It was a gathering of who is who in the civil and activism community of the Yoruba race yesterday, as the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) rolled out the drums to celebrate 25 years of its creation.
The event was also a period to celebrate those who have contributed to keeping Yoruba and Nigeria’s unity intact and helped ensure that the nation found its feet again among democratic nations after many years of military intervention.
Among the frontline dignitaries at the event are the Inspector General of Police, Adamu Mohammed, represented by the Assistant Inspector General of Police in charge of zone 11, Mr. Adeleye Olusola Oyebade, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, Mr Yinka Odumakin and Dr. Joe Odumakin, Oyetunji Oyesiji, representing the Osun State governor,
Sen. Femi Okurounmu, former Minister of State for Solid Mineral and daughter of former Afenifere Leader, Abraham Adesanya, Mrs. Modupe Adelaja, Kola Omololu, Akin Oshintokun, Ebun Sonaiya among others.
While many of the stakeholders who spoke at the event eulogised OPC for the role it played during the struggle for the realisation of the June 12, 1993 mandate, others urged them not to give up the struggle yet until the nation is restructured, while others said along with restructuring the nation was in urgent need of a state police if it intends to deal with the myriads of security challenges facing it.
Making his welcome address, the Aare Ona Kakanfo of Yorubaland, Iba Gani Adams insisted that the issue of restricting the country was not negotiable, adding that the OPC may become partisan if restructuring was not implemented in the country.
He explained that this action will be taken due to the ‘disastrous nature’ of the country’s present structure.
Adams recalled that from a gathering of just 10 men on August 13, 1995 at number 110, Palm Avenue Street, Mushin, in Lagos State, the Oodua Peoples Congress has grown into an organisation of over six million members spreading not just across the South West States but to all parts of Nigeria.
He said, “I recall with nostalgia how my humble self and late Dr. Frederick Fasehun, Evangelist Kunle Adesokan, Silas Alani, Tony Igrube (late), Alhaji Ibrahim Abobanawo (late), Mrs. Idowu Adebowale, Ibrahim Atanda (late)
and Olumide Adeniji (late) sat in the law chamber of Opeyemi Bamidele, who was to later become a Commissioner in Lagos State and now senator, to deliberate on the way forward, following the annulment of the freest and fairest election in Nigeria by the Military Junta. This came after several efforts to revalidate the election had failed.
“Did we fail or succeed in that assignment? That question I will leave for Nigerians and the rest of the world to answer.
But for me the key take away from the formation of the OPC is that when God has a hand in the affairs of any man or association, no matter the opposition and stumbling blocks, success will be achieved.
“We have gone from being an association of a few to a gathering of millions. The OPC is now seen as a rallying point for the Yoruba race. Despite all the evil machinations, we now have membership of over six million.
So also has an offshoot of the OPC, the Oodua Progressive Union, become a force to be reckoned with. The OPU is now in 87 countries globally, with more chapters due to be inaugurated in the days ahead. Indeed, this can only be God.”
He said conscious of the strength they now have as a group they are tempted to go from being a political pressure and activism group to a partisan group is their aims and aspirations for the nation are not being met, “If in the next few months there is no tangible evidence that the country will be restructured, then OPC will become partisan.
“The next few months will determine whether we will remain politically neutral or partisan. Do not forget that what gave birth to the OPC was the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential mandate of the late Bashorun Abiola. From there, we went on to demand for a total restructuring of the country.
“Till date, that has not been achieved. And, unfortunately, we have not seen any tangible evidence or sign that we are moving in that direction, with all of us knowing that the way the country is presently structured can only bring nothing but disaster.” Adams said.
He stated that the most recent minimum irreducible for those who have followed this agitation on restructuring is for the government to implement the recommendations of the National Conference convoked by the Administration of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.
Adams noted that the partisanship details would not be divulged, assuring that the commendable lettered six million members of the Congress could occupy the position of influence at the legislative level of both states and federal.
“We are still keeping the partisanship details to our chest.
“But with a membership of over six million, even if it is members of the legislature at the States and Federal levels that we are able to produce, we will be in a position to influence what happens in the government at all levels. Time for “siddon look” is over.
