By Laolu Akande|
New York, NY, USA
hose were the words of Mr. Kayode Ogundamisi, the Secretary General of the Oodua Peoples Congress, OPC, in an exclusive interview with The Guardian yesterday-on Thursday about his experience with German security agents who probed him for three hours on Wednesday on his relationship with OPC.
The Germans told him they were informed by a US group, Federation of American Scientists, FAS, that OPC is a terrorist group. FAS also listed Egbesu Boys, Ijaw Youth Congress and the Ijaw National Congress in the same category.
Although the OPC official said they conducted a background check on him and concluded he was ok, he believed that they would still most probably still put him under surveillance. "They said I was OK, but I am sure I will be on their surveillance."
But the OPC functionary said, "the way they tried to destroy NADECO is what they are now doing to the OPC, Egbesu Boys, Ijaw Youth and some other organisations. I remain steadfast and committed; they are strengthening my resolve to fight on. This indicates that we are making a headway."
Ogundamisi, who is based in Dusseldorf said it all began on Sunday on his way back from London, when German Immigration were attracted by the fact that "I have traveled to over seven countries in three months. And I told them I have been involved in campaign against anti-immigration policies in Europe."
By Monday the security visited Ogundamisi's house and invited him over to their offices for interrogation on Wednesday.
Ogundamisi, who was also an official of NANS in his student days in Nigeria, said the four Germans who probed him came from the anti-terrorist unit of the nation's Department of Internal Security. "They asked me about my activities from Nigerian the past and I told them that I have been peacefully involved in self determination campaign for the Yorubas in Nigeria."
According to Ogundamisi, the Germans told him the Nigerian Intelligence Agency tipped them off about him. "They said the NIA said I have been mobilising for arms and ammunition. But I denied this and explained to them that such baseless allegations are mere attempts to maliciously cast the activities of the OPC."
He said they also informed him that the Federation of American Scientists' report listing OPC among terrorist groups was actually the real report that spurred them to ask him down for the interrogation.
But by yesterday- -Thursday- Ogundamisi had to return again to the office of the German anti-terrorist unit, and he was accordingly given a clean bill of health. "I just came from Bundes office today, I had to report again today. But I would not be going back again since they have given me a final clearance this morning."
In recent times, the German government has been clamping down on activists groups in the country, including those seeking self-determination like OPC.
Infact Ogundamisi said the agents linked him with Egbesu Boys, Ijaw National Congress and Ijaw Youths Congress, all included in the list of terrorist groups named under FAS's guide list. He said he did not deny the link, but explained that the groups were all non-violence but only fighting for self-determination. He was also asked what was the relationship between the OPC and the Egbe Omo Yoruba of the USA and Canada.
Dwelling more on the details of the questioning, Ogundamisi said they asked him about charges proffered against him by the Babangida military government over the allegation that he was among the organisers of the SAP riots and also about the formation and the history of the OPC. He said he explained that under the IBB regime, he was arrested unduly under DN2 and was never convicted.
"I also explained to them that OPC is a self-determination group. I told them I have always campaigned peacefully and have never been involved in violence. I also directed them to their embassy in Nigeria for information about the formation of OPC," Ogundamisi said during the telephone interview. He added that in fact the OPC has since been silent, stressing that it was a strategic decision to allow for peace in the country.
They also asked him about the 2003 elections. His reply: "I told them elections are not the real issues in Nigeria, but the issue is about the right of ethnic groups to self determination."
Commenting further Ogundamisi said he loved Nigeria, but that does not stop him from championing the interests of the Yoruba people. He said his interrogation was motivated by people who wanted to "malign my name internationally, because we have been receiving invitations all over Europe, so I envisage that these are moves to destroy OPC internationally."
He said there are 5th columnists in Nigerian embassies "trying to cause trouble for some of us." For instance he said sometimes in Kenya after the restoration of civil rule, "Nigeria's military attaché in that country told the Kenyans that I was wanted in Nigeria. That was when Dr. Fasheun was arrested."
Since the incident on Wednesday, Ogundamisi said he has been receiving several calls and has been assuring all his callers that he is OK and fine. "I want to tell all our members at home to remain calm and committed."