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 N/Delta: Ten years after amnesty, woes of communities continue, by Cletus Opukeme

File photo: Late President Musa Yar;Adua (middle) High Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo, Former President Goodluck Jonathan and former governor of Delta state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan


Late President Yar’Adua Musa ended organized  massacre or genocide by federal soldiers in Niger Delta on 14th October, 2009 as deadline for armed agitators in the region to embrace amnesty which brought about maximum peace as the gesture not only extended life span of Niger Delta youths from soldiers untimely death. But it created a peaceful atmosphere for both multinationals and federal government to continue in its unabated milking of the region’s soil of Oil and Gas exploitation without challenge as the key beneficiary of the Niger Delta amnesty programme with increased sales output of oil/Gas from the region.

Mr. Henry Okah

In 2009,  several good analysts were with the notion that  post amnesty conference proposed by the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) with late President  Musa Yar’Adua would yield the desired development in Niger Delta, if properly articulated.  Late Yar’dua in its true sincerity accepted the proposed post-amnesty conference by MEND leaders to deliberate fundamental grey areas in the amnesty which key subjects were the strategic development of the Niger Delta region beyond youths payment of stipend and training.

The worst happened to Niger Delta region when the news of the death of former President Yar’Adua came to the ears of key ex-agitators.  The secrecy over his death was not the major problem. The major trouble was how, if anybody succeeds Yar’Adua and could have the gut to continue the post-Amnesty conference to negotiate grey areas in Niger Delta . The hope of Niger Delta region came when the constitution permits his vice President Dr. Goodluck Jonathan who is one of them to succeed Yar’Adua.

MEND post amnesty conference team code-named ‘‘Aaron team’’   was inaugurated with Professor Wole Soyinka and other notable leaders to discuss in a round table.

Among the issues for deliberation as obtained by Daily Watch, were 50% derivation revenue sharing formula , abrogation of the obnoxious military land use act, massive development of the Niger Delta region with foreign giant  Construction company to build bridges, flyover, massive reclamation works to be paid in oil and Gas from the region,  Restructuring/equal Political opportunities, both appointments/Elective offices in Nigeria with all geo-political zones and so on.

The choice of Professor Wole Soyinka by MEND to lead Aaron team  was strategic as the man although, not a Niger Deltan. But he has lived beyond ethnic lines and generously accepted as a global leader.

So,Professor Soyinka’s name was an advantage to both the federal government and people of Niger Delta region. Henry Okah’s MEND Aaron team to be led by Professor Wole Soyinka was the best deal for Niger Delta. But enemies of region through former President Goodluck Jonathan thwarted Mr. Henry Okah’s effort.

In all, it is obvious that Okah is apparently far more learned and exposed than among all the ex-militant leaders who wanted an  international standard and practice for a crisis cease-fire/dialogue/agreement. Both the Nigerian Government and his  co-ex-militant leaders were  scared of his intellectual prowess and smartness. He was ganged up and finally, his desperation pushed him far more than where he could imagined.

To Mr. Henry Okah, the amnesty deal was a good ceasefire deal between federal government and the people of Niger Delta for dialogue a permanent peace and unity of this country.  He wanted a genuine ceasefire agreement according to  international practice with the Aaron team led by Professor Wole Soyinka.

Although, Henry as good as his intention for Niger Delta, sources closed to him said he was  also a greedy man when it comes to sharing formula of ransom or other loots from the crisis. That he always  took the lion’s share, even though, he  never faced any confrontation with the military. That act was said to have given him a set back and credibility problem by other of his co-ex-militant leaders. In a clear language,they did not trust him with sad past experiences of loot or ransom sharing formula.

Ex-President Goodluck Jonathan

When former President Goodluck Jonathan eventually handed over with the leadership of Aso Rock as  President through the document of circumstance of necessity.  Former President Goodluck Jonathan dashed the hope of key Niger Delta agitators and the people of Niger Delta, including Professor Wole Soyinka and others as well as  MEND leader Henry Okah who is now suffering in South Africa prison on charges of terrorism as a fallout of the debates of post-amnesty conference with federal Government. Mr. Henry Okah told the court of his innocence  of the series of car bomb blasts in Nigeria. But the Nigerian government pressed upon him with charges of terrorism backed with evidences and witnesses which the South African court found him guilty while others were also found guilty in Nigerian court for life imprisonment.

Truth to be told, former President Goodluck Jonathan is a true patriotic  and a charismatic leader. He so much believed in the Nigerian dream/ project before his 2015 presidential election by his actions.  Former President Goodluck Jonathan had everything within his his powers to make the MEND Aaron team national dialogue work out. But he never wanted to be seen as an ethnic bigot. He therefore, applied every other useful and legitimate means to restore peace in Niger Delta, instead of MEND Aaron team national dialogue.

