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FG embarrassing N’Delta elders, Bozimo, ex-Police Affairs minister fumes

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…Buhari should pay attention to Obasanjo’s advice
…Cattle colony another form of colonization
…No need for Avengers, other militants to flex muscles with Delta go

Emma Amaize, Regional Editor, South-South and Chancel Sunday

FORMER Minister of Police Affairs and Niger Delta leader, Alaowei Broderick Bozimo, who just celebrated his 79th year on planet earth, is angry that the Federal Government is humiliating Niger Delta elders under the auspices of Pan Niger Delta Forum, PANDEF, who took it upon themselves to persuade militants to sheath their swords and embrace peace in the oil region.

Alaowei Broderick Bozimo

Gray-bearded Bozimo, a top leader of the regional body, in an interview with Saturday Vanguard on a wide range of topical issues affecting the nation and his home state, Delta, said: “The federal government makes us look ridiculous as if we do not know what we are doing. It is very regrettable that the federal government has put us (Niger Delta leaders) in a very difficult position to keep going back to these young men (militants, in the Niger Delta region) to plead with them not to bomb oil facilities every now and then.”

“You are asking what we are doing over the renewed threat by militants to resume bombing. I say it is very regrettable that we would have to walk this journey over and over again. I must say that it is a pity the federal government did not seize the opportunity offered to it under PANDEF when the 16-point agenda was submitted sometime in November 2016.”

“The only thing I can say to the federal government is that it should get up and do something about the demands by the militants because they are legitimate. Take the relocation of administrative headquarters of multinational oil companies to Niger-Delta, which is their area of operation, what is so difficult there? After all, they existed in Warri, Port-Harcourt, Akwa Ibom and all over Niger Delta before. These demands are low-hanging fruits that the federal government would have taken advantage of.

“That does not mean that we are going to abandon the Niger Delta and say that our youth should do as they please, as that will mean cutting our noses to spite our faces. I believe that there is still hope and we will continue to do what we can to talk to these young men,” he asserted.

Bozimo said: “But, the point is how long can we be going on in this fashion? Let the federal government do the needful and take the Niger Delta question very seriously. Federal government should do something now before it gets too late.”

Recently, the convener and national leader of PANDEF, Chief Edwin Clark, spoke concerning the federal government not listening to advice from leaders and elders of the Niger Delta. If this is situation, what are the South-South leaders doing still talking with a deaf government? Saturday Vanguard asked.

He said: “As I said a short while ago, I agree with our national leader Chief E. K. Clark. But what do we do? Do we abandon this serious issue for the federal government to do as it pleases, to just walk over us in any fashion they desire? That is why I said earlier that despite the deafness and blindness of the federal government to see what is clearly before their noses, it should not be allowed to consume the Niger Delta or Nigeria.”

“It is a deep pity and regrettable that they are behaving the way they do. I personally went to Okerenkoko to deliver the PANDEF paper to the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, but to be fair to him; we were impressed with his candour.

“Therefore, I do not want to paint the entire federal government with the same brush, and let people not say I’m prejudiced in favour of the vice president because he is from the south. But we are appealing to the President that if he has a vice president like Osinbajo, who truly understands the things happening in the Niger Delta, he should listen to him,” he said.

FG made militants to look down on us

The PANDEF leader said it was the scornful manner the federal government has handled the intervention of the elders of the region that made the agitators to lose confidence in their representation. According to him, “Action speaks louder than voice. We are a collection of people who know what we are doing.

We have been in this struggle for many years and the federal government’s behavior is neutralizing our influence to be able to talk to these boys. That is why we are appealing to the federal government that a stitch in time saves time and they should buckle up because when this starts again, it will not help as some of us are not any younger. Buhari should do what is right because this is the time and he is not getting any younger either. Therefore, Buhari should do what is right and write his name down in the history books as a northerner, who appreciated the difficulties in our region,” he asserted.

Concern about anti-corruption battle

The ex-Minister, however, scored President Buhari above average in his battle against corruption. He said: “I believe that he has tried. A person can only fight with the equipment or with the understanding that he enjoys to fight anything. But it seems to me that there is a lot of movement without motion because you have to reform the machinery for fighting corruption. I see that is happening, in judiciary the special courts have been established and you must do things with due process, otherwise it will not last, it will be the usual fire brigade way of doing things.

“I believe that the intentions are good, but the execution is not as the way we expected it to be. Well and good, I applaud that, but structurally the thing will only fan out after a while unless the structures are in place and the actors in the struggle are well assigned, and not just for political show, arresting everybody,” he said.

