July 9, 2010

Experts reform ex-militants with Martin Luther King’s doctrines

By Emma Amaize
WARRI: CONFLICT management experts from America and South Africa and their counterparts from Nigeria , hired by the Presidential Post-Amnesty Committee to re-orientate ex-militants in Obubra, Cross-River state are relying heavily on the peace doctrines of the United States of America civil rights activist and Nobel Prize winner,  the late Martin Luther King (jnr) to re-model the boys in camp.

Investigation by Saturday Vanguard showed that the non-violence precepts of Martin Luther King (jnr.) and other peace advocates  have essentially dominated the teachings in the Obubra training camp.

It was also learnt that as anticipated the coordinator of the Presidential Post-Amnesty programme, the ex-militants who had already imbibed the doctrine of Martin Luther were now talking about human rights and the need to fight for their rights or make agitation for a better society without the use of arms.

Former national president of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), Dr, Chris Ekiyor who expressed delight that some of the ex-militants have been transformed by the training they received in the camp told Saturday Vanguard yesterday, “ I said in my interview granted to Vanguard before that nobody undergoes  non-violence training by the experts that Chief Timi Alaibe and remain an unchanged person unless the person is Devil himself”.

A cross-section of ex-militants who spoke to Saturday Vanguard on their experiences in Obubra said they would no longer carry arms in the fight for their rights when they return to their communities because there were other ways of drawing government’s attention to their problems.

The two-week non-violence training for the first batch, coordinated by the Federal Ethnic Harmony Foundation (FEHN) is expected to be rounded up by tomorrow.

One of them, Romeo Ibozinor who spoke to Saturday Vangurd, during the week, said, “What we being taught here is life-changing. The lectures are okay and satisfactory. We are going to the classes to receive lecture. In the morning, we start with jogging”.

His words, “What they taught  us is how we can fight for our rights without using guns; they have taught us how the late Martin Luther King (Jnr) in America fought for the rights of his people with the use of arms”.

“In the main, we have been taught the use of non-violence in the fight for our rights. For some of us who believe that it must be war, war and war, they have been able to make us understand here that war is not the solution and the best way to go about it is non-violence agitation. That is why I say that it’s life-changing because for those undergoing this training, the discussion amongst many of us now is that they way to go is the Martin Luther King way”, he said.

Another ex-militant in the camp, Jude Akpodokpaye told Saturday Vanguard, “I believe the training we have undergone will turn around our life for good. The crux of what they teaching us is non-violence, using the case of Martin Luther King (jnr.) and others, who fought for the rights of their people without arms”.

“They did not tell that fighting for our rights is wrong, but, told us the right way to go about it and we agreed with what they said  because it is true. The training has exposed some of us to the other side of life.

“For instance, I now know better how to deal with fellow human beings based on what we have been taught. They feel it’s essential we understand this aspect very well and they have been talking to us about it in diverse ways.

“We are expected to go out after the final training to live in our community and in the world and they want us to know how to deal with people. They have also taught us to know the real values of life”, he said.

According to him, “We now know that human rights are sacred and it has to be guarded jealously”.
His words, “With God on our side, I know that the issue of violent agitation is over. Even if the government fails on its part and we want to protest, it has to be through non-violence, we don’t have to retaliate”.

On security in the camp, he said, “We are secured, the military men here doing well, there is no problem of insecurity here”.

Speaking on the food situation, Jude said, “We are even having lunch as you are speaking to me now”.

Ex-Commander Kelvin Tonye Thomas from Rivers state confirmed in an interview with Vanguard that the knowledge being imparted to them in the training camp was gratifying.

He, however, observed that the lectures were being rushed and urged the trainers to take it easy with the ex-militants, as not all of them had the privilege of going to school before now.

Thomas said the reaction in the camp whenever they were asked to fill one form or the other among the uneducated ones was most times eccentric and asked the organizers of the programme to “slow down with the boys”.

“The purpose is to train them and teaching something good and better for their lives but with the way they are rushing the lectures because it is a two-week programme, some of the boys may not catch up well. That is what I want them to note”.

On the situation in camp, he said, “It is lively, Farah Dagogo boys, Ateke Tom boys, Soboma George, Joshua, Tompolo, Young Shall Grow, Tompolo, Ezekiel boys, all from different parts of Niger-Delta are here”.

“I want to say, however, that whatever they have promised that they will give the boys, they should give them. Right now in the camp, the boys are talking about payment of their housing allowance; they should make sure they pay them their housing allowance before they leave here.

“In fact, they have already threatened that they will not leave here at the end of the programme if their housing allowance is not paid. It will create another trouble here if they are not paid. The people in-charge of this program should make sure they are paid their housing allowances because some people will make trouble if it’s not paid” he said.

King was born on 15 January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia. His father was a Baptist minister, his mother a schoolteacher. Originally named Michael, he was later renamed Martin. He entered Morehouse College in 1944 and then went to Crozer Religious Seminary to undertake postgraduate study, receiving his doctorate in 1955.

Returning to the South to become pastor of a Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King first achieved national renown when he helped mobilise the black boycott of the Montgomery bus system in 1955.

This was organised after Rosa Parks, a black woman, refused to give up her seat on the bus to a white man – in the segregated south, black people could only sit at the back of the bus.

The 382-day boycott led the bus company to change its regulations, and the supreme court declared such segregation unconstitutional.

In 1957, King was active in the organisation of the Southern Leadership Christian Conference (SCLC), formed to co-ordinate protests against discrimination. He advocated non-violent direct action based on the methods of Gandhi, who led protests against British rule in India culminating in India’s independence in 1947.

In 1963, King led mass protests against discriminatory practices in Birmingham, Alabama where the white population were violently resisting desegregation. The city was dubbed ‘Bombingham’ as attacks against civil rights protesters increased, and King was arrested and jailed for his part in the protests.

After his release, King participated in the enormous civil rights march on Washington in August 1963, and delivered his famous ‘I have a dream’ speech, predicting a day when the promise of freedom and equality for all would become a reality in America. In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

In 1965, he led a campaign to register blacks to vote. The same year the US Congress passed the Voting Rights Act outlawing the discriminatory practices that had barred blacks from voting in the south.

As the civil rights movement became increasingly radicalised, King found that his message of peaceful protest was not shared by many in the younger generation. King began to protest against the Vietnam war and poverty levels in the US.

He was assassinated on 4 April 1968 during a visit to Memphis, Tennessee.

Coordinator of the Post-Amnesty Programme, Chief Timi Alaibe had told Vanguard in an interview that the first phase of the training programme was to transform the orientation of the ex-militants on violence, after which, they would be classified for the training proper.

He said the target at the end of the day was to make them new role models in the society, saying that the Federal Government, State Government, Local Government, the private sector and the civil society would be involved in the provision of jobs for the boys after training in vocational trades.

Some of the ex-militants, who are graduates, however, want to continue with their education. Chief Alaibe said they would be sorted out at the appropriate time and appealed for patience from all concerned.

A new batch is supposed to report to camp after the completion of training for the first batch and this would continue until the list of 20,292 ex-militants are completed.

On the housing allowance, which some of the ex-militants put at N350, 000 per person, a government source told Saturday Vanguard, “I don’t know where the figure of N350, 000 came from? However, we have heard about it, but, there is no such amount earmarked as housing allowance for ex-militants”.

He, however, said the Chief Alaibe was already handling the situation and that he would most likely ask the Federal Government to come the rescue of the Post-Amnesty Committee by approving some money to be paid to them as housing allowance, “but, certainly not the N350, 000 you are talking about”.