Leave Tompolo Alone

Opinion

By Ben Nanaghan

The name Government Ekpemupolo does not really ring a loud bell but when you say  ‘Tompo” millions of Nigerians will add ‘LO’ to complete a name that received great ovation and applause in greater regions of the country and on the national stage.

Tompolo as he is fondly called came into limelight as a freedom fighter for the liberation of the Niger Delta under the aegis of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND). He rose quickly to be one of MEND’s most audacious and fearless commanders a feat that catapulted him to be the numero uno of the MEND with headquarters in camp 5, Okerenkoko in Delta State.

Tompolo is a product of the sordid unenviable environment of the ijaw people who live in untold hardship and squalor without government presence or even in some areas primary schools for the education and development of the riverine communities of the Niger Delta.

Tompolo and his comrades at arm waged a long drawn-out war in the creeks of the Niger Delta until they gave up the struggle in 2009 to honour the Federal Governments Handing over of arms as a precondition for amnesty.

To demonstrate his love for Nigeria, Government Ekpemupolo almost in tears confessed that “I was compelled to drop weapons” due to his altruistic patriotism and nationalistic fervour. He had fought a good fight and the core national interest of the Nigerian nation was uppermost in his vision of a great and prosperous Nigeria.

Since being granted amnesty, Tompolo has become a prominently wealthy business man investing prodigiously in the fight against piracy and renegade militancy. He acquired state-of-the art anti-piracy and anti-bunkering boats and equipment to fight piracy, smuggling, bunkering, kidnapping and to make the Niger Delta waters safe and free for commerce and social mobility.

Tompolo’s knowledge of the creeks of the Niger Delta and Nigeria’s territorial waters has made him an indisputable choice for the policing of the Niger Delta and the nation’s maritime boundaries. And so Tompolo paid his dues and deserves respect and accolades from all Nigerians for Nigeria’s economic prosperity resulting from his acceptance and dexterous crisis management leading to the amnesty deal.

But in spite of Tompolo’s genuine effort to protect Nigeria’s interests and territorial waters a group of critics emerged from  within his neighborhood to impugn his integrity and crucify him on the  altar of ethnic jingoism. These “grumbletonians” see Tompolo as a threat rather than an ally in development and progress.

These critics fight Tompolo mainly for their own political agenda and blame him for any incident that is unfavourable to them including the birth of a female child where a male was expected. Their list of Tompolo influenced events are infinite. For these unrepentant critics who want to reap where they did not sow, Tompolo is the new raison d’etre for their failures. For them, the fear of Tompolo is the beginning of wisdom. Tompolo is the only headache for which they “threaten” to use APC.

But the Tompolo they do not know is a humble, honourable, munificent gentleman whose taciturnity belies his military prowess and ingenuity.

For those who are afraid of Tompolo, I can assure you that there is no cause for such  unwarranted trepidation and alarm.

Some of the spurious and incongruous allegations against Tompolo are: Tompolo recently bought 6 Motors Torpedo Boats (MTB) to wage war against us, Tompolo bankrolled Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa and made him Delta State PDP gubernatorial candidate, Tompolo forced an Ijaw Deputy Gubernatorial candidate, Mr. Lucky Otuaro on Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa, Tompolo arm twisted Gov. Ewetan Uduaghan and forced  him to forego his senatorial ambition in favour of Senator James Manager, an Ijaw candidate, Tompolo threatened President Goodluck Jonathan to cancel the ground breaking ceremony of the NNPC $16 BN EPZ project in Delta State on Friday Nov 14, 2014, the controversial Omatseye and his replacement by Tompolo’s Personal Assistant, any decision taken by the Delta State or Federal Government is influenced by Tompolo. Tompolo this – Tompolo that Tompolo everything.

‘Tompolo has acquired warships to attack us’ his rivals alleged. Some people who wanted to replicate the Tompolo on the other side of the divide seized this sizzling opportunity to become their own community leaders and local champions hoping with this, to emerge as new community leaders.

