By Yinka Ajayi
Rolando Pereotubo is a rights activist and an aspirant for the President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC). Among other issues, he speaks on the intrigues affecting the region and the way forward.
Two months after President Muhammadu Buhari met with stakeholders from the Niger Delta, nothing has been heard from the government towards finding lasting peace in the region. What do you think is responsible for this?
It is saddening that months after Mr. President met with stakeholders from the Niger Delta under the umbrella body of Pan-Niger Delta Forum, with another group headed by Pa Diete Spiff meeting Vice President Yemi Osibanjo, the Federal Government is yet to come out with a dialogue committee to sit down with the people of the region to marshal out far-reaching solutions that would address the problems of the Niger Delta.
Unfortunately, the reason for this is because there are some people in the President Muhammadu Buhari cabinet who are supposed to be seen as peace-makers but, rather, they are playing politics with the whole process. I do not know if the reason for their action is because they do not want their principal, Mr. President, to succeed. Because, looking at the body language of Mr. President, I am not entirely convinced that he is out to make peace in the Niger Delta. If he was ready, two months after meeting with stakeholders from the region is an ample time for the Federal Government to kick-start the process of setting up that committee made up of prominent sons and daughters from the region, particularly from the Ijaw extraction, towards ensuring that there is peace in the Niger Delta and, until that dialogue component is formed, I do not know where we are going and I want to use this opportunity to urge Mr. President to convoke that committee.
On the other hand, the problem might not be with the President himself as he cannot be everywhere. That is why he has a cabinet members most of whom are politicians. Whatever opportunity these persons have, they normally embark on their political gimmick and, unfortunately, these individuals in the Buhari cabinet are playing politics with the Niger Delta situation, failing to understand that the situation is a reality and something that must be addressed.
If you look critically at the political clime of the country today, you would notice that these individuals have already started using the Niger Delta unrest to strategies ahead of the 2019 elections and the President may not be aware of this.
So, I want to urge him to watch his back carefully and identify those in his cabinet that can tackle this impasse in the Niger Delta head on. These individuals are there but some persons in the system are out to truncate the process because they believe if they do so, it’s better for them as a people and not as a collective group in the Buhari administration.
Let me expatiate a little bit, do you know that if the Niger Delta problem is solved and Mr. President succeeds, there would be peace in the region with a clamour for him to run again for a second tenure including Nigerians from the region? Unfortunately, some key men in his kitchen cabinet do not want this to happen because of their personal ambition in 2019. These are persons who want to ensure they take over power from Buhari unknown to Mr. President and they are misinforming him. Don’t get me wrong, Buhari might have genuine intention in trying to resolve this problem, but he is being advised wrongly, thereby making him to interface with people who actually do not have access to the Niger Delta people.
There are reports in some quarters that some persons are fueling the unrest in the Niger Delta for their financial gains. How do you react to this?
The military has consistently operated in the Niger Delta and in the creeks, particularly in the Gbaramatu Kingdom, which is the theatre of war. Some people and security agencies in that place are feeding fat from this process. They may not be doing what they are expected to do as security agencies to curb the situation. You know as an individual, you wouldn’t want to spoil where you are reaping from. Take a look at the Gbaramatu area, you have house boats everywhere and these are boats that house security personnel which are serviced regularly.
In all of these, what do you think is the way out?
The solution to this problem is not the military approach. If the military approach is working, it would have worked long ago. We have had the military living with us for years. In the creeks, in our homes, when we wake up, the first persons we see are the soldiers. So the people of the region are almost used to military presence.I believe the issue is a political problem and must be given a political solution rather than the military approach. I urge Mr. President to move the military out of the creeks particularly Gbaramatu for one month, then compare and contrast the situation on ground with the presence and absence of the military in the creeks. If he does this, the Ijaw people and the people of the Niger Delta would definitely make peace with government.
What is your reaction to renewed agitations by ex-militants over the non-payment of their monthly stipends?
It is very unfortunate that, at this time, a group of people are talking about solving the Niger Delta problem and ex-militants are being owed their monthly stipends. If these ex-militants alone are paid, it would help in dousing tension in the region because a hungry man is an angry man. It is indeed unfortunate that the Amnesty Office is unable to pay these ex-militants. I urge our brother, Gen. Boroh, to do all within his power to ensure that these boys are paid.
You are a right activist and an aspirant running for the office of President of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC). How do you intend to juggle the challenges from both sides?
As a son of the soil, I am aware of the workings of my brothers and sisters in the creeks of the Niger Delta. I know that if the government shows genuine interest, these problems can be solved and addressed. Because of some of these problems, I am vying for the position of Ijaw Youth Council Worldwide so that, as a youth from the region and as an Ijaw man, I can also contribute my quota in making sure that there is peace in the Niger Delta.
If I emerge, I would continue to interface with government by telling them the problems of the Ijaw people, the Niger Delta and the challenges of the people of Gbaramatu Kingdom.