“OPC has grown from the previous outlook of largely illiterate members who are regarded as back benchers. About 30 percent of members of the National Coordinating Council (NCC) are graduates. Over 96 percent of OPU members are graduates. So, the future looks great. And we will explore it to the fullest,” Adams said.
While emphasising on the growth of the congress, Adams recounted his experiences during the struggles, adding that the group has birthed numerous positive political changes in the country.
While delivering his lecture entitled: 25 years after: transformation of OPC, A Lecturer at the University Of Lagos, Professor Tunde Babawale expressed sadness over the persistence of ethnic marginalisation after 25 years of the formation of the group, advocating the encouragement of the group along the lines of cultural nationalism and diplomacy.
“Quite unfortunately, 25 years after, the fears of ethnic marginalisation still persist in Nigeria.
“Organisations like the OPC can only be encouraged to continue along the path of cultural nationalism and diplomacy, when the country is able to genuinely institute democratic governance, promote social justice and economic equity, entrench innovative and productive politics, respect individuals and group rights and restructure Nigeria to make it a federation in word and indeed,” Babawale said.
He however, emphasised the hypocrisy and pointlessness of unexpected resistance from organisations like OPC when violence is visited on the people.
He noted that OPC emerged in response to the authoritarianism of Military rule that culminated in the criminal annulment of the June 12, 1993 election, largely believed to have been won by Late Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
The Lecturer added that the threat of internal colonialism, domination and subjugation of the Yoruba nation within the context of Nigeria further gave impetus to the formation of the organisation.
Speaking in his goodwill message, the Inspector General of Police represented by AIG Oyebade assured that the Police was working assiduously to achieve the community Policing in such a way as to help in crime detection and prevention as a way of reducing the level of insecurity in the country.
Insisting that community policing was the way to go, Oyebade commended the OPC in its resolve to change its mode of operation to tilt more towards cultural diplomacy, adding that disputing resolution was a better option
While admitting that things are really tough in the country, the senior police officer urge Nigerians to be more patient and embrace more dialogue, adding that the police authorities are working round the clock to seek out those who have ideas on how to help the police reduce crime to come forward with those ideas.
Assuring that the OPC emerged at a most auspicious time the history of the Yoruba nation, elder statesman, Chief Ayo Adebanjo said at the time OPC emerged many people were viewing the Yoruba race as a people who can only speak English without capacity to do much, but the emergence of the group changed all that.
Appreciating the Police authorities for assuring that it was committed to community police, Adebanjo said the nation needs much more than community policing, but rather that what the nation needs is state police, which will be more effective for the country.
While activist Femi Aborisade adviced the OPC to jettison the cultural diplomacy that it said it was tilting towards and continue on the part of fighting for justice, Afenifere spokesman, Yinka Odumakin disagreed with the Police that what the nation needs is community police, saying instead that what the nation needs at a time like this besides restructuring is state police that will deal with issues in the state and handle crimes at the grassroots.
AS part of activities to mark the anniversary some prominent Nigerians were honoured with different awards, they include the OPC special posthumous awards for the late chiefs Obafemi Awolowo, the late Moshood Abiola, chief Gani Fawehinmi,
Dr. Beko Ransome- Kuti, Pa Adekunle Ajasin, Abraham Adesanya, Justice Adewale Thompson, Ambassador Segun Olusola, Chief Rasheed Gbadamosi, Olumide Adeniji, Tony Ngrube, Prof. Sophie Oluwole, Ibraheem Abobanawo, and the founding father and Spiritual leader of the Congress, the late Dr. Fredrick Faseun.
Other awardees are, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Barristers Femi Falana, Femi Aborishade, Kehinde Oluwole, Gabriel Akinadewo, Dr. Joe Okei- Odumakin and Yemisi Shylon among others.
The award, Adams said is to appreciate all the recipients for playing different roles in the course of the struggle to liberate the nation.
The next few months will determine whether we will remain politically neutral or partisan. Do not forget that what gave birth to the OPC was the struggle for the revalidation of the June 12, 1993 presidential mandate of the late Bashorun Abiola. From there, we went on to demand for a total restructuring of the country.