Every day that passes, Nigeria confirm1s that it is a country of anything goes. If not how would anybody have imagined that the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Onyeabo Ihejirika can open his mouth to tell the media that “civilian deaths (over 150 lives) won’t deter us in Niger Delta.”
Speaking in Abuja on Wednesday 8th December the army chief boasted that “troops will continue their onslaught against insurgency in the Niger Delta, regardless of the outcry over the loss of civilian lives in the recent raids. The Army, rather than being deterred, is ready to crush the militants until they are all flushed out.” He may have equally added in line with his thinking- “in addition to every innocent and law –abiding civilians.”
These people – the innocent civilians being killed are Nigerian citizens who neither committed any offense nor are involved in any criminal uprising by some miscreants against perceived injustices. So how come the army chief is talking as if Nigeria is at war with another nation and its people. It is very callous of a high-ranking officer like the Chief of Army Staff. And this same unguarded statement was even repeated by the erstwhile JTF Commander, Sarki Bello who now serves in Abia state in his speech at the militant camp in Cross River state.
What was the reason for the latest military invasion and devastation in Delta state: apprehending John Togo, the renegade militant commander. This was the excuse the Joint Military Taskforce (JTF) used to bombard Ayakoromor and surrounding villages and fishing ports in Delta State killing over 150 civilians as reported by both the media and the affected community though the JTF has disputed this figure.
As part of the callous statement of the Army Chief, he said Togo and his fighters should be blamed for any loss of civilian life during the confrontation because they used civilians as human shield, “which is a war crime.
“The tactics of using civilians as human shield is an ugly one but let me assure you that in all our operations, we will put the safety of civilians uppermost.
“Let me reiterate, however, that the incident will not reduce the intensity of the operation as we are determined to rid the entire area of militants, so that security can return and development restored within the shortest possible time.”
It was an outright insult not only to the people of Ayakoromor but to the entire Niger Delta for the JTF Commander, Major General, Charles Omoregie to accused the public of over reacting to the onslaught to dislodge Togo from the community even were indigenes of the community as alleged were forced by JTF officers to bury the dead people in mass graves. Haba! What are we talking about here- over one hundred and fifty lives of innocent and law-abiding Nigerians who were neither militants nor criminals and whose only offence was that the renegade militants were allegedly living in their community?
The army chief should actually hide his face in shame that for all the destructions and killings of innocent civilian men, women and children. And despite the heavy loss of innocent civilian lives the JTF could not even apprehend the target, John Togo from the community. In normal society, the Army Chief and the JTF commander would either have been sacked or made to face the National Assembly for explanation of their unprofessional actions in Ayokoromor community.
From obvious indications, it was not the fault of the miscreant JTF officers. The actual blame should go to President Goodluck Jonathan who because of his inordinate ambition to remain in office as president unleashed the military against his own ‘village’ people.
Except Jonathan will tell Nigerians that he is not in control of the Military, what else can he say to explain this blunder that can even work against the very presidential ambition he is pursuing?
Is the President doing this to please or rather deceive our northern brothers that he is not ethnically biased as an Ijawman? Or the Ijaws of Delta state are now different from the Ijaws of Bayelsa? All the super human beings and think-tanks around him no single person could advise the president against such decision against his very own Ijaw people in an election season. The truth is that votes don’t count in this country’s elections and until the electorates reclaim the power to determine who rules them, people in authourity will to act with impunity and callousness.
It is a very big shame that the President and his special adviser on Niger Delta/Amnesty have continued to delude themselves that the well-meant amnesty programme conceived and kick-started by the late President Yar’adua was still on course. We should learn to call a spade a spade in this country. How can the amnesty be working and we are witnessing what is going in Delta state?
Of course how can the amnesty work when the man, Timi Alaibe, who should be the curator, is fully entangled in Bayelsa state governorship racet? Whether they accept it or not, there is something very wrong with the implementation of the entire amnesty programme.
It has been severally alleged that the programme was turned into more or less a political scheme and platform to launch and execute the governorship ambition of the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta. Though this allegation cannot be substantiated, his recent indication to run for the governorship seat of Bayelsa state laid credence to the allegation.
Also, it has severally been alleged that there was serious discrimination in terms of treatment of militant commanders and their followers. And this was the reason John Togo and the two renegade commanders in Bayelsa said was their major grouse against the entire amnesty programme.
Where is Chief Edwin Clarke, the talking -elder statesman, when a community under his kingdom was wiped out. It has severally been said that most of this people have hidden agenda that has nothing to do either with the Ijaw or the entire Niger Delta agenda. Chief Clarke should talk. What is he waiting for to speak out and condemn Goodluck Jonathan for the heinous crime the JTF is committing in and around Ayokoromor community of Delta state. Papa Deceive Pikin- PDP.
SENIOR FYNEFACE: ELELEWON STREET, GRAII PORT HARCOURT (email@example.com)