Militants: Buhari’s Threat Tears N–Delta Leaders Apart
There were mixed reactions, weekend, across states in the South-South to President Muhammadu Buhari’s Independence Day speech threatening to deal with Niger Delta militants. Some leaders, who spoke to journalist, said they completely agree with the President, while others rejected what they termed as provocative comments at a time everybody expected him to be temperate in his utterances.
They maintained that the President should personally lead the much talked about dialogue with the stakeholders in the region to agree on the way forward.
President Buhari had said in his Independence Day broadcast that: “A new insurgency has reared its head in the shape of blowing up gas and oil pipelines by groups of Niger Delta militants. This administration will not allow these mindless groups to hold the country to ransom.
President Buhari participates at the 56th Independence Anniversary programme Presidential Change of Guards Parade at the Statehouse on 1st October 2016. “What sense is there to damage a gas line as a result of which many towns in the country, including their own town or village, is put in darkness as a result? What logic is there in blowing up an export pipeline and, as a result, income to your state and local governments and consequently their ability to provide services to your own people is reduced?
“No group can unlawfully challenge the authority of the Federal Government and succeed. Our administration is fully sympathetic to the plight of the good people of Niger Delta and we are in touch with the state governments and leaderships of the region. “It is known that the clean-up of Ogoniland has started. Infrastructural projects financed by the Federal Government and post-amnesty programme financing will continue. “We have, however, continued to dialogue with all groups and leaders of thought in the region to bring lasting peace.”
Force not the solution
But former Provost Marshal of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Idada Ikponmwen (retd.), who hails from Edo State, said in his reaction: “All well-meaning people, both Nigerians and foreigners, including Britain and America, have made it clear that the answer to the problem is dialogue.
“The idea of Mr. President threatening to use force or wanting to use force in this matter is an anathema, particularly when the boys have demonstrated their preparedness for dialogue and given their fathers the power to dialogue and negotiate on their behalf. “This fact is known to the President and his security chiefs, so why is he saying he is ready for dialogue and threatening to attack on the other hand? There is need for him to maintain a clear stand on dialogue and let us proceed on dialogue, which is what everybody is waiting for. No need threatening force because that is not the issue here.”
Fire Brigade approach
On his part, Presiding Bishop of Christian Chapel International, Calabar, Bishop Emmah Isong, said: “Talk about attacking militants by the President is just a self-serving effort, which will lead us nowhere. Right now, we do not even know the number of militant groups that exist. We have lost count of them.
“We do not even know where these groups are and in which state of the Niger Delta they are operating from. The last camp discovered in Ogun, which is far stronger than the Niger Delta Avengers, said they have 98 camps in the creeks. Some of them said they are still about 4,300 men in the creeks. So how do you fish out all these men in the creeks with bombs?
“Is he saying he is going to bomb every creek in the Niger Delta because of militants? Right now, the Avengers are about four splinter groups, so which group is the President going to attack? “Look, militancy has become employment forum for the unemployed youths. Youths of our nation are hungry and unemployed. Militancy comes from very simple circumstances and if you can address those circumstances such as hunger and idleness, which should be the focus of the government, the problem will be solved and not talk of attacking them. “Is he saying the farmers should not go to bush again or fishermen should not go to the creeks again because he wants to attack militants? He should think of something better to do, not attack, which is fire brigade approach.”
Return fire for fire
Cross River State political activist, Cletus Obun, however, said: “Militancy in the Niger Delta is an orchestration of the political intolerance by some disgruntled political elements. “These people have been granted amnesty and a Ministry for Niger Delta Affairs created to assuage the pains of the region, but they have returned to armed struggle and when somebody given an amnesty returns to armed struggle, he is asking for military action, which the President said he was going to undertake. “These people are just three per cent of the population of the Niger Delta, who now hold the entire population to ransom by destroying oil installations and in such circumstance, what do you want the President to do other than return fire for fire?
“Niger Delta is an Ijaw creation, which has refused to key into efforts of the present government to change the Niger Delta. Look at the clean-up of the Delta by government, which was commended by the United Nations Conference on environment.” From Delta State, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, who represents Delta Central senatorial district in the Senate, disagreed with those berating the President. He said: “First, I commend Mr. President for the maturity and patience with which he has handled the insurgency in the Niger-Delta. This is obviously as a result of his military upbringing. He knows the consequences of the use of force. “I want to counsel more patience, while dialogue is encouraged. I want to use this medium to appeal to our brothers to stop these senseless attacks and channel their legitimate grievances through their elected representatives. That is why we are there.