Ex-militants meet over Jonathan's re-election

NATIONAL MIRROR Newspaper- Sola Adebayo

Aggrieved ex-Ijaw militant commanders in the Niger Delta are meeting in Lagos on Sunday to decide their stance towards President Goodluck Jonathan’s 2015 re-election bid.

National Mirror learnt yesterday that the Presidency is worried about the outcome of the meeting as the support of the ex-warlords is considered a key success factor in the election.

Reliable sources close to the conveners of the meeting told National Mirror yesterday that the forum would undertake a critical appraisal of the performance of the Jonathan administration, the development of the region and competence of some key government functionaries, especially the ministers, whose portfolios had a bearing with the well-being of the oil-rich belt.

Findings showed that the performance of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Elder Godsday Orubebe and his Petroluem Resources counterpart, Mrs. Deziani Alison-Madueke, would be x-rayed by the exfighters.

Our correspondent learnt that the Presidency had been thrown into a state of anxiety as the circular of the meeting was made public.

Reports available to National Mirror yesterday indicated that top officials of the Presidency and key loyalists of Jonathan had been lobbying the conveners of the forum to influence a favourable outcome.

It was gathered that a popular ex-militant leader, Chief Ateke Tom, would host the forum at his Festac Town, Lagos residence.

Other notable ex-warlords expected at the meeting include the Leader of the Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force, NDPVF, Alhaji Mujarhedeen Asari- Dokubo, Mr. Ebikabowei Victor Ben, a.k.a. Boyloaf and Egberi Papa.

National Mirror gathered that the ex-militants are meeting under the aegis of Izon Ikemi, a grassroots group formed by some aggrieved former fighters to challenge another one founded by a notable exmilitant commander, Chief Government Ekpemukpolo, a.k.a. Tompolo, called Oporoza House.

Tompolo is being excluded from the meeting apparently because of his closeness to Jonathan, who was accused of according him preferential treatment.

A Niger Delta activist and environmentalist, Mr. Tony Uranta, is the interim leader of Izon Ikemi.

Tom and Boyloaf hinted about Sunday’s meeting in a recent publication in which they appraised Jonathan and scored him low.

They had said: “So far in summary, we believe the government of President Jonathan has not done its best in meeting the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians, who overwhelmingly voted for him.

“We, his own people, are seriously dissatisfied with the way things are going and may be left with no option than to withdraw our support for his government in the best interest of Nigerians.

“In furtherance to our genuine desire for the development of the region, we seek (to) call for an emergency meeting of Izon Ikemi to further discuss and deliberate on the above mentioned issues as they affect our people.”

Our correspondent sighted the notice of the meeting in Warri, Delta State, yesterday. It was signed by Izon Ikemi’s National Secretary, Mr. Akpos Mezeh.

It reads: “I am directed to invite you to attend a leadership meeting of Izon Ikemi (Grassroots of the Ijaw Nation) scheduled for Sunday, January 27, 2013 at 8p.m. prompt. Usual venue: Festac, Lagos. Attendance is strictly on invitation pls.”

Already, members of the kitchen cabinet of Jonathan were reported to have established contacts with the leadership of the group apparently to ensure a soft landing for their benefactor.

Specifically, a former Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Chairman of the Board of Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Chief Tony Anenih, Orubebe and Chief of Staff to the President, Chief Mike Oghiadomhe, had contacted the key players in the group to ensure that the outcome of the meeting favoured Jonathan.

Reliable sources close to Ateke Tom told National Mirror that Anenih contacted the ex-warlord on the phone from abroad last week and persuaded him to observe a ceasefire. Anenih was reported to have assured Tom that he would deal with their grievances as soon as he returned to the country.

It was also gathered that Sunday’s meeting was one of the issues discussed when Ogiadhomhe met with Asari-Dokubo, on Tuesday, in Abuja.

Unconfirmed reports also stated that Jonathan had personally met Ateke Tom.

National Mirror gathered that Jonathan’s men had mustered efforts to convince the ex-fighters that their recent criticisms of the President had not only reduced his profile but had also sent negative signals to the rest of the country about his eligibility for re-election.

“The Presidency is on our necks because of our meeting coming up in Lagos on Sunday, where we are going to decide the fate of President Jonathan and make public our position on his re-election bid in 2015.

“Some notable associates of Jonathan have been reaching out to some of us to ensure that the outcome of the meeting favours Mr. President.

“The President’s men were dangling carrots, including juicy oil contracts and award of oil blocs to some of us if we can endorse the President for a second term.

“They want us to recant our earlier publications on the performance of President Jonathan and pronounce our support for his election. They are saying that further negative pronouncements and publications by us would damage the political career of the President.

“But the issue is beyond the political career of President Jonathan, it is rooted in the development of the Niger Delta, which was the reason for our fight in the first instance. But the situation has not changed. The only way we can support Jonathan is if he can wake from his slumber and take the issue of development of the region seriously,” of the conveners of the meeting who did not want his name mentioned, said.


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