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Israel Akpodoro (Ex-militant leader) is the President of Niger Delta Coalition of Ex-Agitators.
In a recent interview with Austin Oyibode of NAIJ.com in Abuja, he revealed the challenges he passed through during his campaign for President Buhari in the Niger Delta.
further speaking he said that the president promised him manytimes but did not fulfill any. to worsen the matter Buhari’s cabals and security chiefs keep blocking his access to the President.
Below are some questions he was asked and see what he said.

During the election of 2015, what was the contribution of the ex-militants towards the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari?

Actually, there was no ex-militant leader that could mention Buhari at that time. But I know that 75 percent of the ex-agitators were not with Jonathan but everybody was afraid.
They couldn’t say anything. I then decided that our voice must be heard. I now gathered the ex-militants, and endorsed Buhari. Immediately I did that, I started facing problems from people in the region.
They withdrew my security. Kingsley Kuku called me, threatened me, different groups of people called me using unknown numbers.
They threatened to kill me for mentioning Buhari in the region. I said no problem, I had no individual problem with anybody but Buhari is my choice and eventually we worked without support from anybody. I spent my personal money for Buhari, mobilized the ex-militants and eventually Buhari emerged President.

Now since Buhari became President of Nigeria, what has he done for the ex-militants?

Actually, Buhari has not done anything for the ex-militants. But I’m still pushing. For now am a bad person in the region for supporting Buhari. The people that I used to support Buhari, the promise I gave them that immediately Buhari becomes president, he will empower them through me has not been fulfilled. Up till now we have not seen anything from Buhari. I have become a bad person to my followers. I have also become a bad person to the region because they are all PDP. They are calling me all sorts of names, I’m a betrayers, I’m a sellout, I have sold my life to Buhari but Buhari has not done anything for me.
I’m still pushing because there is no way Buhari can run this government without carrying the ex-agitators along. The people on ground there, the ex-militants, youths need to be carried along. During Jonathan’s government, we normally meet with him. I appeal to Buhari to do the same thing.
The ex-agitators that worked for Buhari are feeling bad because to them they do not have a sense of belonging. They are thinking that Buhari hates the region. But actually, Buhari does not hate the region, the risk they took to mention Buhari at that time is going unpaid. They worked with security agents to ensure peace reigns in the region. So, we are feeling bad over the development. But that notwithstanding, I’m still appealing to the youths to give peace a chance. The government cannot do anything when you are blowing pipelines. Let them lay down their arms and wait for what Buhari will do.

Now that you have not been empowered by Buhari, how is life as an ex-agitators’ leader?

Life is very difficult. I’m facing a lot of pressure. I don’t even know where to start from. The people around the president are the ones causing this problem. They are not telling the president the truth. For supporting Buhari, I’m facing a lot of challenges. My people are in the opposition in the region. I do not know where to start from. If President Buhari continues like this, I think it’s not going to be good for the nation.

You said that you worked with the military to bring down the avengers, how were you able to do it?

Actually, even before the avengers started, I wrote several letters to the president, notifying him of the plan of the avengers. I gave the letters to the Villa’s cabals. The letters were dated October 6, 2015 and January 6, 2016 but they refused to pass the letters to the president.
When the bombing started January 15, I called the avengers criminals. The people bombing the pipelines today are from one place, just the Gbaramatu Kingdom. But the government is thinking that the whole ex-agitators are supporting these avengers. Like I tell everybody who cares to listen, 75 percent of the ex-agitators are not supporting the avengers.
But one thing I want to say is that Buhari needs to engage the ex-agitators that worked for him. Buhari has pro ex-militants, he needs to engage them to solve the problem in the region, not these people discussing with the federal government, they are politicians, they are looking for their selfish interest. They are not negotiating for the Niger Delta. Look at what they are asking for. I think those things will bring a lot of commotion.
They also said they should release all the criminals. People that are bombing pipelines you want to release them. Which message are you sending to the youths? I totally condemn the elders’ negotiation. If Buhari wants to solve this problem, he should pick the ex-militants and empower them to do this work, not these elders. They can’t do anything. Look at Chief Edwin Clark, during the election, he fought Buhari from A to Z. He said Buhari cannot be. He carried Jonathan up and down. He didn’t tell Jonathan what the people needed. EK Clark controlled Jonathan’s government from A to Z, he didn’t give him 16 points demand. It is now that Buhari has just come to power that he is giving him 16 points demand.
So, I think that will not work. Buhari should use the ex-agitators to solve this problem. Since Buhari came to power, he has not had meeting with the ex-militants. Mr. President has to call these people to a round table and discuss with them. Only one on one discussion will solve this problem, not going around with negotiations. The federal government has spent billions on negotiations but look at how it is today, there is no result from the negotiation, so Buhari should identify the ex-militants, it is only the ex-militants that can solve the problem.
 

Do you think the ex-militants know the needs of the region more than the elders?

Yes, we know more than the elders. The elders have been negotiating for donkey years but we have not seen results. They have been doing negotiation for more than 30 years but there is no result from their negotiations.
The people bombing the pipelines are not the elders, some of the elders are the ones sponsoring the avengers. That is why I’m calling on the president to engage the youths, the ex-militants to do the work in the region. Look at the previous government, he engaged some of the ex-agitators.

