Kidnappers and herdsmen abducting people have been warned to keep away from the South West or risk incurring the wrath of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC).
Giving the warning in an interview is the president of OPC, Aare Prince Osibote, who said the group will resist any attempt not only to make Yoruba land unsafe but also to turn it into den of criminals. Osibote, who succeeded late Dr. Fredrick Faseun as OPC leader also spoke on other national issues.
What is your reaction to the present state of insecurity in the country, especially the South West where suspected herdsmen and bandits have been kidnapping people?
As an organisation, OPC is worried about this security challenge, and our hope is that the various security agencies will be able to quickly nip in the bud the nefarious activities of bad elements behind these vices. As the leader of OPC, I’m calling on Yoruba and other people living in the South West not to panic. OPC is up to the task and we are fully prepared to defend the Yoruba land from any external aggressors. I’m giving the people of the South West the assurance that they should not panic. We are already doing our home work. We are ready to bare our fangs if provoked.
Don’t forget that the primary objective of setting up the OPC as an organisation is to defend and promote Yoruba interests, and we are ready at all times to do that. Enough is enough! These criminals should keep off Yoruba land or risk incurring the wrath of OPC.
Our warning to all these criminal elements is that they should stay away from Yoruba land. OPC under my watch will not allow Yoruba land to be turned into a den of criminals. Never! It will never happen. They should not play with fire. OPC can’t only bark but can also bite. We will not trigger or provoke any crisis, but any group or individual that attempt to disrupt peace in Yoruba land will have himself to blame. Everybody know what OPC can do, but we are for peace and unity of Nigeria, we don’t want to be provoked and this is why I’m using this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to take urgent steps to put adequate security measures in place to secure lives and properties of all Nigerians.
Why has your voice not been heard all this while on some of these burning national issues?
I have not been speaking out since I took over leadership of OPC after the death of our founder, Dr Frederick Fasheun because I have been undertaking reforms in OPC with a view of sanitising the organisation because on assuming leadership of the organisation, I discovered that some unscrupulous elements have mingled with the organisation and we needed to flush them out. Those are the bad elements that are giving OPC bad name. OPC as an organisation has good ideals and vision with the primary objective of promoting Yoruba interests, values and culture.
OPC was set up during the military era to fight injustice against the Yoruba race especially after the annulment of June 12, 1993 presidential election. At the time OPC was set up, former President, General Olusegun Obasanjo was being held in jail by the Abacha military junta. Part of the reasons OPC was set up was to fight the military junta that annulled the June 12 election, and also to ensure a return to democracy, and luckily we were able to achieve those objectives as democracy was restored to the country in 1999.
I’m determined to reform OPC because the impression some people have is that OPC is all about hooliganism and thuggery. But this is a wrong view of the group. Our objective as I said earlier is to promote Yoruba culture and practices. OPC members are not to be used as thugs or to unleash violence on people. I’m rebranding OPC, and this I’m doing quietly and this is why I have not been too loud in what I have been doing since assuming office as OPC leader. Moreover, I don’t believe in speaking too much. I believe in taking action rather than talking every time. Then, again we must try to find out, whether those talking every time have genuine intention or not, or whether they are doing so to attract attention with a view of getting something in return or not.
To tackle insecurity in the South West, some Nigerians are suggesting the idea of collaboration between the Police and OPC like it was done before. What’s your take on that?
It is a good idea, when Alhaji Musiliu Smith was the Inspector-General of Police, he initially expressed reservations about OPC activities but I later got an appointment with him, and I used the opportunity to explain to him in detail what OPC stands for. I told him that what people are telling him about OPC is not true. Then a lot of people were saying negative things about OPC. I took time to explain to Smith about the vision of OPC, and what the group stands for. My interactions with Smith led to collaboration between OPC and the Police, especially in the area of combating and tackling crime. His successor, Alhaji Tafa Adebayo Balogun sustained that relationship and during his time there was also collaboration between the Police and OPC to enhance security of lives and properties especially in the South West.
