· Teargas conference participants, invited leaders
By Gboyega Akinsanmi
A team of armed police officers from Area ‘F’ Police Command Thursday disrupted a world news conference organised by the Free Lagos Orange Movement, to end the political dynasty of the National Leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Just before the conference took off at about 11:30 am, the police officers arrived at the Airport Hotel, Ikeja in six patrol vehicles and one Black Maria van and blocked the entrance for two hours, a situation that kept customers from coming into and going out of the hotel.
Also, the police officers blocked the gate that led to the Oranmiyan Hall, the venue of the news conference, where a sizable number of Tinubu’s critics had already gathered for the formal inauguration of the movement, a similitude of political campaign that foiled the re-election of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, in Kwara State.
The police action prevented the conveners of the movement including former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) Olisa Agbakoba; the National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin; and spokesman of the Alhaji Atiku Abubakar Campaign Council, Mr. Segun Sowunmi, among others, from accessing the venue of the event.
They claimed the police action violated their right to freely associate under the 1999 Constitution.
Apart from some conveners that were denied access to the venue, other members of the movement, who came for the conference in five BRT buses, were stranded at the main gate of the hotel, thereby causing protracted traffic congestion on both sides of the Awolowo Road and stoking stern reaction from the concerned citizens.
Amid the stand-off, scores of hoodlums, who were allegedly acting on the directive of the senator representing Lagos West, Senator Olamilekan Solomon, stormed the venue from Ikeja and asked the members of the movement to leave the entrance of the hotel immediately, though they refused to honour the directive of the hoodlums.
Their decision to remain at the main gate of the hotel culminate in confrontation between the members of the movement and scores of hoodlums, thus degenerating to a free-for-all that forced the police officers to fire teargas and gunshot to disperse the two aggrieved factions.
While the confrontation lasted at the main gate, one of the conveners and a political rights activist, Mark Adebayo, alongside leaders of the movement quickly addressed the news conference inside the Oranmiyan Hall before it came to the knowledge of the police officers.
Just after Adebayo read the text of the news conference address, some police officers intruded into the venue; directed journalists and participants to leave; invited the political activist to the Area ‘F’ Police Command and ended the question-and-answer section of the conference.
Speaking at the press conference, Adebayo decried the violence that characterised the presidential and National Assembly elections in some parts of the state, especially in Somolu Local Government Area and Oshodi-Isolo Local Council Development Area.
He said the problem prevented many voters from exercising their civic rights as they were intimidated by those he called agents of the ruling APC, noting that the development was not good for democracy as it threatened the emergence of the choices of the people.
Adebayo said the movement was deeply concerned about the control of the state ‘s resources by a group of people for several years, saying it was time to free the state from what he called bondage and allow the will of the prevail.
He asked residents “to challenge what he called the political hegemony that had maltreated them and cornered their resources. Are we so stupid and ignorant in Lagos to allow one man manipulate and maltreat us this way? The clear answer is resounding No.
“So Lagosians, enough is enough. Lagosians arise and shine. Liberate yourselves from the iron grip of one man. Stand up and free yourselves and your future from the captivity of a roguish system of power succession that lacks basic respect for free choice of leadership”.