In this editorial, UK-based business strategist, Edikan Uko warns Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari against a heated pursuit of former Niger Delta warlord, Tompolo. It is worth your time to read this piece as the Niger Delta unrest begins to unfold in the oil-rich region of southern Nigeria.
Dear Mr. President.
As a loyal citizen of Nigeria, I wish to send this urgent appeal to your office with regards to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission’s (EFCC) on-going battle with former Nigeria Delta militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo.
I just want to say that some of the point-proving tactics deployed by your government and your security agencies are not necessary.
When you have a possibly volatile suspect like Tompolo, it would make sense to also review the possible backlash of going all out and creating a stand-off. The government looks bad. EFCC looks bad. Tompolo looks bad, and I don’t think he cares.
The excessive confrontational approach of the EFCC has caused a militant who has been ‘domesticated’ to be forced back into his natural habitat. I am sure that you are aware that some strategic oil pipelines have been blown up by militants in the last two days. Tompolo has disassociated himself from the incidents and condemns the attacks. But, Tompolo is possibly having the time of his life right now, regardless.
Mr. President, there are many ways to cook fish. One-way traffic approach to law enforcement doesn’t always yield positive results.
Sir, you are not the first President of Nigeria. You won’t be the last.
When Tompolo did not have as much resources as he does today, he waged war against Obasanjo’s regime. You would recall, Sir, that Obasanjo’s (1999 – 2003) regime was tyrannical, just as yours. Obasanjo couldn’t finish the battle, he handled it over to his successor late President Musa Yar’Adua who continued the face-off with Tompolo and other militants. At a point, Yar’Adua declared Tompolo as the most wanted man in Nigeria.
The militants waged a campaign against oil production in the Niger Delta region that successfully crippled the nation’s economy from 2005 till 2009. One party had to blink first, and it was Nigeria when the country went broke.
Sir, you are well aware that Yar’Adua sent a presidential jet to fly Tompolo, Ateke Tom, leader of Niger Delta Vigilante, and Ebikabowei Victor Ben, also known as Boyloaf, and others to dine with him in Aso Rock and pleaded with them to lay down their arms so Nigeria could get “money to feed”.
The Niger Delta restiveness only ended when the late President Musa Yar’Adua successfully negotiated a cease-fire and launched the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme.
This is not the North East where an insurgency has been on for more than 7 years and in the midst of it, Nigeria’s economy grew to the biggest in Africa. This is the real ‘bread basket’ of Nigeria we are talking about.
When former President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat to you at last year’s presidential elections, his people followed his words and his actions and chose peace over conflict.
In the weeks leading up to the presidential elections, last year, Tompolo and other militant group leaders had threatened to make the country ungovernable if Jonathan was rigged out of office. But to our greatest relief, the militants accepted the results of a flawed election, and in a surprise move, Tompolo appealed for calm and everybody moved on. These current confrontations are uncalled for. They serve this country no good.
As a country, we depend on crude oil sales to survive. Prices are at an all-time low. Sales price is $6 below our production price of $31. Experts predict that prices will hover around $5 – $30 for the next six years. On Monday, it appears, sanctions against Iran will be lifted by the US and the U.K. Iran will gladly sell crude oil at $25 a barrel and smile to the bank because the country’s production cost is $12.60. India and China would gladly buy from Iran than Nigeria. Who wouldn’t buy from a closer source and save money?
Contrary to the message that your government is trying hard to push forward, the war against Boko Haram is far from won. Just yesterday, the terrorist group attacked a military base in Yobe. This follows Wednesday’s bombing of an Adamawa community near Sambisa Forest. Sunday, six Nigerians were brutally murdered in the same community by Boko Haram. It is only a matter of time before the terrorists stage a ‘spectacular’ attack just to prove your information minister, Lai Mohammed a liar.
There is a man on Twitter who seems to predict Boko Haram attacks days or weeks before they happen. Why he is walking around freely is something I don’t understand. But, he claims to see Boko Haram wires and says that the group is planning something big to shock Nigerians and the world. According to this person, who describes himself as some kind of security expert, Boko Haram has activated sleeper cells in reaction to your inauguration speech.
Mr. President, you have gone on record several times practically begging Boko Haram to accept an amnesty deal. If you can suspend your strong-arm image for Boko Haram. I wonder why you can’t also suspend this image just to allow things cool down in this Tompolo situation?
As far as your anti-corruption fight is concerned, there are many big fish to fry. There are low hanging fruits like former governors who enjoyed allocations when crude oil was $100 a barrel and did nothing to improve their states. Let us allow this Tompolo situation to simmer down a bit. We can always revisit the matter another day.
No country fights four wars at the same time and makes any progress. Already, Nigeria is home to the deadliest terrorist group in the world, Boko Haram; the world’s 4th most deadly terrorist group, the Fulani militia also called Fulani herdsmen; then we are fighting a war against corruption. There is no need starting a 4th war in the process of waging the 3rd.
This appeal comes from someone who loves her country deeply and would hate to see Nigeria go up in flames just because of the massive ego of the EFCC. Please, please, please some wise Nigerians need to surround the President and offer alternatives to confrontation.
I also use this medium, being an open letter, to appeal to Nigerians who are close to the President, don’t be like the subjects of the naked king who kept admiring his imaginary coat and even took measurements of the coat just because they didn’t want to tell the emperor the truth – that he was unfit for his position. Leave a legacy of telling truth to power at all times, even when it was the uncomfortable truth.
Let all Nigerians bear it at the back of their minds that circumstances like Tompolo ignoring court summons are a direct offshoot of Buhari getting on national television and telling Nigerians that he obeys court orders only when they are in line with his beliefs. Lawlessness cascades downwards. The example shown by the government has now embolden Mr. Government.
Anarchy looms. May wisdom prevail.
God bless Nigeria.
Edikan Uko is a business strategist. She tweets from @EdikanUko.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.