The Oodua People’s Congress (OPC) has called for Nigerians to see the coming general elections as a routine contest among brothers without fear of violence.
Speaking in Lagos amidst reports in social media that some Yoruba self-determination groups had put machinery in motion to unleash violence on non-indigenes in Lagos and the South-West, OPC President, Otunba Wasiu Afolabi (alias Askari) said that citizens should go about campaigns and voting without fear of harassment, intimidation and violence.
In a statement signed by Bunmi Fasehun, OPC General Secretary, Afolabi said: “Anyone caught planning to foment trouble or actually perpetrating violence should be treated as a criminal and should be handed over to the law-enforcement agencies for arrest and prosecution.
“We cherish the peace that we enjoy in the South-West today and we shall guard it jealously. OPC has contributed greatly to this peaceful environment and we will do nothing to jeopardise it. Whoever is planning electoral violence, whether he is a Yoruba man or not, will have OPC to contend with. OPC will not tolerate any plan, attempt or move aimed at intimidating voters or preventing anyone from freely expressing their democratic choice.
”Politics should not be a do-or-die affair. OPC will neither subscribe to do-or-die politics nor be used to implement the nefarious and evil plans of politicians.
“In our midst are responsible businessmen and businesswomen graduates and artisans, as well as students of higher institutions and Muslim and Christian clergymen. Our organisation will not be used for political thuggery before, during or after the elections.”
Dismissing allegations that some self-determination groups might be planning to unleash mayhem on certain ethnic groups who might vote against the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the OPC leader said: “The security agencies should do their job –hunt out such potential troublemakers and destroy such a plan.”
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Afolabi urged Lagos and South-West politicians to learn from other parts of the country and the world where people were armed to get individuals into power only for such arms to be used to turn such places into enclaves of war and terrorism.
According to him, OPC was no stranger to democracy as its leaders emerged through the democratic process as laid down by the late Founder, Dr Frederick Fasehun.
Afolabi said: “OPC is a non-religious and non-political Yoruba socio-cultural organisation. Within the organisation, members belong to different political affiliations. It is their right and no one can dictate to them. OPC respects its members’ individual rights to freedom of association and freedom of thought.
“Moreover, Yoruba people enjoy cordial and fraternal relations with all ethnic groups in the country –Hausa, Igbo, Ijaw, Edo, Tiv and others. We do business together and we have even intermarried. So how can we now attack our in-laws and business partners because of some individuals’ selfish political ambition?
“Hundreds of OPC members shed their blood to purchase this democracy that we enjoy today. We will never be part of destroying what we built with our own hands and the blood of our people.”
Afolabi recalled that the OPC’s Founder, also, formed the Coalition of Ethnic Nationalities of Nigeria (CENN) as an umbrella body and platform to promote unity and understanding among the country’s regions.
Suing for peaceful elections, the OPC President warned politicians to desist from turning the elections into a battlefield.
“As has always been our prerogative, we shall be extending our hand of fellowship to security agencies to ensure the election is smooth and peaceful,” Afolabi said.