Bozimo also commended the president on his security efforts, but only as it affects Boko Haram in the northeast, not the marauding herdsmen. According to him, “When you look at the northeast, I think they have tried their best. The security situation in the northeast was just bubbling when we were in government. Jonathan fought it reasonably well as far as I am concerned. Though Buhari claims to have annihilated Boko Haram, the struggle of the group has been taken to another level, attacking soft targets. The battle is not yet over because we must win the minds of the young people for them to believe that Nigeria is one. We must win the minds of the young people.”

“Boko Haram’s concepts are drifting to other parts of the country in the name of Fulani herdsmen attacking our people all over the country. For me it is extremely disturbing, and why is that happening under the watch of Buhari? What is much more disturbing is the deforestation that is happening in the north: the encroachment of the Sahara Desert. That is why cattle ranching, not cattle colonies, by these businessmen, is the answer. Even the president has a ranch. So, this is the height of irresponsibility by these herdsmen,” he asserted.

Cattle colony, another form of colonization

The elder statesman said he was at a loss over why the federal government has not brought the rampaging Fulani herdsmen to order, declaring: “First, l must empathize and really pray for the souls of those gallant and defenseless Nigerians slaughtered in the manner it had been done.

As a person, I reject the idea of cattle colonies. That is reminiscent of colonization that we went through under the British and all forms of foreign powers. So, for me it is unacceptable and that is my opinion.”

“As a member of PANDEF, we have stated our position quite clearly that if the federal government wants to establish ranches, as far as I am concerned, they are free to do so, but as a matter of principle, I believe that it is also wrong for the federal government to spend its resources in establishing cattle ranches for businessmen, people who are already rich. Again, a modern cattle rearing is not consistent with people traveling the length and breadth of Nigeria or the west coast of Africa parading cattle. From my point of view, cattle colonies are totally unacceptable to the average Nigerians,” he said.

I can’t say if military generals arm herdsmen

Bozimo pointed out that during the time he was Minister of Police Affairs under Obasanjo, “We did not have this kind of marauding herdsmen with AK 47 rifles and I want to say that it could never have happened during our time. What baffles me now is how civilians can be armed with AK 47 riffles because they are rearing cattle. So, something is amiss and it leads to a conjecture where people begin to wonder the sources of these riffles.

As you know, the rumour mill is filled with suggestions that perhaps, military generals and rich men provide these riffles and that is why these people are boldly carrying them around. Your guess is as good as mine but I want to say that I do not have information directly from intelligence sources that retired army people are doing this. But, the government has a duty to explain why this thing is happening because if they do not, they will be fueling the rumour mill,” he said.

The man, Obasanjo

Commenting on what many have described as a letter bomb by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari, he stated: “First of all, let me say I have very high regards for Olusegun Obasanjo, not necessarily because he was my boss, but by my experience during my engagement as Minister of Police Affairs under his leadership he has been wonderful in the sense that he loves the nation with an indescribable passion.”

“I had the experience of that when I went to the United Nations, UN, with him in 2006 or thereabouts during the celebration of its 6th anniversary. Then I remembered at his age, Obasanjo would be awake up till about 2.00 am to 4.00 am and not even eat. He forgot to eat on one occasion and we got back to our hotel, he was looking for food and there was none. He looked into the fridge and brought out a piece of bread. I will never forget that incident, we were wondering and asked, why do you punish yourself this way?

He said “this job is like that and one could be so engrossed about issues of the country that most times, one forgets to eat”. Then he said jokingly, “these children have eaten all the food”, and he ate bread at about 2.00 am or so, a president of this country. That experience has been etched deeply in my conscience and from that day, I knew this man truly loves this country and he will continue to work for this country,”Bozimo disclosed.

Buhari should listen to OBJ

He added: “So when a man with such passion now advises Buhari that from his experience, it is high time for him to bow out, especially when the ovation is loudest, I think I support him, I agree with him. But again, like he said, that is not to say that Buhari must obey him. After all, Buhari, as a Nigerian has freedom to do as he pleases. Obasanjo as a Nigerian has freedom to say what he wants to say. But I will advise the current president to listen carefully to Olusegun Obasanjo because experience has taught us and taught my countryman, Goodluck Jonathan, that if you do not listen to Obasanjo, you may be doing so at your very expensive peril,” he said.

I can’t say OBJ backfired on Jonathan, Buhari

Bozimo, an Ijaw, was reluctant to speak on a similar letter to his kinsman, former President Goodluck Jonathan, by Obasanjo, saying, “Well, I do not want to dwell on that much and I will tell you why. I remembered that when he advised Jonathan not to continue, some of us disagreed with him and the reason I disagreed with him was that Jonathan is our own and the South-South people had not enjoyed power at that level.

