TOMPOLO, OKERENKOKO, NDA, THE PRESIDENT AND HIS MEN: ANALYZING THE POLITICS OF DECEIT IN THE NIGER DELTA

People say all politics is dirty and apolitics should always be taken with a pinch of salt. This couldn't be truer, as regards the politics of the Niger Delta.
As a proud indigene of the Niger Delta, I have followed closely, and with immense fascination, the recent politricks of the region.
The Niger Delta Avengers recently agreed to go into dialogue with the Federal Government¦or so we thought, until they stated otherwise. In any case, let's proceed with the earlier report.  After a seemingly unending season of pipeline bombings by (various) militant groups, they declared a
willingness to talk- but not before laying down conditions for talks.

There has been a lot of chatter surrounding these so-called Avengers, and we have heard- through the grapevine- that they are simply stooges of certain powerful politicians, who are using them as a disguise to evade the long arms of the law. According to an Itsekiri Group, these militants work hand-in-hand with some past South-South Governors who support their activities in secret, and then condemn it openly. The Group claims that the former Governors are the same ones who pushed for talks with the Federal Government, with hidden conditions that criminal (financial) charges against them would be dropped. Others are of the opinion that the Avengers are indeed led by Tompolo- a man who according to recent reports, has fled to Libya. Tompolo, under the administration of Goodluck Jonathan, was granted pipeline surveillance contracts, and a NIMASA security contract. He then proceeded to purchase warships and missile-launching gunboats. So, unsurprisingly, when another group- the JNDLF- threatened to launch missiles, it set off alarm bells in the minds of Niger Delta watchers who say Tompolo is the only one with such capabilities.
Overnight, the JNDLF suddenly rescinded the decision, after the Avengers appealed to them to shelve the plan. Then not long afterwards, we heard that both camps had agreed to dialogue with the Federal Government- before the NDA denied it. Tompolo himself has disavowed the Avengers openly. But the theory goes that it is just a cover, as he (Tompolo) is really NDA, JNDLF, and even MEND- who put together the seven man negotiating team- all in one! And as the story further goes, the politicians know this, because his actions are funded and covered by them! Do I still have your attention? I hope so.

Then there is the issue of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko. There was a mild exchange of words between the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; and the Minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu, at a Town Hall Meeting last week. On the issue of resumption of academic activities at Okerenkoko- which is one of the conditions for talks outlined by the militants- Amaechi stated that the GEJ administration had purchased the land for the University, for a staggering 13billion naira from Tompolo- the same Tompolo- and as such, there was no more money for development. Amaechi stated that he would gladly continue with the development of structures in the University, if the EFCC seized the 13billion naira back from Tompolo. Kachikwu on the other hand, was of the opinion that no matter what had happened in the past, development should be allowed to proceed; even going as far as stating that he would gladly take the project into Petroleum, if Transportation did not want it.

There has been whispers in certain quarters that at the Security Conference which was convened to discuss the issue of the sabotage in the Niger Delta, Kachikwu had been one of those who supported the idea of protecting certain Niger Delta folks who had pending criminal charges leveled against them, so that the bombings could stop.

Ibe Kachikwu is proving to be not just a technocrat, but a very skilled tactician and shrewd (albeit cunning) politician. The man seems to have some sort of game-plan. Insiders reveal that he was critical to achieving the two-weeks ceasefire in the creeks. They say his visit to Okerenkoko and his presence at a secret meeting in Delta Government House, sent a very strong signal to the militants. Ibe and Buhari alternate the good cop/bad cop sequence so seamlessly, its quite amazing! I think the President realizes that Kachikwu is a more acceptable figure to the Niger-Deltans, than the very controversial Amaechi; so the Petroleum boss has now become his 'un-official Niger Delta Ambassador'. Now, Buhari is invoking the name of God, pleading with the militants to stop the sabotage...on the other hand, the dialogue seems to be on hold, while a re-deployment of Police Officers in the region has been ordered. Ibe is still playing peacemaker and negotiator (at least, at face value). Hmm, when dealing with Niger-Delta folks, you must learn quickly, how to be just as slippery and cunning as they are! Whatever plan they have, I hope it works out well!
Then what about the 'secret meeting' that supposedly took place between President Buhari and GEJ, in the UK? There were insinuations that secret talks were held between both men to resolve the Niger Delta crisis; but the UK Government quickly put out a statement refuting those claims. We don't know the true story!
I know it seems like a maze of conspiracy theories; but if you follow Niger Delta politics closely enough- I have tried to lately- then you know by now, that the conspiracy theories usually lead to the truth. The fact remains that some people obviously know more than they are letting on.

Now, the Avengers have supposedly disavowed involvement in any talks. But with the unending theatrics surrounding the issue of the Niger Delta, can we really believe them? Or is it safe to assume again,  that the 'master puppeteer' is behind the scenes, pulling strings once more? I think they're probably still trying to figure out the Buhari/Kachikwu game-plan. There would probably be a turn-around soon.

Politics is a dirty game, and it is much dirtier in the Niger Delta, Nigeria's oil-rich region. Hopefully, talks will proceed. Deals will be made under the cover of darkness; and a watered-down, sugar-coated version will be presented to the public at daytime. But will anything change for the better in the life of the average Niger-Delta resident? I can only dare to hope!
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