‘General’ Isreal Akpodoro, a former militant leader in the Niger Delta. In this interview with NICHOLAS UWERUNONYE, he spoke on the renewed militant activities in the Niger Delta. He also condemned the activities of the Niger Delta Avengers while calling on the President to probe those around him. Excerpts:
You had a meeting with representatives from the federal government in Transcorp Hilton recently, what transpired at the meeting and what should we expect from the meeting?
We had a meeting at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja, and it was called for by the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Ibe Kachikwu, National Security Adviser, Monguno, Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty Program, Paul Boroh, Edo State Governor, Adams Oshiomhole. The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs was also there, Heineken Lokpobiri, Minister of State for Agric was there and so on. At the meeting, I told everybody that Boroh needs to be sacked. I told the NSA that Boroh should be sacked from that office.
Was Boroh there when you said so?
Yes, he was there. I said so because I believe that 70 percent of the cause of the current problem in the region was caused by Boroh. He doesn’t know who to reach in this matter. When Kingsley Kuku was in office, he does not allow matter to get to this level. He would reach out to the people. In fact, he created three phases of meetings to resolve the matter. We have had phase one of the programme, phase two and phase three. In each of the phases, he will reach out to relevant stakeholders like ex-militant leaders. He will get them to talk to their boys. Since Boroh assumed office he has called nobody. Rather he is harassing some of us who are working for Buhari. Boroh was in the security committee of Jonathan’s campaign. I don’t know who nominated that man for this appointment. Buhari should speedily sack him along with his CSO, Lt. Col O Kugbere. Both of them worked for Jonathan. Kugbere was CSO to Kuku, too. Today, he has been going about condemning Kuku. In fact, Boroh is still working with the same set up left by Jonathan. I am even aware that Tompolo tells him what to do. Can you tell us exactly what is going on in the Niger Delta and among the militants? The truth is that we do not want another civil war in Nigeria. What is going on now has nothing to do with attempt to arrest Tompolo. That is the misinformation out there. I say this because as far as the Niger Delta ex-Militants, myself, General Africa and Akpariasa were the only people who declared our support for President Muhammadu Buhari before and after the 2015 election. I can say that a great many of us do not want any conflict in our region. We want peace and nothing more. If you say you want peace, then it appears that the ex-militants are no longer speaking with one voice. You are saying you don’t want war; others like the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, and another Isoko Liberation Front are doing the exact opposite.
What really is responsible for this?
Like I said, the renewed fight in the region has nothing to do with EFCC declaring Tompolo wanted. Before the election, sometime in January 2014, we had a meeting in Bayelsa State, at the Government House. The Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson was there, Kingsley Kuku, former Amnesty Program DG was there, all the prominent ex-militants like Tompolo, Asari Dokubo, many other were there. The only person, not present was Ateke Tom. At the meeting, a motion was raised that if our brother, then President Goodluck Jonathan did not win the 2015 election, we would make the country ungovernable for whoever emerges. There was a motion to divide the country and blow all oil installations in the region. If you recall, General TY Danjuma replied them at the time. I opposed the move too at the time. I argued that the man who gave us amnesty was a man from the North. This was late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I said that whoever wins should be who we would work with, that we should not cause any problem. When I said this at the meeting, they almost killed me. They called me a betrayer and spy for Buhari. They then declared war on me. They withdrew all my security personnel.
By security personnel do you mean police, army or private security?
I had Mobile Police attached to me. They withdrew all of them from me because of what I said. Now that Buhari has emerged as president, their promise at the time is what we are seeing now. Nigerians should not look at the matter as people agitating over neglect. The neglect in Niger Delta has been long. It was there even before Jonathan came to power. In fact, Jonathan did not address it. We agitated over resource control, marginalization and unequal distribution of oil wells before Jonathan came on board. Jonathan stayed in power for six years but couldn’t address the matter. Look at the East-West Road; he did not complete it. Look at the Umaru Yar’Adua Airport awarded to Bayelsa; Jonathan did not implement it. Jonathan contributed a lot to what has been happening. That is why three weeks ago, I told the country that Jonathan is behind the Avengers. Ever since the bombing started again, Jonathan did not say a word. Even ministers who are from the region present Buhari’s cabinet are saying nothing. Yet they still claim to be APC people. The people around the President are also not helping him. The man does not know what is going on in this country. They are not telling him the truth. I have a personal relationship with Buhari. I met him in 2013 and urged him to contest. I told him that we are behind him. When I met him, I told him I was breaking away from the ranks of the ex-militants to support him.
How did you meet him?
I met him through Colonel Abdul. He was the one who took me to see him at that time. Buhari told me that there was no problem and that he was ready to work with me. Even before the election, I met with the leaders of APC. I met with Rotimi Amaechi, then governor of Rivers. When I met him and told him that I was coming out to endorse Buhari, he warned that they would kill me. I told him that nobody would kill me and that the worst that could happen is that we end up killing each other. They promised to mobilise funds for me for the endorsement, but they failed. I endorsed Buhari on national televisions, on papers, on the internet. I took full pages in newspapers to endorse the president. I did all this with my money and got no kobo from APC. I sent text messages to Amaechi asking whether he saw what I have done in the media. He replied yes. I met Amaechi again at Eko Hotel when Tinubu was having a function there. I told him again of what I did, to which he replied that he saw it all but that we could not talk at the place. I said no problem. Since then till this moment I am talking to you, I have not heard from Amaechi. He has even refused to pick my call. This put me in a bad situation with my people.