Now, as ex-agitators leader, what do you think are the major needs of the region, now that you have condemned the 16 points listed by the elders?

No, not that I condemn the whole 16, there are some that are good. But they cannot put the government under pressure to do them. This is because those challenges have been there for donkey years. Even when EK Clark was a minister those issues were there. In Jonathan’s government, those things were there. So, they cannot put Buhari’s government under pressure to do them now. That is what I condemn, not all the points they raised. They must give peace a chance for the region to be developed.

For you now, it is the youths President Buhari should bring in

(Cuts in) Yes, he should bring the youths in, the youths need be empowered because the security agencies cannot do the work alone. It is difficult for them to do it. How can you bring a military man from the North to secure pipelines in Ijaw creek or Urhobo creek, a place they do not know? It can’t work. The government should engage the ex-militants who know the terrain to work with the security agencies to make real success.
Still speaking

Don’t you think that if Buhari engages the APC ex-militants, those supporting PDP will be angry and carry arms?

No, because when former president Jonathan engaged them, the other ones did not burst pipelines. The thing now is this, if Buhari engages the APC ex-militants in the region, the others will be afraid because that means the APC ex-agitators now have the presidential mandate. And they know that when they do anything rubbish, they will use the presidential power to finish them. So nobody will try it.
Now, everybody knows that when you work for government and the government comes to power, that government will empower people that work for them. But as I speak to you, the government refused to empower people that work for them, especially in the Niger Delta where the oil is coming from. So, the opposition are now trying to frustrate the government so that the government will recognize them again.
They are doing this so that by 2019 they can use it to campaign against Buhari. Look at the region now, there is no sign of presidency. If Buhari picks the APC ex agitators, youths there won’t be problem. Others were empowered in the previous government, this one should empower its people. The other people again will wait for their turn. That’s how Nigeria government is run. But this one now, we don’t understand it.

Now, you talk about dropping charges against Tompolo, how do you look at that?

That is what we are hearing that the government has discussed with Tompolo and Tompolo has given them the condition that they should drop all the charges against him, then they should unfreeze his account. That’s what we heard. So, that’s why am saying that if it is really true, that the government is doing this negotiation with Tompolo, they should also consider the ex-militants that are working with the government.
Because if they don’t do it that way, if they drop charges against Tompolo, then they are setting another problem for the people that worked for the government. That problem may not be solved before this government gets finished. That is why I’m saying that if they are dropping charges against Tompolo, if it is true because for now, it is rumour, but if it is true, that means the corruption Buhari is fighting is in vain. The fight will collapse.

Now, you said it is rumour, but do you support dropping charges against Tompolo?

If the federal government drops charges against Tompolo, that means Buhari has failed woefully. How can you drop charges against Tompolo, if his charges are dropped, Tompolo has automatically become the president of this country because he has gone above the law. Dasuki is facing the same charges, he is a military man. He didn’t go against his charges. Who is Tompolo that is going against the federal government and the federal government is panicking, planning to drop charges against him. If they do it, then they should drop charges against everybody they have indicted. That is my message to the federal government. However, it is rumour, it has not been confirmed yet. But if it true, as they are dropping Tompolo’s charges, they should drop others. That is my message to the federal government. Because everybody should be equal before the law in this country.

The last report we heard said Oritsejafor is the sponsor of the avengers . Some said Jonathan, some say Tompolo, who do you think is doing this?

I said it before, I was the first person that raised the alarm because before the election, there was a meeting in Bayelsa State, prominent ex-militants were there, Bayelsa State Governor Dickson was there, former amnesty boss, Kingsley Kuku was there, they told everybody there that we should go and prepare for war. That if Jonathan loses the election, we will blast the whole pipelines and I disagreed with them. But that is what they are doing now.
That is why I said Jonathan should call his boys to order. There is nobody bombing the pipelines that Jonathan does not know. But this government is not carrying people that will solve the problem along that is why we find it difficult to resolve the problem. If government can identify the ex-militants, youths from the region that really worked for the government and engage them, I think this problem will solve. If Buhari empowers somebody from Bayelsa State, empower somebody from Delta, all the whole Niger Delta states, I think these problem will be solved.

Now, what is the situation surrounding the amnesty programme?

The issue of amnesty is a security programme. We have 30,000 ex-agitators. We have many leaders, we have many soldiers. Now, everybody has control over their own camps. But if care is not taken, anybody can just go and do nonsense. It’s not the way the military are handling their security.
The army, police and all the security agencies have bosses. If you do anything rubbish, the military will bring you to book immediately. But in the militancy, anybody can do anything. It is not easy to control them. Now, everybody knows that the N65,000 stipend is a change. You can’t use it for anything. From there, you pay your children’s school fees, some of the ex-militants have 10 children, some have many wives. From there, you will fuel your car, from there you will feed, so that money is nothing yet the government is owing up to four months unpaid, and they are paying security agencies.
Now, which message are you sending to the region? When Jonathan was in power, even though there is no money, he would look for a way to pay these people because some of them do not know how to speak Pidgin English. They stay in the bush, in the villages, some of them have never come to town once. I want to say that the government is using avengers to punish everybody, it is wrong.
So, I am urging the federal government to pay the outstanding stipends including December. This is Christmas period. Owing the ex-militants is not a good message to the region. Some of them don’t have anything they are doing, they depend on the N65,000 for their livelihood.


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