By Gab Ejuwa
In a new twist to the late Ogbe Onokpite’s murder saga, the Delta State Police Command under Police Commissioner Ibrahim Tsafe is insisting that the slain politician was a gun-runner. Being inundated with an avalanche of public censure and reprimand over this extra-judicial killing, the police came up with an allegation that Ogbe’s driver has confessed that the late top politician was a gun-runner.
This confession seems to validate CP Ibrahim Tsafe’s judgment that Onokpite was a notorious criminal. However, when confronted with this development, Mr. Diemo Onokpite, the late politician’s brother, first chuckled and stared into space, shaking his head intermittently before finding his voice.
According to him, “the man being paraded now as Ogbe’s driver was not by any stretch of imagination his driver. Ogbe didn’t have any driver. As a matter of fact, it was our younger brother, Ufoma, who had been long in Warri, who occasionally volunteered to drive him. So, if the police are claiming that Ogbe’s driver confessed, they are only blatantly lying because Ogbe didn’t believe in the idea of having a personal driver.
“You also have to know that it was Ogbe’s friend, Dumuje, who came from the United States with Ogbe that rented the said Honda Accord with number-plate AM 528 JRT from a rental service in Lagos which Dumuje’s driver, Segun, drove. It is certainly incredible that anybody would be doing a gun-running business with a rented luxury car, isn’t it?
“What I am trying to say is that Dumuje made his own driver, Segun, who did not know anywhere in Warri available to Ogbe since Ogbe came with him from abroad in connection with the earlier case slapped on him by the Delta State Police Command for which they later, for want of evidence, discharged and acquitted him on merit.
“Furthermore, the police have continued to make conflicting statements to Deltans and indeed, Nigerians, about the death of my brother. But, when I recalled how my dear brother, Ogbe died, mowed down like a fragile flower in the ground by the cascade of bullets of the Nigerian police in Delta State, when I evaluated the thin and certainly assinine excuses proffered by them, I became alarmed at the facile manner fundamental democratic concepts and constructs are being inverted, subverted and bastardised by the police authorities.”
In another reaction by CPP Chairman, Delta State, Mr. Lucky Okorakpa, “the gun-running charge was clearly a figment of some people’s deranged imagination. Fact is, a candidate who contested for the highest office in the state would have been subjected to intense scrutiny by the Police and the State Security Service, SSS, and even by his own political party, so that if anything had blighted his record, it would have been ferretted out long ago and he would have been disqualified.
The CPP chairman said he knew Ogbe as a humanitarian activist and a very fair person who believed in justice and hated oppression.
“When you hear that he is fighting, it is for his rights, although the police claim he was a notorious criminal.”
He said the national body of CPP has been mounting pressure on him to brief the party about the tragedy, but that he had not succeeded in getting the family to discuss the issue as they had been very busy.
The Urhobo Progress Union (UPU) Youth Wing President, Mr. Blessing Avwata, said he had been busy moving from one Urhobo Kingdom to the other, calming the youths down and dissuading them from taking the law into their hands as the Police did. He said it was unfortunate that President Goodluck Jonathan seemed to be indifferent towards the Urhobo nation, conveniently forgetting that they had voted en masse for him during the last April election.
He, therefore, called on him to prevail on the police to fish out the culprits of the murderous outrage, no matter how high up. Avwata poured encomiums on the slain chief, whom he described as well-travelled, fabulously wealthy and a dogged social crusader who fought tremendously for the cause of Urhobo nation. He warned that if the screaming injustice was not addressed, he would not know what would happen next.
Meanwhile, an Urhobo chief, who craved anonymity, declared that Urhobo people in their millions are linking the killing of Onokpite to the forthcoming local government chairmanship election in Uvwie Local Government Area, in 2012, saying that because of the role Onokpite played during the April 26 elections in ensuring that Uvwie DPP won in the area, opponents are now afraid of his risen political profile that he might also succeed in the council election and, therefore, set him up through the Police so that they might struggle less in the forthcoming chairmanship election.
Also commenting, Chief Frank Kokori, ex-NUPENG Chairman, said he and activist-lawyer Festus Keyamo had addressed a press conference over Ogbe Onokpite’s brutal murder because “Ogbe had been a great critic of bad governance, who had spent money on the pages of newspapers and the electronic media, campaigning for a radical change in our political culture, especially our penhant for corruption. For such a patriot who had been in the forefront of crusading for sanity and decency to be brutally butchered like a common rat beats me hollow.
“No matter the gravity of the offence, you don’t storm a suspect who didn’t even have any bodyguard as if you were storming a battalion.
‘’The civilised thing is for you to arrest him, shackle him and take him to the station. The culprits of this barbaric act that takes us back into the better forgotten dark ages must be apprehended and punished as a deterrence to others who might want to replicate such in the future, so that the democracy we suffered to initiate here may be better for it.”