A collaboration between Lagos Police Command and Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, led to the arrest of over 100 suspected Badoo cult members who have been terrorising Ikorodu, Lagos State, for some time now. At the last count, 21 people have been killed in circumstances linked to the cult. The latest victims, a woman and two babies, were hacked to death when attackers, believed to be Badoo members, stormed two churches in the area, last week. In this interview culled from Sunday Vanguard, the National Coordinator of the OPC, Otunba Gani Adams, speaks on the role played by his group that led to the arrest of the suspected cult members, how members are recruited and ways to curb crime in Lagos. He also speaks on the need to restructure the country. Excerpts:
The OPC was reported to have collaborated with the police to arrest Badoo cultists terrorising Ikorodu. How was the OPC involved?
Information had been coming to us concerning the activities of the Badoo cult group for about two and a half years now. Our coordinators in Ijegede, Igbogbo, Bayeku had been giving us information about what had been happening but we realised that some highly placed personalities sent those boys to carry out the killings. We thought we could not move in without the cooperation of government, especially the police. I
f you recall the incident that happened in the border communities between Lagos and Ogun states (Ikorodu, Ibafo, etc) last year regarding kidnapping, people mounted pressure on us to assist the police but we told them that without the cooperation of government and without invitation from law enforcement agencies, it will be difficult to stem high profile crimes in our society. The issue of the Badoo cut group went out of proportion.
In about four weeks, over 18 people were killed. Perhaps, that was one of the reasons the Lagos State Police Command invited me last Wednesday to say they needed the cooperation of the OPC to curb the Badoo menace. Most of the people involved in the Badoo cult group are ritualists. They use stones and big sticks to kill their victims. After that, they remove some parts of the body. They also use white handkerchiefs to take the victims’ blood. Those white handkerchiefs are taken to their godfathers.
So, when the Deputy Commissioner of Police in Lagos State in charge of operations invited me and some leaders of Oyanbo to his office, I told him that there was need for us to invite our coordinators in Ikorodu, who had information to provide. The next meeting was held on Friday, June 30. It was an enlarged meeting. Another meeting was held with the Commissioner of Police and it was agreed that there was need to carry out a joint operation on Saturday, July 1, 2017.
That was what led to the operation which took eight hours and, at the end of the day, over a hundred suspects were arrested. We went to some black spots and where cultists usually hide because we found out that cultists are usually recruited to operate as Badoo members. They recruit by putting up vacancy notice asking applicants to apply. And by the time you apply, you will be asked to come for interviews. You will be recruited and given some money. They also have a channel through which they give money to people as empowerment to recruit. They give as much as N250,000 to lure people to the cult.
So, it goes beyond what you see in the public, it is a well coordinated group. For now, over a hundred people have been arrested and by the time the police carry out their interrogation, more revelation will come out. I have said that without the police inviting us, we will not be involved. The reason is that there have been cases in which if you are not invited by the police and you go for the operation, you will blame yourself. It can be interpreted as extra – judicial killing and the godfathers of Badoo can write a petition against the OPC. But now, the law enforcement agencies are on board.
Some prominent people in Ikorodu have done their best to stop the Badoo killings but the situation goes beyond them. Everyone is trying to be safe in the society. Most of the operations of the Badoo gang are usually done in remote areas. If the police do not have the support of the OPC that has structure everywhere, it would be difficult to curb crime. I am very sure that after the operation, more information will come out because the Ikorodu people have realised that the OPC is working with the police. Those who do not have confidence in giving the police information will give to the OPC. Those who don’t have confidence to provide information to the OPC will give to the police. So, when you talk of security, it goes beyond law enforcement agents.
I have travelled to many countries across the world. Most of the intelligence to security agencies in many developed countries always comes from retirees and groups who are not paid by government. The only fear people have about our security agencies is that they believe that when they supply information, they will divulge it to criminals who will, in turn, pounce on them. After the operation of Saturday, some of these Badoo guys must have fled Ikorodu, but their leaving will give us more information to know their sponsors and the personalities behind the ritual killings. It is very clear that their activities are more than just being criminal. From what we heard, they usually buy these handkerchiefs from these criminals for as high as N500,000, N1m. Some even go as high as paying N1.5m for a blood-soaked handkerchief. How can a common man afford such an amount of money? It is clear that this is being organised by some prominent people.
We need to challenge our law enforcement agents. We have seen a lot of people caught with human heads, a lot of people have ritualists’ den in the bush. We have yet to get the names of the Badoo godfathers or sponsors. Until the police and other security agencies do their investigations, name the prime suspects, take them to court, they may not allow the media to publish the information. That is the time ritual killings will reduce in Nigeria. Thank God for the social media that is exposing many things now. Some people are wealthy today without any known source of income. They should be investigated.
The collaboration between us and the police has yielded positive results in the areas of security, especially in the South-West. People are now confident that crime rate will be reduced. It is different from the time when the police viewed OPC as an enemy, not the time that security agencies believed that anybody who is a member of OPC is an enemy. Now, the collaborative effort between has sent a signal.
