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Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC)
Oodua Liberation Movement (OLM)
Revolutionary Council of Nigeria (RCN)

The Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) is a militant socio-cultural Yoruba nationalist organization formed in 1997. The Yoruba, numbering about 25 million, live in the South Western part of Nigeria. The southern Nigeria-based group opposed the late dictator Sani Abacha, and along with other pro-democracy groups was at the forefront of the political struggle to restore democracy. It has supported Yoruba nationalism and a strong federal system in Nigeria. Its large membership [which according to some reports runs to millions] makes it vulnerable to the infiltration by extremely radical elements.

Yoruba protests became violent after the death of the political prisoner, Mashood Abiola, who won the 1993 presidential election in 1993 but was subsequently imprisoned by the military government. The government claims Abiol died of a heart attack while in prison, but protesters claim that Abiola was murdered. Abiola was a dissident that protested the military rule and presented hope for representation of the Yoruba, which they feel they have been denied.

The Government of Nigeria during 1998 went from an authoritarian dictatorship to a transitional government that at year's end was in the process of implementing a program of democratic transition to democratic civilian government in the first half of 1999. For the first half of the year, the Government was dominated by General Sani Abacha, and committed serious human rights abuses systematically in order to retain political power.

During the month of November 1998, members of the combined police and military anticrime task force known as "Operation Sweep" reportedly committed at least 16 extrajudicial killings. On 08 December 1998, in the Bariga area of Lagos, "Sweepers" killed four persons during a clash with members of the Oodua People's Congress, whose adherents had taken weapons from the police in previous confrontations.

In early 1999, the dissident Oodua Liberation Movement (OLM) [possibly also using the name Revolutionary Council of Nigeria - RCN] faction of the group became more militant in its approach. The OLM/RCN opposes Nigeria's federal system, and wants the southwestern part of the country to secede and create a separate Yoruba homeland. Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has blamed clashes in Lagos between Hausa and Yoruba traders on the Oodua People's Congress.

Disgruntled military officers, serving and retired, are said to be providing the growing 'private armies' with sophisticated weapons, which seriously threaten the country's budding democracy.

The Yoruba are a linguistic community rather than a single ethnic unit. History, language, and membership in the modern nation-state, however, have led to their identity as ethnic groups. Yorubaland takes in most of southwestern Nigeria and the peoples directly west of the Nigerian border in the independent country of Benin. In Nigeria alone, Yorubaland included 20 million to 30 million people in 1990 (i.e., about double the 1963 census figures).

Each of its subunits was originally a small to medium-sized state whose major town provided the name of the subgrouping. Over time seven subareas--Oyo, Kabba, Ekiti, Egba, Ife, Ondo, and Ijebu--became separate hegemonies that differentiated culturally and competed for dominance in Yorubaland. Early nineteenth-century travelers noted that northern Oyo people had difficulty understanding the southern Ijebu, and these dialect differences remained in 1990. The language is that of the Kwa group of the Niger-Congo family, related to the Idoma and Igala of the southern grouping of middle belt chieftaincies south of the Benue River. The population has expanded in a generally westerly and southwesterly direction over the past several centuries. In the twentieth century, this migration brought Yoruba into countries to the west and northwest as far as northern Ghana.

The Yoruba kingdoms were essentially unstable, even when defended by Portuguese guns and later by cavalry (in Ilorin and Kabba), because the central government had insufficient power constitutionally or militarily to stabilize the subordinate chiefs in the outlying centers. This fissiparous tendency has governed Yoruba contemporary history and has weakened traditional rulers and strengthened the hands of local chiefs and elected councils.

The entry port of Lagos, predominantly Yoruba, is the largest and economically dominant city in the country (and its first capital). In relation to others, the Yoruba had a strong sense of ethnic identity and of region, history, and leadership among Nigeria's peoples. In relation to each other, the seven subgroups used inherited prejudices of character and behavior that could exacerbate animosities, should other factors such as access to education or prominent positions create conflict among the subdivisions.




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