His outspokenness defines his personality. Despite spending 18 months in prison under the late Gen Abacha’s military junta, he has consistently remained in the vanguard of projecting the Yoruba ethnic group. Dr Frederick Fasehun, a medical doctor by profession spoke with OKOSUN OKHUELEIGBE where he debunks the allegation that Odua Peoples’ Congress (OPC) is a violent group (Part 1)
WHAT actually motivated you to form OPC?
Oh! It’s a very long story. The Yoruba people were in the vanguard for the struggle of independence of Nigeria but when it came, they were relegated to the background. We enjoyed no dividend of independence. It was so bad that the most erudite politician among them who took part in the conference in London and Nigeria, had the opportunity to rule this country under the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in 1979 and 1983, was denied. Then came MKO Abiola, who shared everything religion, money, business with the caliphate and won the June 12, 1993 elections, he was not allowed to take on leadership. Instead, he was arrested, detained and killed. They took away from us life and returned dead body. I then sat down and thought; if the most erudite politician among the Yoruba people couldn’t attain leadership position of this country including the one very much close to the caliphate; no Yoruba person might be able to attain that position. Then, I thought this country belong to all of us. Leadership position must be available to everyone who is a Nigerian citizen except criminals. I also thought Yoruba people were running the political race on one leg; I would found a second leg for them. That was why I founded OduaPeoples’ Congress (OPC).
To do what?
The primary principle of OPC is to protect, defend, promote Yourba’s interest and ensure that justice is done to other ethnic nationalities.
Which year was OPC formed?
August 29, 1994.
Several years down the line, would you say you have achieved the purpose the OPC was founded?
We have achieved a lot of them. After agitating for participation in leadership, two Yoruba contested for the presidency Chief OluFalai and OlusegunObasanjo. Whatever happened didn’t matter. We were happy given the opportunity.We had attained that as the primary objective. We also achieved the feat of making the Yoruba to speak with one voice unity of the Yoruba people was initiated and promoted. Besides, the other ethnic nationalities have their own ethnic group – MASSOB, IYC and other groups.
Would it be safe to say Nigerians plotted against the late MKO Abiola or some Yorubas plotted against their own—or the law of karma played out?
I don’t think so. If it was the Yoruba people plotting against their own, the OPC would not have succeeded. They would have also plotted against OPC. The law of Karma operates in the spiritual realm; I don’t think it was because of the offence of an individual that would galvanise into making the entire Yourba people to suffer deprivations.
The OPC is becoming too violent using cutlasses and knives to kill and stab people to death at the slightest provocation. They are stationed at disputed landand could kill anybody that comes their way. Are you aware that your members are involved in all of these?
We have a Constitution and it does not allow any OPC member to take the life of another person in line with the Constitution of the land. OPC does not condone social misbehaviour. After we came into our national consciousness, some people couldn’t comply with the constitution; we asked them to go and they became factionalised. That was because they could not adhere to the rules of the organisation.
Could that have led to the breakaway of Gani Adams…?
It led to it and many others. However, there was no fight; we don’t want to be polluted although the media said Dr Fasehun have lost grip of OPC. Shortly after I came back from Abacha’s prison for two years, I was told people were using OPC to turn the community to chaos. I had to write a new Constitution.
Are you saying those resorting to brigandageare not your members?
They belong to various other groups not my group. Militancy is not a tea party especially when we have defined what we are set to achieve. Defending ownership of property; there is no way you can defend the truth without an element of violence. In Lagos, the easiest way to involve in communal conflict is through land purchase or ownership. Where somebody came from Anambra state, laboured and bought a piece of land, someone comesfrom a corner to tell himhe was the grandson of the owner and cannot make use of what he bought.If we came in and see the papersthat the Anambra man is the owner, he wouldbe defended.
There is a case at Lekki where OPC were hired by a land grabber to encroach onpeoples’ land. Has there been any case of arrest brought to you and do you have an internal mechanism to determine who is an OPC member or not?
I will neither exonerate the OPC from occasional misbehaviour nor say my members were involved. I will find out. However, when we catch them, what they suffer is more than a stab. I am not boastful of many of the OPC members in Lekki. OPC is trained to protect. This is where they run afoul of the law. If you attack anybody and you cause physical damage, you have to explain to the disciplinary committee and they would take appropriate action. I don’t think OPC will be involved in deciding land ownership. First, they will not interfere until they have seen the papers of both sides especially the C of O, receipt collected from the seller, their agreement with the family. When they have seen all these, they make comparism. If OPC is not intervening in some of these things, Lagos will be the centre of chaos.
(To be Continued)