Niger Delta: MEND Vs Ajumogobia/Rewane and very serious matters arising

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WHAT has the Niger Delta struggle turned into, children’s play? How can anyone explain that even hitherto serious–minded groups involved in the quest to correct the years of injustices against the region seem now to be muddling the entire campaign for reasons that could best be described as selfishly naive?

First, did The Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) ever announced it’s considering taking legal actions against former Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr.Odein Ajumogobia (SAN), and Mr. Bismarck Rewane, a Lagos-based financial analyst, for what the group described as “the sudden refusal to be part of the militants’ nominated negotiating team- Aaron Team 2 Initiative”?

Could the MEND we know have issued this statement? No, this is not the MEND that over the years had shown creativity, resourcefulness, steadfastness and, above all genuineness in the whole issue of the Niger Delta struggle. This is very painful and at worst annoying! In any struggle you have to be tactful or else you fall into the hands of those who do not believe in the cause you are fighting for.

The public face of MEND has always been Jomo Gbomo, so what happened? The first statement from the group (as supposed) coming from a different person or rather with a new name turned out to be a public ridicule to the entire efforts and stance of the frontline Niger Delta struggle group. Is the house still intact?

If as said by MEND’s Aaron Team 2 spokesperson, that “particularly offensive was the decision of Ajumogobia and Rewane to publicly announce their dissociation from the initiative as this was done without an evaluation of its consequences,” what does that say about the engagement strategy or rather finesse in the first instance? Were all loose ends tied before MEND itself went public to announce the names of members of the team including the two prominent sons of the regions who have now dissociated themselves from it?

It should be clear to the group that not only these two men may be unwilling to participate in the team but these two may have decided to be militant enough to clear their names from the manifest. Mark my words: majority of the people dangled may not be willing to do what MEND is asking them to do. And this is the truth! And that brings to question the sense of judgement of whoever assembled the team or rather the names in the team.

The widely reported press statement signed by Timipa Okponipere, Secretary to MEND’S Aaron Team 2 Initiative, had it that the two men were expected to lead MEND in the proposed dialogue with the Federal Government and their sudden exist has exposed the group to public ridicule.

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“Mr Ajumogobia was expected to provide leadership, but failed when it mattered and the action of the two men also exposed MEND to public ridicule.” It should have added that MEND’s response by its statement to the withdrawal of the two men actually exposed the group to a much bigger ridicule.

According to Okponipere, “the exit of Ajumogobia and Rewane from MEND’s Aaron Team 2 Initiative after accepting to serve was a wilful political machination which has made the group incur heavy losses.These losses include that of an opportunity to pick Mr. Atedo Peterside as its chief negotiator in the proposed dialogue with the Federal Government if not Ajumogobia insistence that he was better qualified and thus, more suitable for the assignment than Peterside.”

Is this not ridiculous? In the mind of MEND, the group “has not been banned by any law and wondered why it was treated with disdain by Rewane and Ajumogobia.” It threatened to take both men to court for exposing the militant group to ridicule. “For the avoidance of doubt, the public at large should please note that MEND has not been outlawed by any legislation in Nigeria or anywhere else in the world.

“While we concede that the group is not yet registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), nevertheless, it can still conduct legitimate business and can also sue and be sued through a lawful attorney acting for and on behalf of the group.”

It would be recalled that MEND in a statement signed by its spokesman, Jomo Gbomo on Sunday June 12, 2016, announced the formation of ‘Aaron Team 2’ to dialogue with the Federal Government on the immediate, medium and long-term future of the Niger Delta region. Members of the team as announced include Henry Odein Ajumogobia SAN (Rivers); Bismark Rewane (Delta); Sen. Florence Ita-Giwa (Cross River); Timipa Jenkins Okponipere (Bayelsa); Ibanga Isine (Akwa Ibom); Ledum Mitee (Rivers); and Lawson Omokhodion (Edo State).

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The question is: From where did they come up with this idea of going to court against their own people both of whom are over-qualified all -round to be referred to as genuine and committed leaders and elders of the Niger Delta? In the first instance, does MEND even exist in the eyes of the laws of the land? Can an unknown entity sue or be sued? So what Court are they talking about? It pains me that every day we ridicule ourselves in the eyes of not only the other sections of the country but the whole world.

Across the Niger Delta region, there are thousands if not millions of men of integrity particularly the younger generations with sound mind, world –class intellectual dispositions, and people who have stamped their mark in their various fields and who are genuinely and patriotically passionate about the issues in the Niger Delta agitation. Must the team be men and women who have been in or around government since 1900 and have one thing or the other to protect? Come on guys!

Okay, if the people you thought should represent you are saying they may not be appropriate or rather well disposed for the assignment, is that why you are threatening to drag them to court? Bros, na by force? Na kidnap una kidnap them to go and speak for una? Was it not a decision that was supposed to have been willingly made by the men? Haba!

What does it take to negotiate with government? Is the team not going to present whatever harmonized position the entire region will arrive at or are they supposed to simply get briefs from militant groups and negotiate same? Let’s be serious for once as a people.

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Meanwhile, MEND is unilaterally announcing a team to negotiate with the federal government without consulting or rather taking inputs from other pockets of agitating groups. So how is it going to work except the Movement is saying that the over 10 armed groups that have recently emerged are its own fighters? This is not so as even MEND has dissociated its members from the activities of groups like Niger Delta Avengers and the rest describing them as mere criminals. So how do you expect cooperation from these people?

Now who will the government choose to dialogue with since counter accusation had been flying across that MEND has been compromised and it’s filled with corrupt politicians, while MEND is pointing accusing fingers that NDA was politically initiated to destabilize the Buhari-led government? So what has stopped MEND from revealing the real people behind NDA, JRC and the rest if it is sure these are mere criminals sponsored for reasons outside the issues in the Niger Delta struggle? This would have been the first step even before any talk of forming a team to dialogue with the federal government.

As it makes sense to encourage all dissenting groups including MEND to continue in this peaceful direction, the truth remains that the conscience of Niger Delta should be addressed by Niger Deltans themselves first before coming to the wider discussion table. This is the truth and a word is enough for the wise?

(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)