By Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South
SINCE ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, went off the security radar, late 2015, following the manhunt for him by law enforcement agents, particularly the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, many thought he would have slipped into unconsciousness, but he keeps resonating in the minds of not just his relatives of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Delta State, but Ijaw nation.
The offence for which the Ibe-ebidouwei of Ijaw nation has become more legendary is that he sold some fictitious buildings and facilities at the Kurutie temporal site of the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, Delta State, to the Federal Government, pocketing about N13 billion, among other allegations.
A serving Minister from the region actually accentuated the charge, which was faulty, but Tompolo’s refusal to submit himself to the EFFC for investigation on his and other matters over what he termed a “conspiracy” against him compounded his ordeal.
Unknown to many, the ex-militant leader, who accepted amnesty from the Federal Government under the late President Umaru Yar’Adua regime and deepened it with his successor, former President Goodluck Jonathan, had shortly after President Muhammadu Buhari took over power, met with him one-on-one to pledge his loyalty.
In his native Delta state, he was at home with the former governor, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, who sought his assistance on security on waterways of the state. He had his nominees on Delta Waterways and Land Security Committee, DWLSC, and the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, gave the Oil Security Facilities Limited, floated by him and others, contract to secure oil pipelines in Delta state.
Federal Government also patronized him through his Global West Vessel Specialist Limited, GWVSL, to the envy of his colleagues, but it was not clear why his relationship with Buhari snapped, as people pointed fingers at him when the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, citing government’s lack of interest to develop the region, restarted hostilities in late 2015 to early 2016.
RNDA threat to expose him
Anybody, who followed Tompolo closely after he accepted amnesty, would know that he had benefited so much from the system to engage it in another armed confrontation. Nevertheless, the Reformed Niger Delta Avengers, RNDA, and a coalition of nine militant groups led by self-styled “Major General” Johnmark Ezonebi, insisted that he was the one behind the suspended skirmishes in the region, principally because the EFCC declared him wanted.
In fact, RNDA, which claim to be foot soldiers of Tompolo in his benefactor days, last month, declared, “We know exactly where he (Tompolo) is, even some top federal government officials and the government of Delta state know his whereabouts with top security agents.”
‘In a short while we shall give the names of all those influential supporters to Tompolo and his Niger Delta Avengers with some government officials from the presidency still getting in touch with a man that is under government wanted list,” Ezonebi asserted.
Ijaw behind Tompolo- Oweilaemi
National President of the Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, led by Mr. Pereotubo Oweilaemi, reacting to the claim by RNDA, declared that the Ijaw nation was behind ex-militant leader, Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, urging the laptop fraudsters masquerading as militants in the region to leave him alone.
Oweilaemi said, “For the umpteenth time, the Ijaw nation is appealing to the laptop fraudsters masquerading as militants in the region to leave High Chief Government Ekpemupolo alone.”
“They can engage in whatsoever business they so desire for the perpetration of their criminal agenda, but Tompolo’s name should not be dragged in. The Ijaw nation is standing behind him.
“We cannot sacrifice Tompolo this time around unlike the way our forefathers unknowingly sacrificed Maj. Jasper Isaac Adaka Boro to the oppressive Federal Government, which had led to his untimely death in 1968 in the cause of fighting for the survival of the Ijaw nation in Nigeria.
“Tompolo has not done anything bad to be facing the travails he is going through. His only sin we know is because of his resolve to fight for the survival of the oppressed, dejected and criminally marginalised/colonised Niger Delta people in Nigeria.
“The Ijaw nation in particular should be grateful to have a son like him. A threat to Tompolo’s life is a threat to the Ijaw nation,” he stated.
Present-day Adaka Boro
However, RNDA did not go ahead to fulfill its threat, but sources said with the way Ijaw people love Tompolo, it would have been suicidal for any aborigine (s) to take security agents to wherever he is, even if he or she knows his whereabouts.
“What will befall such a person or persons are better imagined than said. I can tell you that it is already accepted in Ijaw land that Tompolo is the modern-day Isaac Adaka-Boroh, nobody born of Ijaw blood will betray him,” a source added.
Why Ijaw people love him
A prominent Gbaramatu-Ijaw leader, Chief Godspower Gbenekama, who spoke to Saturday Vanguard, said, “Tompolo is an enigma, a rare gem, who despite what is said about him, has a heart of gold geared towards the betterment of his people in Niger Delta.”
“He does not see Gbaramatu kingdom, as his constituency, he sees the entire Ijaw land and Niger Delta as his turf. He goes out of his way, even when the government views him as an enemy to solve problems for government, “Gbenekama added.
His words, “Tompolo is somebody who goes out of his way to do things, which is what endears him to people. Added to all these, he has a heart of forgiveness, when you tell him what people have done or planning against him, he would tell you that you do not have to take all that people say or do against you to heart. And that you have to be able to manage such things because not everybody is expected to say something good about you.”
“His influence cuts across the whole of Niger Delta, if you see some Northerners talk about Tompolo, you think they are talking about a different person other than the Tompolo you know.
Oporoza, Kuritie revolution
“Take a look at Oporoza, the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu kingdom, he has singularly transformed the kingdom, you cannot compare the life in Oporoza to other neighbouring communities, it is far better and it was because of Tompolo.
“Go to the neigbouring Kurutie, he has turned it to a little London, that is the place where they said that they are no buildings and facilities that were sold to NIMASA for the take-off of NMU, Okerenkoko. Even the former governor of the state, Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, at the twilight of his regime, was shocked when he saw the structures on ground by Tompolo for a Diving Institute he was planning.
“But today, the government officials and security agencies, who pretended as if what was done was fraudulent have refused to say the truth that they lied against Tompolo in the first instance,” he asserted.
Gbenekama said, “What has stupefied people about Tompolo is that the person, they described as illiterate and uneducated was the one behind the idea of the Nigeria Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko. What you cannot take away from him is that he is an inspiring leader of his people.”
Maritime varsity, Tompolo’s climax – Omare
Eric Omare, who also maintained he is the national president of IYC, said, “Before the commencement of his travails with the present government, Tompolo has done so much for Ijaw people, particularly those in the western flank and has many loyalists, who believe in his struggle.”
His words, “Even as he went underground, his loyalists are going about executing his vision, so he is very much alive in the minds of the people.”
“The Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, is the height of his struggle for his people and Ijaw nation. It is a milestone for him.
Drop political charges
“Indeed, I appeal to the federal government to drop its politically motivated charges against Tompolo. We all understood why they moved against Tompolo, it was based on false information, he never directed or carried out any attack on oil installations after accepting amnesty as wrongly peddled against him.
“I can tell you as IYC president that most of the security challenges we are facing today in the Niger Delta region would have been solved if Tompolo were to be free. Ask even his enemies, who raised allegations against him, they will tell you if they want to say the truth,” he said.
Omare added, “Even the Ogbe-Ijoh, Aladja crisis that has defied solution until date, Tompolo would have devised a technique to stop the frequent bloodletting because he is a leader both sides respect.”