Fresh hostilities in NIGER Delta! Jonathan, Tompolo, ex-militant leaders vs Okah, MEND

Source: Vanguard Newspaper, Nigeria

Challenging issues of the amnesty programme.
The programme is not supposed to be an

everlasting project; it is a chapter that will come to an end, but when government said recently that it

would not engage more ex- militants in its training programme, after approving an extra 6,166 to the

original 20,192, it raised quite some dust. Unquestionably, the progamme is not such that it could

afford to be unbending to avoid going back to square one. Poser: If about 1,000 more pigheaded

militants, let us even say 5,000 militants could spoil the gains of the entire amnesty programme, what

stops government from bending backwards to accommodate them; after all, the objective of the

programme is to transform them into better human beings. There should be nothing sacrosanct about

the post-amnesty programme because the ultimate goal is to get the militants to stop violent

agitation.

Mandate
The militant group gave a clue to the personality war in a recent statement in which it berated South

Africa for dancing to the tune of the Nigerian government in the incarceration of Henry Okah.
Former special adviser to the president on Niger-Delta, Kuku, is a product of the struggle and

certainly understands the dimensions and intricacies of the struggle. Incontestably, a square peg in a

square hole, he has connected well so far with the ex-militant leaders. Jonathan should give him the

imprimatur to meet with aggrieved and non-aggrieved ex-militant leaders to sort out the thorny areas.

If not for jumpiness of John Togo, who stormed out of the post_amnesty programme, and providence,

which had decreed his days on the earth planet, the former special adviser was fine_tuning a

safe_landing plan for him before his demise. If truth be told, Togo was already tired of fighting and

was waiting for the sealing of the conditions for re-surfacing back to land when he was caught in the

JTF bombardment, May 12, and he died two days later, May 14, from injuries sustained.
Though, Henry Okah, no doubt, irked Jonathan who visited him in South Africa in 2007 as vice

president on a ceasefire mission in the region, it is not too late to save him from his current travail,

which was a deviation from the Niger-Delta struggle. Close sources said that even though a leopard

does not change its spot, Henry Okah should have learnt his lessons by now, and allowing him to die

in jail would spark the beast among those who do not necessarily love him, but because he

represents a chapter in the militant world. And that is why the recent threat by MEND to resume

hostilities should be cautiously handled.

The fact that Jonathan’s trouble shooting with Okah in South Africa in 2007 did not produce the

desired result does not mean that the grievances cannot be resolved. The group had a negotiating

team, made up of Nigerians, but for palpably a matter of ego, the president has not deemed it crucial

to negotiate with the team, even though his former boss, Yar’Adua, met with the group before his

death.
For an enduring peace in the region, nothing stops Jonathan from permitting the Amnesty Office to

confer with the Aaron Team, a group of mediators, comprising the former Chief of General Staff, Vice

Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd), Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Major General Luke Kakadu Aprezi

(rtd), Architect Denzil Amagbe Kentebe and Mr. Henry Okah, appointed by MEND itself, to fashion a

way out and offer the die-hard militants, including Henry, the last chance to repent. However, Prof

Soyinka is believed to have resigned his membership of the Aaron Team, while Mr. Farah Dagogo,

who was also a member of the group that met with the late Yar’Adua in 2009, later disengaged from

MEND to embrace amnesty. But Akhigbe could still lead the team if Jonathan is prepared to listen.
Although, the argument is that Okah had no tenable grounds to return to militancy after accepting

amnesty in 2009, he has not been found guilty of the charge yet, and because the manner his current

trial is being conducted does not indicate that he is undergoing a free and fair trial, the Federal

Government could liaise with the South African government to end the trial. That is not to say that

violence and bloodshed should be condoned by the government, but the Niger Delta crisis is like a

fly perching on the scrotum, using more than necessary force to kill the fly may cause collateral

damage.

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