The invasion story blared, the cacophony of an imminent Tompolo invasion flared to centre stage. And the stage was set for an imaginary war by the defending brigade.

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But the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Patrick Akpobolokemi knocked the bottom out of this libelous absurdity when he told the whole world in a press conference on 16th Dec. 2014 that the six Motor Torpedo Boats did not belong to Tompolo. The DG confirmed that the 6 ships were acquired by Tompolo’s company – Global West Vessel Specialist Limited (GWVSL) on behalf of NIMASA. According to Patrick Akpobolokemi, “it is the navy that has fitted their guns on the vessels to aid their policing of the maritime domain”.

Tompolo is a businessman and his company won the contract to supply 6 Torpedo Boats for NIMASA-period. Just like all the other goon tales woven around Tompolo to impugn and desecrate his honourable and well protected personality, this story fell hollow and stood out unsubstantiated.

Nigeria’s former Minister for Police Affairs Alaowei Boraderick Bozimo also adds that, “that is the standard practice, as Minister of Police Affairs, when we got boats from contractors, and we gave them to the police, the police will also adapt them for their own use, they will mount guns on these boats for their purposes, so it is no big deal for what we are seeing with NIMASA and the patrols”.

What has Tompolo done to attract this large format demonisation from these fame seeking chauvinists? Tompolo is a very humble and peaceful law abiding Nigerian citizen and he should be allowed space and freedom to pursue his personal, economic and social interests.

Today, about 83 % of Nigeria’s oil blocks belong to Northern business moguls with Gen. Theophilus Danjuma being so wealthy that he is in a quandary on how to manage his stupendous oil wealth. But the day Tompolo acquires an oil block, his neighbours who also double as detractors will really go crazy condemning the acquisition and yet the oil wealth of the Niger Delta belongs to all Niger Deltans. But these detractors do not see anything wrong with this diversion of the region’s wealth to “strange” fellows who do not spread the benefits derived from it to the source of derivation.

Another accusation this group has heaped on Tompolo is that he was the main financier and sponsor of Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa’s PDP gubernatorial candidacy in Delta State. They have forgotten that Sen. Okowa is Gov. Uduaghan’s 1st choice candidate and this was confirmed by Chief Michael Diden, a former senior special Adviser to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan and some of the governor’s aides who were given specific instructions by the governor to ensure Sen. Okowa won the guber ticket.

All available records show that Sen. Ifeanyi Okowa was the most popular candidate and he won in a free, fair and transparent Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) gubernatorial primary election in Delta State.

Tompolo was also accused of imposing an Ijaw Deputy Governor on Sen. Okowa.

But the most outrageous and improbable  joke by the Tompolo Promotion Group is to accuse the unassuming gentleman that he arm-twisted and forced Gov. Uduaghan to pull out of his senatorial bid  in favour of a Tompolo sponsored candidate, Senator James Manager who is also  an Ijaw man. This tantamounts to the fact that this opposition has deified High Chief Government Ekpemupolo and placed him on the same pedestal with God Almighty. If not how can an individual arm-twist and force a sitting governor to overthrow the later’s wishes and aspirations and also force or threaten his nation’s President with military force to change government policy.

Also an amorphous Study Group in Delta State lambasted the Federal Government for allowing Tompolo to own warships and they shamelessly concluded that an “Ex-militant with weapons of war is dangerous to national security.”

But such unresearched parochial paroxysms are the hallmark of unprofessionalism producing a repugnant cocktail of incongruities, fallacies and mendacious fairy tales.

The Study Group, for lack of an appropriate label should study assiduously and rather court Tompolo and see him as an investment attraction and partner rather than an enemy.

Tompolo should be regarded as a hero just like his Indonesian freedom fighters in the Aceh region who fought the central government in Jakarta for 30 years but signed a peace deal in Dec. 2005 with the Aceh freedom fighters taking most of the juicy government jobs.

There is no problem without solution and to jaw-jaw is always better than to war-war. Peace is always the precursor to progress, development and prosperity.

•Nanaghan wrote from Lagos. Email: [email protected]