SaharaReporters has learned that what could have been a bloody clash between members of the Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), on the one hand, and Nigerian policemen and some hired thugs, on the other, was averted last Tuesday during the OPC’s inauguration of an Itsekiri chapter in Warri, Delta state.
The inauguration was scheduled to take place at the Atuwatse II Model Primary School in Warri, but the venue was cordoned off by stern-looking police officers who forced guests to run for cover. Several sources told SaharaReporters that the police were drafted to the scene on account of a petition by a prominent Itsekiri figure, Rita Lori-Ogbe, who warned that the event could foment chaos and unrest. In addition to police officers, witnesses said the venue was also besieged by rented political thugs who wrecked the canopies, tables and chairs arranged for the event.
The police and thugs prevented the OPC leader, Gani Adams, and several hundred members from reaching the venue of the inauguration. Mr. Adams had arrived in Warri to preside over the OPC’s national coordinating council meeting and inauguration of the group’s Itsekiri chapter. Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan of Delta State was expected to be the special guest of honor at the event which was disrupted by a team of policemen from “A” Division in Warri. “Some people were under the impression that the meeting could to instigate youths of the state to engage in disorderly behavior and to promote militancy in the area,” one source said.
Our sources disclosed that the heightened tensions in Warri were brought under control when the organizers decided to relocate the inauguration event to the residence of J.O.S. Ayomike, the chairman of Itsekiri Leaders of Thought. The national coordinating council meeting of OPC held at PK Hotels.
Mr. Adams described his visit to Warri as a homecoming, adding that the Itsekiri people shared the same ancestral lineage as descendants of Oduduwa. He said the Itsekiri needed the presence of OPC since the body was created to serve all Oduduwa descendants.
Mr. Adams also eulogized the late Alfred Rewane, a notable Itsekiri leader and co-founder of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), who played a significant role in the June 12 struggle. He added that the murder of Mr. Rewane created a huge vacuum in NADECO during the struggle against military despotism.
He explained that the OPC was created to cater for the needs of O’dua descendants in different parts of Nigeria as well as Benin Republic and the Caribbean. “We are not in Itsekiri (Warri) to cause problems, and I do not see anything bad in coming to Delta State,” he said. “OPC is a socio-cultural organization set up for the collective good of all Yoruba people.” He regretted that some highly placed persons had misconstrued the purpose of meeting which had been done before in Benin City as well as Port Harcourt.
“We founded the OPC to fight for the identities of all the Yoruba people all over the universe. There are about 46 million Yoruba in Nigeria and over 200 million all over the world. Itsekiri is part of the descendants of Oduduwa. Therefore, they need the support of the OPC. The inauguration of the OPC chapter was to forge closer ties between Itsekiri and Yoruba people. The Itsekiri nation would be more powerful and formidable politically with the alliance it has cemented with the OPC,” said Mr. Adams.
He added that the Itsekiri people had much to gain from belonging to the OPC. “Our members in this community are more than 2,000. If we had marched them to the field, there would have been chaos. I have to thank the leadership and organization skill of the Itsekiri for the level of understanding,”
Speaking earlier, an Itsekiri figure, Gbubemi Abigor, lamented the misinformation spread about the event. “Our idea is to have contact with our brothers from the Southwest (OPC) and ensure that we can relate socially, economically, politically,” he said. “We deem it necessary that we should avoid anything that can dent this noble relationship we are trying to create,” he added. Another Itsekiri, Lucky Akaruese, celebrated the cementing of the bond between Itsekiri and Yoruba. He condemned the invasion of the earlier venue of the meeting by police officers and thugs. He said, “No government has the right to bar citizens from holding meetings, having peaceful assemblies, when there are international human rights laws that guarantee this kind of peaceful assembly. Hence, we want to let the world know that we cannot be intimidated, it is our right to assemble.”