How did it put you in bad situation?
The people I used to do the endorsement expected me to pay them allowances for the trips we undertook. At a point, they thought I was deceiving them after collecting money from Amaechi, pretending I had no money. They came to my house and threatened to burn my home. I had to run around to source money to settle them before the election.
Five days to that election, I went to see Bola Tinubu to report the matter.
I told Tinubu of Amaechi’s failed promise. I showed Tinubu all the works I have done. Tinubu then told his Chief Security Officer to write my name as the number one APC ex-militant general. He then gave me some money for transport; I don’t want to mention the figure. He then asked that I put down my account number and that he would reach Amaechi and asks him to wire money to me. As soon as I left, Tinubu has since refused to pick my calls. Amaechi has refused to see me. As I am talking to you now, I am facing a lot of challenges both from APC politicians and those in the government who do not believe in Buhari’s agenda.
Can you explain further on those in Buhari’s government who don’t believe in his agenda?
I am talking about people like Paul Boroh and his chief security officer, Col Kugbere. They have been after me saying that I am supporting government against my people. As I am talking to you now, I don’t sleep in my house anymore. My children and wife have to look for a safe place to stay.
So if you are to rate Amaechi now, will you say that he has passed leadership test for Niger Delta?
My brother if I tell you that Amechi has not failed then it means I am a total liar. Amaechi failed 100 percent, even 200 percent. Amaechi was a former governor, now a minister. Israel Akpodoro is a private citizen. But see what I am doing now in this matter. He is one that put Dakuku Peterside as NIMASA DG. He is the one who put Ibim Semenitari as NDDC boss. These people have failed to use their office to reach out to their people to calm things in the region. They are not making statements to condemn these bombings. This shows that Amaechi is a total failure. On October 17, 2015, while the Senate was screening Amaechi, myself, Michael Jonny, Akpariasa, warned the Senate of dire consequence if Amaechi does not scale the screening hurdle. We passed a vote of confidence on Amaechi. We did this on AIT. Could you believe that on 18th, Paul Boroh, who was security official during Jonathan’s campaign, led security agents to my place to kidnap me?
They invaded my place, blindfolded me, handcuffed me and took me away. One of the people who abducted me queried me on why I was supporting Amaechi. I was shocked. Initially, they claimed that it was Nyesom Wike who sent the operatives after me. I later learnt that it was not him. Boroh kidnapped me using his CSO, Kugbere and took me to an unknown destination. For two days I was in a blindfold. It was after they removed the blindfold that I realised that I was in EFCC. They then stated that I had been petitioned. When I looked at the petition, I saw that it was Boroh that petitioned me through his chief of staff. They accused me of not paying my boys under the amnesty program. I had only 39 slots while Tompolo has 6, 000. Others have 5,000. Nobody petitioned them. I don’t know how that was possible because the money is paid to individuals accounts. After the three days, they gave me bail. The bail conditions were like the ones they grant governors. But in two days, I managed to perfect the bail conditions. Back to what you said about Amaechi’s appointees in NDDC and NIMASA, you said they are in Position to solve this renewed insurgency? These agencies have the means to reach out to the common people and the stakeholders in the region. If they had done their bit and put their ears to the ground, they would have known that the crisis was coming. Since the bombings started, they have refused to make any meaningful comment condemning the activities of the Avengers. This shows that these appointees are not capable; they have refused to help Buhari.
On this resurgent militancy, have you met with Mr. President on how to solve the problem?
A week to the inauguration of Mr. President, I met him. I met when Olorogun Otega, governorship candidate of Delta State in 2015 led a delegation to see Mr. President; I went with him. Otega introduced me to Mr. President saying that I was the only ex-militant that stood by Mr. President during the election. When the president shook my hand, I then said ‘Sir, I was the one who met you in 2013 to pledge my support for you and asking you to run for election.' The President then said no problem, that I should calm the region until after the inauguration then we would meet. Until this moment, I have been unable to see the man. People around him have refused me an audience. They have caged him. I have been going to the Villa severally but have met with no success. What is now happening in the Niger Delta, I had forewarned. I wrote some letters through some security personnel in government but got no response. I told them where their arms and camps are located, but nobody paid attention. I don’t want to mention names here, but if I meet Mr. President, I will mention names of those I gave the letters to. I warned that after the Bayelsa election, this people will start to bomb. This happened as I predicted. In January this year, they started to bomb the places. I am not going to blame the president for the insurgency because he is not the cause. The people around him are the cause of the problem. We have leaders in the Niger Delta who know what to do to solve this problem but have refused to do so. Only a few of us, myself, Africa, Akpariasa, we are the ones facing this person. As I am talking to you now, we have become targets. Even some Northerners are involved in this scheming against Buhari because of his fight against corruption. This matter should not be taken lightly because these Avengers mean business. Now they have their own currency. They want to share this country.
The US and the UK have urged Buhari to thread with caution on the use of the military to quell the Niger Delta crisis. What is your view of the use the military to quell the insurgency?
What the West is saying is partly true. Without the military, we can solve this problem. This is so because their people on the ground in the region from various communities who know them. The Avengers are not ghosts. The president should engage these people to work with the JTF. They have to do this so that innocent people will not be killed. What the UK government is saying is that they don’t want innocent blood to be shed while trying to quell the conflict.
culled from sahara reporters