Let me state it clearly that OPC is not a security organisation. It is not like Bakassi or vigilante but you can’t reduce the advantage of a group of over six million people who believe in using their native ways to defend themselves. You cannot underrate their cooperation in reducing crime in the society. Some of our members today assist various organisations as private security guards. We have some who are working as security guards within the group who can be very useful to the police. We have held two meetings with the police. We didn’t ask them for money. In fact, we are even spending our own money because the pain of our people is our pain. Any calamity that befalls our people is our own calamity too. We believe, as Nigerians, that anything that we can do to assist any agency, even beyond the issue of security in order to have a very organised and secured society, we will do it to the best of our ability.
This is not the first time you will be collaborating with the police. Recently, there were security issues in Lagos one of which had to do with the kidnapping of some students in Epe who are yet to be rescued. In all of this, what has the state government done in the area of seeking assistance from your group just as the police did?
This is the first time I will be sitting with the top hierarchy of the police; I’m talking of the State Command. Most times, the support our members always give to the DPO is at the level of DPO, which is not recognised or coordinated by us. When you are dealing with the top hierarchy of an organisation, it is quite different from dealing with ordinary members who are not leaders. We usually interact with the police but not on the basis of complementing their efforts.
On the efforts of the state government, it is unfortunate that we have a nation that plays partisan politics with the security of lives and property. The first duty of any government, be it at the federal, state or local level, is to ensure that lives and property are secure. It is only in Nigeria that even when government can use its political opponent to secure the society and operate better governance, they shy away from doing that. In the process, their government will have a bad image. We are not politicians, we are a non- partisan organisation. Maybe you should go and ask Lagos State government why they established Neighbourhood Corps and recruited nothing less than 7,300 members to assist in terms of security and intelligence gathering in the state without consulting us or even asking us to give them 10 persons. In Lagos State today, about 70 to 80 percent of the streets are secured by OPC members as private guards. Even banks recruit OPC members and sew security uniforms for them in order to secure their banks.
Why should Lagos State make that recruitment without injecting OPC members into it? Most of the people they recruited are members of their party who have no knowledge of security and who cannot confront ordinary machete, not to talk of gun. Assuming they do the right thing, among the 7,000 they recruited, 300 will come from Ikorodu. Ikorodu Neighbourhood Corps would have confronted these Badoo cultists. These are people they bought over 100 brand new vehicles for from the money that was removed from the Lagos State Security Trust Fund which many corporate organisations and individuals contributed to. It is unfortunate. But we are not ruffled. We are being funded by God, we are being funded by our ancestors.
There is an adage in Yoruba that says Igbekele eniyan asani, that is to say confidence in human being is vain. So, we do what we are doing for Nigerians, we do what we are doing for the Yoruba race. We don’t depend on any personality or government and we are doing it with joy, because what Yoruba love is recognition. When you recognise a Yoruba man, he will be happy to work with you, to help you. They love that even more than giving them money and downplay them. Not only the Lagos State government, even the monarch in Ikorodu, when they called security meeting in Ikorodu in the last two years, they won’t call our members and I told them to stay away.
Some of our leaders are complaining and I said “please, don‘t let that issue cause rancour between the monarch and the community leaders’. I was in Igbogbo to greet the new monarch of Igbogbo and he was recognising chiefs and different groups and he did not mention OPC. I was laughing. This is the same person who had three problems and I was one of the people God used to resolve them. That is Yoruba for you, and this is because most of them have been drawn into partisan politics and the habit of their arrowhead in their partisan organisation is rubbing off on them at the grassroots and is posing serious security threat.
The Yoruba has an adage that says, oselualo alajobi loku. This is the time of alajobi, it goes beyond politics. As a human being I am entitled to my own political belief and I am entitled to exercise my franchise for any person or party I believe in. You cannot force me out of my conscience, you cannot force me out of my belief. It will even be better for you to tame me than say ‘if we don’t do this for him, he will join us or he will beg us’.
I am from Ondo State, I am an Akoko person, and as an Akoko person we are ready to die because of what we believe in. I don’t compromise my principles and God has always been there for me. If you block this way, God will open three ways. That is why I triumph in everything I do on the basis of sincerity.
So, talking of government, when OPC started this security assignment, then Governor Mbadinuju of Anambra State bought more than 50 vehicles for Bakassi Boys. Where are Bakassi Boys today? When OPC started, northern people formed Arewa Peoples Congress. That group did not survive one year. At that time, the Niger Delta formed Egbesu, where is Egbesu today? They have formed different groups, but OPC has outlived them. People thought OPC is a group that does not believe in God, but it is a package of the Almighty God.
No person that tries to be an enemy of the OPC survived it and no OPC member that operates in a wrong way survives it. Even members of the group, if you are running your activities on the basis of injustice, you won’t survive. So, the spirit of the group is unique. Even though I as a leader of the group I am very careful. What we are doing is service to the people. We don’t even pray that any government should come to us to give us money. Let us do the little we can for the people and let God judge us.