By Dapo Akinrefon
AÂ group, United Niger Delta Energy Development Security Strategy (UNDEDSS), has said thatÂ President Umaru Musa Yarâ€™Adua, and team of Nigerians nominated by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, may soon commence talks on peace and development in the regionâ€.
The group said this step is against the backdrop of MENDâ€™s expression of â€œcautious optimismâ€ in Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s post-amnesty intentions as revealed by Mr. President himself when he and Mr. Okah met this week in Abuja, behind closed doors.
In a statement, UNDEDSS Secretary General, Mr. Tony Iprinye Uranta said â€œUNDEDSS is happy that MEND has promised to let peace reign in the region, so as to allow President YarAdua fulfill his promise to Henry Okah, viz., that he will take sincere and committed steps to meet the aspirations of the regionâ€™s people as will be expressed when Mr. President commences talks with MENDâ€™s Aaron Team and representatives of other relevant stakeholders in the regionâ€.
According to Mr. Uranta, â€œUNDEDSS will not seek to meet with Mr. President, since our baseline position still is that Mr. President must cease insulting Niger Deltans and publish the White Paper on the Report submitted to him, last year, by his Presidential Technical Committee on the Niger Delta; and that he should urgently commence to execute the said Reportâ€™s recommendations for a sustainable peace to be achieved in the region.
Anyway, UNDEDSS was well represented at the meetings between Mr. President and the militants earlier this month; we are well represented in the Niger Delta Elders and Leaders Forum led by Pa Edwin Kiagbodo Clark who are dialoguing with him, and even the Aaron Team has UNDEDSS Spokesperson, Ms. Annkio Briggs, as the liaison between the grassroots and the Team.â€ While reacting to allegations by a group called the Niger Delta Youths Movement, NDYM, that MENDâ€™s Aaron Team and the UNDEDSS scribe are militants, Uranta debunked such claims, saying â€œWe have never heard of these upstarts, but believe the JTF must have set up these reactionary youths; for that howler is reminiscent of the JTFâ€™s slanderous claims that the INC, the IYC, MOSOP, Professor Okoko, Dr. Chris Ekiyor and Barrister Ledum Mittee are militants!
Who dares to call a nationally respected Admiral Mike Okhai Ahigbe, one-time â€˜Vice Presidentâ€™ of Nigeria, a militant?! Or is it recently-retired proud Izon-son, Major General Luke Kakadu Aprezi or Washington-based Professor Sabella Abidde that are militants?â€
â€œOrdinarily,â€ he said, â€œwe would ignore these rantings of sour-grapes-chanting ignorant ants but how dare they insult a passionate articulate fighter of the Ijaw/Niger Delta like our amazon, Annkio Briggs? Yes, Ms. Briggs and I are, not unlike Professor Wole Soyinka, intellectual militants, and are thus publicly recognised in relevant local, national and global power hubs.
Continuing he maintained that â€œMs. Briggs is Nigeria-based. How could she have impacted the London-based IPA, which is a distinguished forum of reputable and erudite Niger Deltans? I have never served any government in my life, yet they claim I was a member of Shagariâ€™s government.
Are we expected to take serious such an obviously uninformed group, who are merely puppets of parochial politicians? And, anyway, even if these outrageous mendacities were true, how do they disqualify us from speaking from the Niger Delta?! Or can rationally being deem Henry Okah, who has finally put the stamp-of-approval on President YarAduaâ€™s peace process, a man of violence?
We, the Professor Pat Utomi-led UNDEDSS, are not fazed by any attempts to distract us. UNDEDSS objective is to â€œemancipateâ€ the Niger Delta, and we will do so, God being our strength, through every legitimate means and alliances available.â€