Balogun is a man that should be appreciated. During his tenure, not only Nigeria was effectively policed and secured but the South West in particular enjoyed peace and security. Tafa Balogun had zero tolerance for crime and criminals and it was during his time that ‘Operation Fire-For-Fire’ was introduced. He is a man that should be appreciated. In the history of OPC, Tafa Balogun can’t be forgotten for how he ensured that the Police and OPC worked in harmony to protect lives and properties of Nigerians especially in the South West. It is a pity and very unfortunate that Tafa Balogun is not being appreciated the way Nigerians ought to appreciate him over his achievements in the area of security. Like it was done during Smith, and Balogun’s era, we can also do it now. OPC is ready to collaborate, and work with the Police and other security agencies to tackle the problem of insecurity in the country if we are invited.
How would you assess President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration?
There is no individual that is 100 percent perfect. As a leader, the president I believe has been trying his best to move the nation forward. He has been trying to sanitise the country through his fight against corruption. Corruption has caused a lot of havoc in the country. It has become a hydra-headed monster that we need to tame. We should all join hands to fight corruption if we want Nigeria to attain greatness.
Some Nigerians recently canvassed death penalty as punishment for corruption, what’s your take on that?
I’m in support of it. Death penalty is okay for corruption. Through corruption and corrupt practices, looters are destroying the nation. They are also killing Nigerians. By the time a few corrupt people are hanged or executed other would-be looters will beat a retreat. I don’t see anything wrong with execution of looters. Their execution will serve as a deterrent. If looters are executed, there will be sanity. Nigeria will not be the first country to execute looters. In China, looters are executed. There are also other countries that do so.
As a way of fighting corruption some have suggested that the newly elected public office holders should be made to swear by traditional gods like Ogun, Esu etc, that doing so will help to stem or tackle corruption as many public office holders don’t respect the Bible and the Quran which are currently being used for swearing-in ceremonies. What’s your reaction?
I fully support it. It is another effective way to tackle corruption. These traditional gods are agents of the supreme deity Yoruba called Olodumare. When you swear falsely on any of these gods, you are playing with fire because if you swear on them, and when you get to public office and start stealing, you will incur the wrath of these traditional gods as calamities in various forms will start afflicting anybody that swears falsely with them and this is why our public office holders are afraid of them. But if these public office holders have genuine intention to serve and not to loot, they should not be afraid or develop cold feet if they ask them to swear by traditional gods.
What is your reaction to the declaration of June 12 as Democracy Day?
It is a welcome development. OPC as an organisation was part of the June 12 struggle. OPC came into being as part of other movements that emerged to fight the injustice of June 12 annulment. President Buhari should be commended for making the declaration.
What are your expectations from President Buhari in this second term in office?
It is only in Nigeria that I see citizens abuse their leaders. Even though you may disagree with his policies and programme, you don’t need to abuse Buhari as a leader. There are polite ways to express your disagreement with him without resorting to abuse.
As for my expectations from him, he should fix the power sector. He promised to do this during his first term but up till today the problems besetting the sector are still there and we all know that power is the key to so many economic challenges facing the nation. If the power sector is fixed, there will be a boom in the economy. Then small scale enterprises will also thrive, and employment will be generated for many unemployed Nigerians.
Buhari also promised to tackle the problem of unresolved murders and assassinations. There are so many unresolved murders and assassinations. We need to unravel these, so Buhari should keep to his promise to let Nigerians know what happened in all these cases.
During his second term, Buhari should also ensure that he put in place, people-oriented programmes that will make life meaningful for Nigerians. He should also find ways to squarely address the problem of poverty.
To the South West governors, what’s your advice to them?
My advice is not only for the South West governors but all the newly elected leaders. They should know that they were elected to serve. They should therefore not be self-serving. They should not betray the electorate. They should know that public office is an avenue to serve and not platforms to loot.