Who is Tompolo speaking for…By Uche Igwe

It is now more than a week since a former Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupulo, aka Tompolo, threatened the Federal Government that President Muhammadu Buhari would know no peace.

I waited for those who understand the meaning of such a statement to wade in and caution the ex-militant. That has not happened and I am worried. I learnt that Tompolo was invited to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for more than a month now and he has repeatedly refused to appear. Instead, he has suddenly become restless and has been desperately trying to hold one “Niger Delta” straw or the other to evade the law. That is very wrong and should be condemned in very strong terms.

It is very obvious that this guy wants to politicise his summons and subsequent possible arrest to gain undeserved attention. Why is he trying to allege persecution and bring in unnecessary sentiments for an allegation of corruption? His arguments are hollow especially now that many observers of the Niger Delta region know that his involvement in “freedom fighting” has been for his stomach. Tompolo should be brave enough to honour his invitation to the EFCC and answer any question.

Otherwise, security agencies should fish him out, prosecute him in a court of competent jurisdiction and if possible jail him in prison custody afterwards.

Well-meaning political leaders should warn Tompolo against further unguarded utterances. I foresee a great danger in allowing him to continue to run his mouth. If he has personal issues with either his business associates or the traditional institution in his village, that should not bother us. Can we afford another round of conflict in the Niger Delta? The ones we engaged in earlier, where did it take us to? After the so-called Niger Delta agitation, can anyone say that the region is anywhere better? Are we not still the same region with inadequate infrastructure, environmental devastation and inexplicable poverty? Are we not a region that scholars like Otive Igbuzor described as a place from where so much wealth has been extracted yet so much wretchedness is evident?

It is possible that some politicians are itching desperately to make a political statement. There is nothing wrong with that but they must find a way to do so without violence. We must not play politics again with the blood of our citizens. There are important lessons to learn from the North-East zone. Our region cannot go to that route again. That young man should be told that there are those who want to engage the issues of the Niger Delta differently. With the price of crude oil at less than $30, we should be less fixated on the oil under our feet and employ different tactics. We want to be seen encouraging efforts to clean up the ecological savagery precipitated by more than 50 years of oil exploration in the delta through the implementation of the UNEP report. We want to explore opportunities to diversify the economy of the region and launch our communities unto more sustainable livelihoods.

I was reliably informed that the recent attacks of oil pipelines resulted to damage to crude oil tank farms in Warri South and pipelines from Makaraba via Otunana and Abiteye all in Delta State leading to financial losses running into millions of naira. Already, both the Port Harcourt and Kaduna refineries have announced a shutdown of operations due to reported damage of vital pipelines and crude oil supply challenges. Whosoever is behind this act and those who support it should be told that it is a sabotage to our economy which will come with consequences.

The Federal Government has got a share of these blames. When you continue to placate conflict entrepreneurs, that is what you get. It appears that the Federal Government is promoting the idea that it is only through violence that citizens can get attention. Law-abiding citizens do not manage to get anything from government. It is unfortunate that if you have to get any government attention, you must learn to speak the language of violence. The consequence of this feeling is the proliferation of insurgent groups and sometimes directionless agitations. For so many conflicts in Nigeria, you hardly differentiate whether it is as a result of greed or any genuine grievance.

Instead of treading his current path, Tompolo should thank his stars. After all the violence that was associated with him, the Federal Government extended amnesty to him to – go and sin no more. Out of all the so-called repentant militants, he has been the most fortunate. He has managed to mainstream himself politically in his state.

I have observed that there may be an unwritten code of silence adopted by many politicians of Niger Delta extraction. Their lingering silence has spoken volumes already. Their body language seems to be in tacit support of the confrontational style of the former warlord. As if it serves government right. Militancy is an ill-wind that blows nobody no good. It is a regrettable era that left the Niger Delta much more impoverished with stockpiles of guns that will last us a lifetime. I wish to dissociate myself from that silence. We must speak out now. Nigerians may not know who Tompolo is speaking for but they should be told about those he is not speaking for.

He should simply face the law and prove his innocence. It is now time for us to engage differently and those who do not believe in peace cannot be the face of that engagement. Let it be said unequivocally again that if there is no peace in the Niger Delta, there cannot be quality education, no good jobs and development will continue to be elusive. The era of conflict entrepreneurship and barefaced criminality in the name of freedom fighting is over.

Copyright PUNCH.

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