If former President Goodluck Jonathan was a tribal leader, his reign as President of the federal Republic of Nigeria which coincided with the heat of Niger Delta violent arms struggle, he would have used the opportunity as an alibi for peace to hold Nigerian government ransom, using the MEND Aaron team to negotiate for his people. But as a true patriotic Nigerian, he wouldn’t want to be seen negotiating with a section of the country, especially his Niger Delta militants to negotiate the unity of Nigeria under gun point, keeping his oath/allegiance of office as President of the federal Republic of Nigeria.

He strongly believed in  the cooperate co-existence and unity of Nigeria. He therefore, employed diplomacy to save the country from the fangs of Niger Delta militants. All for the unity of Nigeria.

Mr. Henry Okah’s intention for Niger Delta was a good good one. But he desperately pursued his agenda mixed with power play of who to lead the Niger Delta of high-wired supremacy gun/politics between and some of his ex-militant leaders.

Chief Government Ekpemupolo aka (Tompolo) emerged the real leader when all ex-militant leaders gathered in Abuja shortly after Abuja Eagle Square twin car bomb blasts. They all bowed to him before the world as their General MEND leader in a well-televised meeting where they washed their hands off from Mr. Henry Okah factional MEND which claimed responsibility of both Warri and Abuja bomb blasts that killed scores of persons.

Former President Goodluck Jonathan used Tompolo and other ex-militant leaders to jettison the idea of Henry Okah’s MEND  post-amnesty conference with promise and offer of juicy oil contracts, cash gifts to almost all the ex-militant leaders to woo them to support his new administration. There was also a presidential Security report that  despite financial cash gifts to lobby and win aggrieved ex-militants to support Jonathan, several threats by ex-militants were rife to crumble the amnesty programme by returning to the creek to resume bombing oil pipeline as a result of many factors, both the failed MEND post-amnesty Aaron team and personal aggrandizement to continue the oil MEND oil war. Late General John Togo was among one of them who expressed total displeasure over the amnesty progamme without post-amnesty conference. He said that late Yar’Adua had agreed with ex-militant leaders of Niger Delta to convene a post-amnesty programme to discuss grey areas of Niger Delta armed struggle.

(Insert) Late John Togo and ex-militants

Late John Togo under Niger Delta Liberation Force (NDLF) despite Jonathan’s plea. He struck on the 16th November, 2010 with a ragtag NDLF brutal army  to bring back the MEND Aaron team of post amnesty conference to deliberate on grey areas of post-amnesty. But he was killed in a hot gun battle with soldiers from federal troops on 11th May, 2011 of both air, land and water after the John Togo led ragtag NDLF army had defeated the troop in series of gun battles that lasted at least six months non-stop shootout in Delta creeks. The John Togo armed struggle brought pains to Ayakoromo town as Nigerian military bombed the innocent and harmless ancient community after fallen to the superior fire-power of NDLF ragtag brutal soldiers who defeated them in series of gun battles in the creek. But the Nigerian Army claimed that John Togo led ragtag soldiers killed its in ambush and not confrontational shootout.  Although, Ayakoromor was rebuilt by the Nigerian army after aerial bombardment. But the innocent lives that lost were not compensated.

In the Ayakoromor travails, former governor of Delta State, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan was said to have played a great role by sending relief materials and cash gift of about N50,000,000 (Fifty million naira ) to cushion their immediate pains.

Amnesty: Some arms surrendered in Niger Delta in 2009

Tompolo was not alone, Bayelsa wing MEND leader Mr. Ben Ebikabowei aka Boyloaf was also lobbied by the then Jonathan led federal government as well as several other splinter groups in Niger Delta. At a point in time,  the Niger Delta struggle lost its focus with almost all the key ex-militants leaders, traditional rulers, opinion leaders of the region have  turned the struggle to self-enrichment by pursuing personal federal contracts and appointments, leaving the Niger Delta oil bearing communities with nobody to care for or negotiate the welfare on behalf of the communities. Again, other beneficiaries of the programme were various leaders/ coordinators of the amnesty programme who looted money meant for the beneficiaries as they smiled to their private banks every month with reported ghost names of beneficiaries of the programme.

Amnesty: Some dangerous arms and ammunition surrendered in 2 009

But today, the same ex-militant leaders , traditional rulers are now shifting blame on President Muhammed Buhari for not developing the oil bearing communities in Niger Delta during his first tenure. As a matter of fact, this author is calling Buhari to extend development to the oil Niger Delta, whether they vote for him or not to make the people have sense of belonging.