Therefore, we felt that they should give the man a chance to do his best except Nigeria rejects him. I remembered saying that emphatically that Nigerians should be the judge. I spoke to the media and maintained that Obasanjo was wrong on that occasion. I remembered saying so.

“Asking me whether he was right in the advice to Jonathan with what is playing out on Buhari right now, I cannot truly say and it will not be fair for me to say it was right or wrong in this case. But the pattern of Obasanjo’s actions, especially, tells me he has never quite misfired when he gives his advice, as what happened to Jonathan is there for all to see,” he opined. .

I beg to differ

The ex-Minister disagreed with those who think that Obasanjo was always grandstanding on issues as he is the most patriotic and influential Nigerian, saying: “The truth is that I do not want to go into the mind of Obasanjo to guess why he does what he is doing. You see, if you have the kind of fanatic love and commitment he has for this country, then you leave it at that, because that may be his psyche, that may be how God had made him, as he wants to get involved in anything about Nigeria.

So, I leave that to psychiatrists or physicians to decipher: I do not know why he does it. But I believe he does it because he loves Nigeria deeply, and I know so for certain. He has never misfired.

Is he impressed with the performance of the South-South governors, are they giving the region the required direction and focus? We asked.

He said: “I think that you cannot take them in isolation. You must look at them in the entire national concept. All of them, except Lagos that has so much money to spend, have this challenge of paucity of funds. Things are difficult all around, that is why I am hesitant in general condemnation of these governors. Given the kind of constraints they have, I think they are performing as much as can be expected. The south-south governors are doing their best.”

My role in settling PANDEF/PNDPC feud

Alaowei Bozimo, who is adept in conflict management, and other Niger Delta leaders worked behind the scene to resolve the rift between PANDEF and a new group, Pan Niger Delta People Congress, PNDPC, which threatened the cohesion of the region, last year. He told Saturday Vanguard: “Let me say I did not do what happened on my own, there was no magic about it.

A lot of us, including the warring factions put heads together as we realized timely that if we continued on the path we were walking, it would spell destruction not only for our land, Niger Delta, but for the federal government. We sat and talked and all of us came to understanding. So, I want to congratulate Chief E. K. Clark, the paramount ruler of Seimbiri Kingdom HRM Ayemi Botu and all the people of PNDPC for their understanding and timely commitment to sheathe their swords.

But the leader of PNDPC, HRM Ayemi-Botu, unambiguously maintained that there was no peace deal contrary to the thinking that the issues have been resolved? We inquired

He retorted: “It is with circumspection that I spoke and I did not use the word, peace deal. You mentioned it. As I said, we all put heads together and realized that if we continued the disagreement, this name calling, it is the Niger Delta that will suffer. When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers, and all of us realized this and said let us give peace a chance.”

“I am not suggesting for one moment that there was a peace deal that was concrete: I am saying that for now, all of us understood that if we followed the way we were going, it would not be good for Niger Delta and I spoke with King Ayemi- Botu, who is a younger brother and friend. I thank him because he holds me in high esteem. Therefore, I want to appeal to him that he should please sheathe his sword and let us find a permanent solution as we go along,” he asserted.

Weighs in on Delta govt/militants impasse

Bozimo also cautioned militants unhappy that the Delta state government called on them to submit their grievances to the state government, instead of resuming hostilities to simmer down, saying that there was nothing wrong with the call by the state government. He asserted: “If you recall the Committee against Vandalization of Oil Facilities headed by the deputy governor of the state, Deacon Kingsley Otuaro and Dr. Chris Ekiyor, one time president of Ijaw Youth Council, IYC, met to interface with these young men because they know a large number of them are in this state. As a government that has the responsibility to ensure peace and security in the state, they had to do the needful by inviting them to talk.

They did not say PANDEF and other stakeholders, who are committed to bringing peace in the region, had been sidelined. So, there is no competition, perhaps, some may feel that the struggle has been hijacked by the state government, I do not think that is true, but I think we are all interested in bringing about peace in the region.

Why Ijaw, Itsekiri elders must be careful

Regarding the furore over the ownership of the site of the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, he asserted, “I think that elders of both sides have to be very careful in dabbling into every situation that arises between Ijaw and Itsekiri, Urhobo and Ijaw. Without the interference of elders, things are beginning to simmer down if you can notice, even on the question of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko.

We know that politicians from all divides would like to score points by saying that he is the champion of his people. This is not the forum for revisiting or reopening old wounds. While we are fighting over virtually nothing in the naming of a university, Itsekiri and Ijaw should realize that we have bigger battles to fight collectively for our region. If the Export Processing Zone, EPZ, is taking- off, the Maritime University is taking- off; we should concentrate on the economic liberation of the area, which is my dream.

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