Barring any last-minute change, agitators of the Yoruba nation and men of the Lagos State Police Command may be at loggerheads as the demonstrators embark on a mega rally in the state today against police order.
The agitators had insisted on holding the rally despite police warnings to shelve the plan.
The rally was organised by Chief Sunday Adeyemo popularly known as Sunday Igboho and the umbrella body of Yoruba self-determination groups, Ilana Omo Oodua, led by a renowned historian and former senator, Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye.
Igboho had initially suspended the rally after operatives of the DSS laid siege to his residence in the Soka area of Ibadan around 1 am on Thursday, killing two persons and arresting 13 others.
The Yoruba Council of Elders and Afenifere leader, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, had slammed the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the attack on Igboho’s home, urging the Federal Government to investigate the attack and bring those behind it to justice.
On Thursday, the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Hakeem Odumosu, warned organisers of the planned Yoruba Nation rally and their followers to stay off the streets of Lagos, adding that anyone caught would be dealt with according to the law.
Odumosu said intelligence reports available to the police indicated that some people had perfected plans to infiltrate the protesters and cause mayhem in the state.
The CP reiterated the warning in a statement on Friday by the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, CSP Muyiwa Adejobi, just as a number of policemen embarked on a show of force across the state to deter the agitators.
The armed policemen moved round some parts of the state on Friday in armoured vehicles and patrol vans.
The statement read in part, “The command and the government of Lagos State had warned the organisers of the planned Oodua Republic Mega Rally, scheduled for Saturday, 3rd July, 2021, at Gani Fawehinmi Freedom Park, Ojota, to steer clear of Lagos State, considering the available intelligence reports on the planned rally and to forestall any breakdown of law and order.
“The command and other security agencies, including the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps and Department of State Services have, however, put measures in place to prevent any act of lawlessness, oppression and intimidation of any kind in the state on the said date, 3rd July, 2021, and beyond as Lagos State cannot afford to record and experience the violence orchestrated by some individuals during the 2020 #EndSARS protest that led to massive destruction of lives and properties in the state.”
However, the Ilana Omo Oodua insisted on Friday that the rally would hold as scheduled.
The group’s General Secretary, George Akinola, said it was the responsibility of the police to protect protesters and all law-abiding people, saying the group had held the same rally in other states in the South-West without being hijacked by hoodlums.
He said, “We have read what the police said and they did not even say our planned rally is illegal. They talked about hoodlums and also talked traffic jam.
“It is the duty of the police to ensure that hoodlums do not infiltrate us. We have held our rally in other states and none of it was hijacked. The police in Lagos State should also not allow this one to be hijacked. We will cooperate with the police.
“Politicians, religious organisations and others hold rallies and processions in Lagos and they were not stopped because of traffic jam. We are not going to disturb other people, so we will cooperate with the police. We are calling on the police to protect us on Saturday. It will hold on Saturday but the venue will be communicated later.”
Policemen stationed on rally ground
One of our correspondents, who visited Ojota on Friday evening, saw about 18 policemen around the Gani Fawehinmi Park and M.K.O. Abiola Gardens.
Nine fully-armed policemen were seen stationed around the park with an unmarked Sienna car with the inscription ‘Police Ogudu Division,’ a Mitsubishi bus with the inscription ‘Anti-crime Area Hotel’ and two motorbikes boldly bearing ‘police’.
An open van fully-loaded with policemen, numbering over 13 was also seen patrolling the area. Some of the policemen were conducting a stop-and-search on cars as they questioned a few passersby.
When asked if the police presence in the area was a regular occurrence, an attendant at a filling station, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, “Normally, policemen used to be stationed around Abiola Gardens where they arrest suspected Yahoo boys (Internet fraudsters), but I am surprised why they are on patrol. They have been doing so since I resumed duty.”
Also, in a live Facebook broadcast monitored by Saturday PUNCH on Friday, Igboho’s spokesperson, Olayomi Koiki, maintained that the rally would hold as planned, adding that Igboho would be back stronger.
He said, “I can still confirm officially that the Lagos rally, irrespective of whatever news or rumours you’ve been listening to from different outlets, will go as planned. The 3rd of July mega rally will go on as planned. All arrangements for the rally have been planned and nothing has changed.
“I have spoken to the organisers, nothing has changed so far. On the 3rd of July from exactly 9 am [the rally will start]. The whole arrangement and planning are going on. I’ve spoken with the General Secretary of Ilana Omo Odua, George Akinola and Emeritus Professor Banji Akintoye and he (Akintoye) is working tirelessly for the release of those taken away.”
“The rally in Lagos is going to be a peaceful rally, it is going to be a mega rally; do not be disturbed about what happened. So many developments took place at Igboho’s house.”
He said Igboho urged the people not to be weighed down about the attack in his house, noting that “he is standing with the Yoruba Nation agenda.”