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Akanimo Sampson: Rebels Blame JTF For Violence

Niger Delta: Rebels Blame Soldiers For Rivers Violence

By Akanimo Sampson
Port Harcourt

Niger Delta rebels of the Joint Revolutionary Council, JRC*, say armed security forces of the Joint Task Force, JTF, a special security outfit, are to blame for the current gale of insecurity in Rivers State, one of the key oil-producing states in South-South Nigeria.

Spokesperson of the JRC, Cynthia Whyte, said on Thursday: ''The JTF attacked the stronghold of a group they termed as bandits and the gang members resorted to certain measures of retaliation targeted at innocent bystanders, tourists among others.

Most importantly, the current Rivers state Governor, Rotimi Amaechi, fell into a trap set for him by the JTF. Moreover, he has shown that he has terribly bad advisers when it comes to crisis control and management. Well I don't blame him; his government still stands on a shaky two-legged stool.

However, we must agree in totality that General Olusegun Obasanjo must be held responsible for the current unrest in Nigeria. He goofed when he arrested with Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari without proffering any real charges against him and then locked him up in solitary confinement for 18 months. It is important and imperative at this point for Obasanjo to divulge in fullness, the names of those who advised him to take Dokubo-Asari hostage''.

The rest of the interview with the JRC spokesperson went thus:

Would it be okay to assume that you have lost faith in the Yar'Ádua orchestrated peace process?

It is difficult to define what you refer to as a peace process. Jonathan conscripted David Brigidi to begin a campaign of reconciliation and peace and then went back behind the corridors to plan with Owoye Azazi to conduct a threat assessment of the various groups in the Niger Delta and then establish the best way to flush them out. Imagine the beauty in the intrigues.

Azazi's plan gets bursted mid way. Trust is gone.

It's funny how the military works. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti must be squirming in his grave right now. These people are zombies and I think they will meet their match in the creeks. A well-fed and handsomely rewarded General wakes up on a fine morning with a good smile on his face..the night before he had concocted a plan to ensure he wins the heart of the president. He then orders his troops to go into the creeks and gun down the so-called militants and destroy the peace in some communities. It is so easy for him after all he has no relatives residing in those communities and his family is safely tucked into the confines of comfortable holiday homes overseas and his children are being well groomed in world class universities abroad. My broad, zombie na zombie. Well, we will see. Now that Jonathan has taken over the gauntlet, let us see if he can do a better job than David Brigidi especially in terms of one-on-one meetings with identified high risk groups and building plans for genuine dialogue and reconciliation. These things are not as easy as they seem.

What in your view would you say is the way forward? You cannot but agree that there is need for peace in the Niger Delta

Maybe the best person to answer this question will be someone like IMG's Joseph Evah. Find him.

Bottomline is, the Nigerian state has been too ungrateful to the Niger Delta. What belongs to Caesar must be given to Caesar. The years that have been eaten by the cankerworm must be restored quickly and new things begun. That is as easy as it can get.

Dokubo-Asari demanded the convocation of a sovereign national conference and there seems to be nothing being done about. Too many peace movements targeted at the Niger Delta but created by hungry and money seeking people are sprouting out from everywhere. They will all fail.

For the unrest to be resolved, the real issues must be dealt with in good time.

There seems to be too many divisions amongst those agitating for a better life for the Ijaw and Niger Delta territory. Is there any plan in place to quell dissension amongst the various groups? Don't you think that your struggle would be more focused if all Ijaw and Niger Delta groups have a unified front?

The campaign by the Nigerian state to exploit us is not a unified one. It is multi-pronged. Why must we have a unified front? No we will not mainly because we cannot but basically because we should not.

Long ago, our fore fathers accepted the British Colonialists. They ended up being used and demeaned. Decades ago, they were deceived into being part of the contraption called Nigeria. Today, we bear the brunt on that unruly deception concocted from the pits of hell.

If necessary, we will go to war with Nigeria. Once again, the actions of the Joint Task Force aka JTF has unified most of the fighting forces in the creeks. It has proved beyond all doubts that the "the enemy of my enemy is not necessarily my friend or my enemy". Guerilla warfare may be a last resort strategy. May the Good Lord have mercy on the soldiers of the Nigerian state who are taken down in battle.

Aren't your people double speaking? Yesterday, you say you welcomed the peace process, today you say you are no longer part of it?? Why is this so?

A mandate was given to Senator David Brigidi to restore, heal and reconcile by his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan. At the same time, another mandate was given to the Joint Task Force to identify key high risk centers and take them out. So who would you now tag as double speaking?

We supported David Brigidi and his lieutenants based on his pedigree as a distinguished and honorable Ijaw son. We welcomed him in the creeks and listened to him as he admonished on us the need to drop our arms and pick up the baton of peace. Most of us did. Some of us didn't because we already had our own suspicions. We had our suspicions because just as we know we had bandits amongst us, we also knew there were bandits and rogues in Aso Rock who would seek to undermine the Vice President in an overzealous bid to please the president (YarÁdua) and exploit his various weaknesses especially given the fact that he is a sick man. These people will fail.

