In a surprising turn of events, a group of ex-militants from the Niger Delta endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari. The endorsement was delivered via Peace Ambassadors of the Niger Delta led by Ebikabowei Victor Ben who is also known as Boyloaf.
Why it matters
The Niger Delta militants are an influential bloc in the politics of the Niger Delta. They control a number of teeming youths who form their troops in the creeks. On one hand politicians are afraid of their ability to create chaos and on the other try to court their support as a way to intimidate their own opponents. While the endorsement seemed the most unlikely given the fractious relationship between the Niger Delta communities and the Buhari government, it is important to note that Boyloaf, the convener of the militants rejected his kinsman, former President Goodluck Jonathan in favour of then candidate, Muhammadu Buhari for the 2015 elections.
The ex-militants gave the following reasons for endorsing Buhari:
- Ogoniland clean up initiated by United Nations DSG Amina Mohammed: “In spite of promises by several administrations, this government under the leadership of the now United Nations Deputy Secretary, Amina Mohammed, put the framework for the remediation and cleanup of Ogoniland, which is the largest of such effort in the world and expected to cost $1billion.”
- Ibe Kachikwu’s 20-point plan for the Niger Delta: “The plan also covers the need for government and oil companies working in our region to create at least 100,000 jobs yearly. The plan for the Niger Delta is what we need now for a more sustainable future.”
- Infrastructure: “Also, the Niger Delta is not left out of this government’s commitment to investing in infrastructure which is one of its biggest spending priorities. The long-abandoned East-West road is finally receiving funding and attention.”
The group also gave special credit to Vice President Osinbajo “for painstakingly leading the engagements in the Niger Delta and assuring us of his plans.”
At least two prominent ex militants have openly distanced themselves from the endorsement of President Buhari according to reports in the media. Chief of them is Tompolo, who said there is no way he could have possibly endorsed the President with whom he has an axe to grind.
“This same military harassed, brutalised and killed his father, Chief Thomas Ekpemupolo, in 2015, and up till now President Buhari has not made any statement by way of apology to him. And so, what will be the reason for Tompolo to endorse him? To further kill his kinsmen? Tompolo has been in agony since 2015, as the present government is after him for unsubstantiated allegations of corruption,” a statement from Tompolo’s camp said.
Dagogo, another ex militant who is now a legislator in Rivers state said that the “President should not allow himself be deceived.”