Former member of the Delta Waterways Security Committee, DWSC, Warri, Delta State and ex-Itsekiri warlord, Comrade Omolubi Newuwumi, aka ‘Gentle General,” has warned that the Itsekiri ethnic nationality would defend itself if the Niger Delta Avengers, NDA, does not desist from the provocative bombing oil and gas installations in its (Itsekiri) territory.
Newuwumi, the Itsekiri equivalent of Ijaw‘s Tompolo and former Commissioner for Youths in the state, said: “The bombing of oil and gas facilities in Itsekiri territory is absurd; it is an act capable of provoking the Itsekiri nation and personalities like me. I am categorically saying that if they continue, they may force us, Itsekiri, to protect our territory, especially if the present administration fails in their responsibilities to protect lives and properties. “
He said: “We will be prepared to assist the government to end the bombings of oil installations in our area just like the role of the civilian JTF in the north, which has yielded successful results. As I said before, the destruction caused us by the Ijaw, which wanted to wipe us (Itsekiri) from the earth’s surface is still there, years after the crisis ended.
“The memories are still fresh in our mind for those of us who lived to tell the sad tales of woes and wanton destruction and killings in our communities. We will not fold our hands this time to let them destroy us as they did before. “The then federal and state governments failed to protect us from the Ijaw until we decided to take our own destiny into our hands and defend ourselves. I just hope this present government will not abandon us to our fate,” he added.
Why Itsekiri youths are not throwing bombs: On why Itsekiri youths were not carrying arms and bombing pipelines in the creeks like their Ijaw counterparts, he said: “Itsekiri people are a group of intellectuals, peace -loving and law- abiding people, hence carrying guns is not a way of life for them. If you look at history, you will find out that it was an Itsekiri man, the late Justice Atake that first started the intellectual struggle for resource control even before Ken Saro Wiwa.
“So the struggle is not a new thing for us, it is just that we are not used to militancy, kidnapping and other forms of criminality in our fight for true federalism and equality for the region. Anyway, we are soon coming out with a formidable platform to tackle all these issues because the Itsekiri have kept silent for a while now.
New group: “Very soon, a new group, which is non-political called the Niger Delta Patriotic Front, NDPF, will emerge and come out with its agenda and demands. There will be no genuine negotiation without the full involvement of the Itsekiri ethnic nationality because in Delta for example, the numbers of oil wells in Itsekiri land is much more than that of any other tribe,” he asserted.
Encounters with Tompolo: On his attitude towards the struggle and what makes it different from Tompolo’s, ‘Gentle General’ said: “We share different ideologies. In the war (referring to Ijaw/Itsekiri war), the Ijaw, which Tompolo led was more like the aggressor, but I only rose to lead my people in defense when the government of that time failed to defend us against our more formidable opponents for more than two years.”
Newuwumi said he had met with Tompolo on two occasions in the Benin River and his defunct Camp 5. His words: “Yes, during the battle to save my people from total annihilation from the surface of the earth, we met during the Warri crisis. I remember an occasion in the Benin River when I was coming from rescuing my people stranded in Ogheye community. I will tell that story at a later date.
“However, beyond that, we both represent different things to different people. Maybe we might be fighting the cause of liberating the people of the region from socio-economic slavery in the midst of plenty, but we sure have different ideologies and different ways of looking at things. “I for one, I repeat once again, abhor violence, kidnapping and destruction of government and oil companies’ installations to get even with government, but maybe he has a different approach.
“The choice of non-violence is a personal decision, which I have taken for a long time, but that does not mean that we, as Itsekiri, are weak, we only look at things from different perceptive. I am still a gentle general, as my people know me very well. It is just that I choose to remain calm and peaceful. “My second encounter was when we met also in his Camp 5 when we agreed to put an end to the crisis between the Itsekiris and the Ijaw. Like my first encounter, I will tell the story of my second encounter on a latter day.”
Avengers formed to destabilize Buhari govt: Scrutinizing the NDA and its mission, he said: “The pattern of their operation is very clear and an indication that it was formed to frustrate the present administration. The destruction of pipelines and oil installations is unmistakably terrorism and economic sabotage. Simply put, they are faceless, senseless and partisan in nature, and an orchestrated attemipt devised by corrupt individuals and politicians to frustrate the present administration’s resolve and determination to fight corruption in the country.”
He went on: “They are only using fighting for resource control for the Niger Delta as a means to achieve their egotistical desires because if not for their own selfish desire, why are they asking the federal government to release some individual found to be involved in corrupt practices.”
Newuwumi added: “Another aspect of the Avengers is the deliberate attacks on oil installations, which apart from killing the already Nigeria fragile economy is also destroying the region’s environment and its ecosystem. The destruction affects the immediate environment and health of the people the Avengers claim to protect.”
He also said: “Like the name, Avengers, I think it was primarily formed to avenge the prosecution of their brothers and some corrupt Nigerians, who are facing criminal charges, if not, what are they avenging and who are they avenging for?”
On the attacks by Ijaw people on Itsekiri leader, Chief Ayiri Emami, who has been very vocal against the Avengers, he said: “Without mincing words, those who are blaming him chose to run away from the obvious fact. The Niger Delta area is a peculiar terrain, where everybody seems to know each other. Nobody, I repeat nobody or group of persons will dare carry out such nefarious activities in backyard of the person he is pointing fingers at without his knowledge or him knowing them.”
Commenting on the plan to negotiate with Avengers, he said: “It just a pity that the Nigeria government has concluded arrangements to negotiate with them just like the amnesty deal. But to me, it is very unfortunate, especially with some of the conditions in their demands like the release of Col Sambo Dasuki (retd) and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu , which has no bearing whatsoever with the Niger Delta struggle.
“Well, let them negotiate with them; let us see what their demands are really and the persons behind the masquerade. It will also let us know or confirm if the person they said Ayiri is pointing fingers at is behind the whole arrangement. However, beyond all these, the question on my mind are who do they want to negotiate with, for whom are they negotiating and is it for the ethnic nationalities of the Niger Delta or for only the Ijaw?
“Who are those to go there to negotiate with government? In whose interest, I do not think the negotiations will work because already the components of the formation of the group, NDA, is faulty, their demands are faulty and did not articulate all the demands of the Niger Delta people. “Just like the amnesty program, which made some individuals super rich and a particular ethnic group very rich, the negotiation is bound to fail unless the Federal Government do what is right for the people of the Niger Delta,” Newuwumi declared.