To prepare us for peace time, the Professor Kimse Okoko led Ijaw National Congress (INC) almost single handedly funded the emergence of a more vibrant Ijaw Youth Council led by Chris Ekiyor, Ebello Jeremiah and Udengs Eradiri. We gave our support to the emergence of this group. Together with these people, we sat down with Senator David Brigidi and his lieutenants including Kingsley Kuku his secretary, Tom Polo and our patriotic and esteemed leader Alhaji Dokubo-Asari. We deprived ourselves of long nights of sleep in long hours of deliberations etc. We were serious in our decision to accept the olive branch. With the guidance of Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, a delegation led by Isaac Osuoka and guided by Dokubo-Asari was chosen to talk to the Yar Ádua. In spite of all these efforts, some idiots in Aso Rock still choose in their mischievousness to undermine the sacrifices we have made to advise Azazi to attack our people. We will see. Let them come. They will be burnt to death in the swamps of our creeks.

There will be no peace process until the Nigerian state recognizes the need to give back to Caesar, that which belongs to Caesar. We demand 100% control of our God given resources. We want our resources to be given to us so that we can manage it for the greater good of our people. Our people have no business with poverty and squalor because our resources are 96% responsible for the sustenance of Nigeria. Why then must we suffer?

Our roads are bad. Our schools are ill equipped. We lack medical facilities and quality health centres. Unemployment rates are unbelievable. Quality of life is horrifying. Families are in disorder because breadwinners have no bread. Our region has become HIV prone centers because our women have become the object and subject of desires of high earning and disease carrying oil company workers. We will not agree. Our struggle is a just one. We have the mandate of the Almighty in the campaign that we now orchestrate.

We may lose some of our compatriots and comrades but we will not lose our dignity. If after almost a hundred years of despicable exploitation our people, the Nigerian state is not yet ready to give to Caesar that which belongs to Caesar, then we may just be ready for war. We know members of the JTF. We know the security forces. The world is such a small place. Many of them were childhood friends. Many of them have been age-old acquaintances. We went to school with some of them and in many cases, we were academically better than them. They joined the army in frustration and despair. In that frustration and despair, they confide in us sometimes not knowing who we really are.

We will fight the Nigerian state to a standstill. The Unbelievable will be believed.

If Joshua can cause the sun to standstill, then we can. When Hosea was alive, Isaiah never saw visions. Nigeria must pay reparations to the Niger Delta.

For us, there are just two faces to the coin. We either fight the Nigerian state or fight the forces that keep us in captivity. We will follow the dictates of the Biblical injunction "Let my people Go!" Sometimes, we are forced to believe that Moses must have been of Ijaw stock.

How would you access the performance of Rotimi Amaechi as governor of Rivers State especially his approach to the current unrest in Port Harcourt and its environs?

While we will not fail to condemn banditry, hooliganism and outright criminality, Rotimi Amaechi has obviously fallen into the trap set up by the JTF. He should be careful. The fact that he keeps the company of failed and hungry politicians of Rivers state is an even more painful issue.

There are strategic processes involved in conflict resolution and crisis management.

Let him never forget that the only popularity he enjoys from Rivers people is the fact that his coming is hinged on the on the crest of an anti-Peter Odili wave.

We admire his boldness but will not be shocked if he hits rock solid failure.

Let him never forget him never forget that he was a part and parcel of the 8 years of mis-rule perpetrated by his master Peter Odili who he loyally served in the yesteryears. He is therefore party to the infamy that was visited on Rivers people by the Odili cabal.

Let him never forget that there are millions of disgruntled people out there who would love to see him fail. He certainly cannot buy everybody. He certainly cannot buy all the political parties who currently seek funds to contest his emergence as governor of Rivers people.

The people of Rivers state especially Port Harcourt are currently being laid siege on because the governor couldn't summon the wisdom of the almighty God to contain criminality and banditry in Rivers State.

His first failure was in the convening of a Truth & Reconciliation Committee. Who does he believe will go before that committee? What success does he expect from his committee?

Let him sack whoever advised him to convene the Truth & Reconciliation Committee because that committee will only turn out to be wastage of the badly needed funds of Rivers people. It will bring zero benefit to our people. If he owed Kayode Esho a long time favor, there are other better and productive ways to repay him.

My dear, Rivers State is not South Africa.

Recently, the governor was in Buguma chastising Kalabari elders on the need to curb militancy and errant youths in the Kalabari area. What is your take on this?

That action by the governor is representative of the kind of respect he has for Kalabari people especially the elders and so-called elites many of whom have been hanging around him for a long time now begging to be carried along in appointments, selections and other privileges. Go to government house, Port Harcourt and then you would understand why Amaechi could look down on Kalabari elites and royalty the way he did.

The last wave of hostage takings were shoddily and hungrily carried out by hoodlums and bandits who share the same ethnic pedigree with Amaechi. So what are we talking about?

Let him first go to his own hometown and sort himself out and then we will see.

*Note, the JRC is an umbrella body of some militia groups including a faction of the Movement for the Emmancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND as well as the Reformed Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force.



Akanimo Sampson, is the Co-ordinator of Journalists for Niger Delta (JODEL), a media group concerned with the affairs of Nigerria's oil and gas region.

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