By Jimitota Onoyume
WARRI, the oil-rich city of Delta State was in festive mood last Thursday as the Ijaw, drawn from Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and other parts of the country gathered in their numbers to celebrate the 47th birthday anniversary of one of their courageous leaders, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo.
Only icons in the mould of Bob Marley, Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Che Guevara, just to mention a few, enjoy the honour of being celebrated in their absence by their fans, followers. The celebrant, Tompolo was conspicuously absent at the birthday bash.
He is currently in hiding after the Federal Government slammed charges against him in court. A prominent leader from neighbouring Bayelsa State, Chief Nengi James said he had to defer his own birthday celebration to honour Tompolo.
It was a day the Ijaw nation re-echoed its demand for fiscal federalism, fairness and justice for the Niger-Delta region within the Nigerian state.
Speaker after speaker who mounted the podium stressed the urgent need for restructuring of the country. They also took time to pour encomiums on Tompolo, describing him as the leading light of the modern day Niger-Delta struggle and a liberator of the region.
They recalled how his agitations largely gave rise to the emergence of an Ijaw man, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as President of the country. The speakers also dismissed the charges against Tompolo in court as another political strategy by the hegemonic leadership to silence resistance to the glaring marginalisation of the region.
High Chief Mike Loyibo and Comrade Rosemary Graham-Naingba who gave lectures on the theme of the birthday bash: Niger-Delta the burden of Resource control, said enduring peace would only return to the region after the Federal Government had redressed the injustice against the area and its people.
No peace without justice
“Tompolo is the liberator of modern Niger-Delta struggle. Nigeria will not know peace until you address the problem of true federalism, resource ownership and resource control.
Nigeria’s constitution is defective and the federalism is defective. Tompolo’s struggles gave us presidency some years ago. All the cases against Tompolo are political, they must be dropped,” Loyibo said.
Comrade Rosemary eulogized Tompolo as the GOC (General Officer Commanding) of the Niger Delta struggle, stressing that he stirred up the consciousness of the Ijaw nation to the realities of marginalization against them.
She charged the Ijaw nation not to relent in the struggle, noting “there is still one more river to cross.”
Chief Wellington Okrika as Chairman of the day spoke glowingly of Tompolo. A roundtable with Sheriff Mulade, Chief Nengi James, High Chief Loyibo and Rosemary Graham-Naingba as discussants decried neglect of the region by the Federal Government.
There was also time for dance as attractive looking Ijaw ladies in white T-shirts with various inscriptions of Tompolo danced to the rhythm of Ijaw songs supplied by a live band. It was another day of glory and honour for Chief Tompolo.