Chief Edwin Clark

Chief E.K Clark who lived very closed with ex-militants and ex-President Goodluck Jonathan also did not support the post amnesty conference openly for reasons best known to him. He was mute and silent like graveyard. There was no restructuring or injustice which were his usual terms on the pages of the nation’s newspapers. All was well under ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration as far as the money keeps coming in ‘Ghana Must Go’ as then President’s hit man.

Dr. Kingsley Kuku, special adviser to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan who grew from the mangrove creek and had a better knowledge of the armed agitation by his brothers as a former Ijaw youths Council spokesman and intellectual activist was used to divide the ex-militant camps to solidly back Jonathan administration to stabilize the amnesty programme under Goodluck Jonathan by hook or crook with so much lobbying of aggrieved militants to key into Jonathan’s administration. He was Jonathan’s strong man and eye in the Niger Delta creeks as the Chairman/ Coordinator of the federal amnesty programme. He was on special assignment and he perfected it beyond measure.

Dr. Kingsly Kuku stabilized the amnesty programme after death of Yar’Adua

There was the general fear that a push or clamour of post-amnesty conference called by  MEND leaders would prove beyond a reasonable doubt to the international community that Mr. Jonathan Goodluck administration was also rejected by the Niger Delta militants with continued agitation or protest. So, Goodluck Jonathan’s administration technically killed post amnesty conference by dividing the ex-militant camps to suit the powers that be against the general interest of the people of Niger Delta.

When it was obvious that Mr. Henry Okah faction of MEND was sidelined and betrayed betrayed by even his field Marshals from the creek  of the idea post-amnesty conference. Mr. Henry Okah was described by fellow MEND leaders as a ‘‘general without a barrack’’ The first MEND car bomb blast was recorded in Warri in 2010 which MEND claimed responsibility under faceless spokesman Gen. Jomo Gbomo in  a similar gathering organized by Vanguard Newspaper, a paper seemed to be having a soft spot for the woes of Niger Delta. In that meeting, there several dignitaries, including Niger state governors were present and the two car time bombs which exploded simultaneously. Although, few were injured. But no life was lost.

Again, another twin car bomb explosion was witnessed in Abuja at Eagle square which the same MEND Jomo Gbomo claimed responsibility. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back was Nigerian federal government gradually sniffed the alleged perpetrators out and they were made to face life jail term with MEND leader Mr. Henry facing jail term in South Africa.

The Niger Delta region was obviously disappointed during Goodluck Jonathan reign as President of the federal republic of Nigeria with no tangible infrastructural development until his first tenure expired and the second tenure presidential election which he lost to the Northern Fulani leader President Muhammadu Buhari.

Muhammadu Buhari, ensures the amnesty programme succeeds

The amnesty programme although a good one as it brought about peace in the region, thereby allowing our women to go and fish without being molested and raped by marauding soldiers.  It extended the lifespan of Ijaw youths from soldiers’ killers bullets.

But in terms of infrastructural development. It is zero as the programme was not mapped in the direction to carry out developmental blue print for the region which embattled Mr. Henry Okah was trying to achieve through the post-amnesty conference with the Aaron team led by Professor Wole Soyinka and other notable leaders.  But Mr. Henry’s desperation was placed above the region’s interest coupled with other pecuniary factors of power and fame struggle. At last, members of the Aaron team withdrew voluntarily with the MEND car bombing strategy, the first in the history of Nigeria.

Some of the Niger Delta beneficiaries of the amnesty in training class

For the Niger Delta youths empowerment,  late President Musa Yar’Adua gave hope to several Niger Delta youths  as the programme did not give hope to  Niger Delta youths with a steady monthly payment of N65,000 in a country where jobs are hard to secure . But several youths have been trained in aviation, engineering, welding and fabrication and so on, even though several of them have no where to find job with their training. The amnesty stopped genocide in the Niger Delta region. Yar’Adua amnesty stopped  the Nigerians soldiers freely tested new weapons purchased with the proceeds of oil and Gas on youths of Nger Delta.

One may ask, does the entire high death rate, bombing of communities, fighting soldiers for several years ended with  only N65,000 monthly stipend payment of privileged handful Niger Delta youths and skill acquisition training?

Above all, the oil bearing communities till date continue to wallow in their poverty with sickness and untimely death without health centers, no drinkable water, no motorable roads, no good schools and the people have nobody to cry to as they are dying in silence for fear of the unknown with their oil and Gas proceeds are being enjoyed by people from distant lands. They resigned to fate and hope on future generation to take them out of this oppression and slavery, suffering in the midst of abundance.







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