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OPINION: Wike’s unruly Politics and the Military Action in Ogoni land

By Uche Igwe

The news of recent confrontation between the criminals and the military in Ogoniland can be described as both deeply unsettling and unfortunate. The reported loss of lives of innocent citizens is regrettable and I offer my heartfelt condolences to families who lost their loved ones. It is very sad that Rivers State continues to be in the news for the wrong reasons. The boldness of the faces of criminality in Rivers State is a very dangerous sign of an abhorrent failure of governance. I hope the security agencies will thoroughly investigate what happened and bring anyone involved to book. So far, there have been several accounts flying around about what happened. Everyone knows that of all of them, only one version can be true. From the convincing account of the Brigade Commander, the military men visited Bori and Yeghe as part of a mop up operation targeting the stockpile of weapons in these communities. The operation was approved by the State Security Council chaired by Governor Nyesom Wike.

Trouble started when the military men met an ambush of a group of armed criminals who engaged them in a shoot-out on their way to the house of a known notorious militant leader Solomon Ndigbara a.k.a Osama Bin Laden or simply Solo. Many high profile killings and kidnappings have been associated with this character in the past. He once led a squad that disrupted the popular Ogoni day celebrations and chased the guests away. However, the ex-militant leader reportedly managed to escape as soon as he got wind of the visit of the military. According to eye witness accounts, there was pandemonium during the confrontation that lasted more than thirty minutes during which the militants were shooting indiscriminately and residents were scampering for safety. It must be during the resulting exchange and crossfire that innocent people were caught in the mix. The loss of innocent lives is something regrettable and unfortunate but it goes to underscore why Ogoni people must unite against any form of militancy and criminality in their community an ill wind that blows no one any good. But the question agitating the minds of many observers is how a high profile decision of the State Security Council could have leaked to a militant group that enabled them to prepare ahead. Do criminals now have representatives within government?

The second concern is how the criminals responded to the military raid by burning down the Senatorial liaison office belonging to Senator Magnus Abe in Bori. Many analysts are at loss as to how the two events can lead to one another. Senator Abe is a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a candidate in the forthcoming re-run elections in Rivers State. As at the last check, he was not a member of the State Security Council chaired by the Governor who is a member of People’s Democratic Party. The current effort by a section of politicians in the state to link Magnus Abe with the invitation of the military falls flat before reason and logic. When did a PDP government start consulting APC politicians before taking any action? The Rivers State Governor himself at some point spoke publicly in support of the military action that he signed off on as the Chief Security Officer of the state.

Now the third and probably the most important point is the danger of several prevarications and outbursts of governor Wike about the Ogoni incident. His speeches at different times portray him as someone who is desperate to make a political capital out of the unfortunate killings. A State Governor should not be seen to be speaking from both sides of his mouth on a matter as sensitive as security. From the recoveries made from the raid, it is clear that Mr. Solomon Ndigbara and his group are stockpiling destructive weapons. Who provided them money to buy these weapons in the first place and what is he keeping them for? Such an individual is clearly a security threat to the community and it is the responsibility of the state governor to work with security agencies to erode his capabilities as much as possible.

Rather than do that, the Rivers State Governor is reportedly a regular visitor to Mr. Ndigbara home in Yeghe. Mr Wike allegedly sought for and got his support during the last elections and pundits suggest that the solidarity shown by the state government is a token of appreciation. The governor was spotted in Yeghe driving in the same car with Solo after the military raid ostensibly to show Mr. Ndigbara his support. Such solidarity is part of the reasons that may be behind the new surge of criminality and boldness of criminals in the state. In the last three weeks, more than thirty people have been reportedly killed in Omoku in Ogba, Egbema Ndoni local government area alone. Many people suspect that these killing will get worse unless the federal government intervenes.

Should the military leave Ogoniland at this time or should they continue to battle the criminals even after the re-run elections? My answer to this is simple. The military must be encouraged to stay. From the events of the last few weeks, it is clear that the criminals will over run the state if the military withdraws too soon. In particular, they must remain to support the clean-up program which the federal government has announced to resume shortly. The clean-up of the impacted sites of Ogoni is something that must not be allowed to fail. In an event that those who are doing the clean-up are attacked, they will be left with no choice than to withdraw. Leaders of Ogoni must therefore see the military action as a commendable and legitimate rescue mission rather than an invasion. Clearly the mission of the military in Ogoni is to confront and defeat criminals. They should only be cautioned to do so within the ambits of the law and without harming innocent citizens who they are in a mission to protect.

Those who are familiar with the politics of Rivers State opine that there are political undercurrents to the recent posture of Governor Wike on Ogoni matters. They insist that he already has his eyes on the politics of 2019 in trepidation that a possible challenger will emerge from Rivers South east zone. That Senatorial zone is yet to produce a governor in the state. The Rivers State Governor may be right to panic but he should not make it appear too obvious. Besides that, my general counsel to him and other politicians is that leadership comes from the Almighty. In this case and by the grace of the Supreme Court, Nyesom Wike is governor of Rivers State and only one person can be governor at time. My candid proposition to him will be to should concentrate and govern the people and try to leave his own mark. Stirring up avoidable controversy, speaking from both sides of his mouth and playing politics with people lives is unbecoming of a leader who wants to succeed. His current political trajectory will definitely place him in the wrong side of history.



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