imperative that will catalyze a new set of value systems among the Yoruba.
Would the concept of Omoluwabi erase the plethora of disturbing hubris that has continued to paralyse Yoruba’s competing edge, egalitarian spirit and progressive tradition?