For anyone familiar with the present phase of crises in Ugborodo communities ( riverine communities located at the Escravos estuary of the Atlantic Ocean), one cannot but bewailed, and even amused when watching the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba in the different electronic media (AIT and Channels Television stations) addressing some indigenes of the community in his office in Abuja on Friday 10th January, 2014. From his speech (possibly edited), one can guess with utmost certitude that the Naval boss was addressing representatives of the two warring factions whose irreconcilable differences has dragged the communities constituting Ugborodo into the realm of instability which climaxed into fratricidal massacre of Sunday, 5th of January, 2014; the very day the Navy moved into the community. It is no longer a secret that the Ugborodo community since 2011 has been enmeshed in protracted crises over leadership/membership of the Ugborodo Governing Board which is an arm of the registered Ugborodo Trust.
From what one can gather from the speech of Dele Ezeoba, and coupled with the theatrical display of being stoned-face, the whole exercise was nothing short of a showmanship (in military style) put in place to smokescreen the conspiratorial execution of barbarism of extreme, utmost and heartless crudity orchestrated by the institutional duo of the government of Delta State, and the Nigerian Navy. In the speech referred to, Ezeoba blamed members of the two factions laying claim to the leadership of the Governing Board of Ugborodo Trust. But he never delved into the inescapable poser on why the said ‘executors’ of the killings had to wait for the very day the Nigerian Navy moved into Ode-Ugborodo community before turning the land into human abattoir, even though the present crises started in 2011.
This present crises started in 2011 when two groups emerged to lay claim to the leadership of the Board. The group led by Chief Thomas Ereyitomi (a chief of the Olu of Warri) who had earlier served between 2008-2011 as chairman had his said election/appointment supervised by the Security Adviser to Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, Retired Rear Admiral KpoKpogiri; while the faction led by Mr David Tonwe ( a former chairman of the Warri South-West Local Government Council Area) was installed by the Ugborodo Council of Elders. It is on record that it was the same Council of Elders that in 2008 installed Chief Ereyitomi Thomas during his first term in office.
For the 2011 struggle for leadership, reports had it that when Chief Ereyitomi’s first term was coming to an end; and having read the unfriendly ‘body language’ of the Council of Elders including a large section of the Ugborodo community arising from alleged non-performance, profligacy and arrogance; and he (Thomas) does not need a crystal ball to tell him that his team will never be returned for a second term, he turned to Governor Uduaghan for assistance; who wasted no time to lunch his current meddling mission in the affairs of Ugborodo community without regard for decency, fairness, morality and particularly the need to attract the requisite dignity and respect for his exalted office. For the Council of Elders, and a large section of the Ugborodo community who are largely gerontocratic in worldview, the involvements of the government of Delta State in strictly Ugborodo affairs constitutes heresy which must be resisted. All attempts by the Ugborodo community elders, and other well-meaning individuals to dissuade Governor Uduaghan from companionship/partnership with those they despised for leadership positions; in favour of espousing rectitude were allegedly rebuffed by the governor. This has in some circles been seen as the result of the alleged Delta State government’s much vaunted desire to impose a pliant leadership on the Ugborodo community; a desire that has assumed the status of a state policy of immutable and inviolable characteristics. In the process of executing the meddlesomeness, the government no doubt recruited the services of the Navy formation in the Warri axis.
The endless under funding of the different arms of the Nigerian military (the Navy in this instant case) has created a situation whereby officers and men of the Navy posted to these areas look up to the Delta state government for assistants of different forms. In this process, many of these officers have unwittingly turned themselves into handmaids to government and its officials; who now use them to pursue personal ambitions (irrespective of their ‘sodonomic’) intent. This also includes the settling of personal scores with perceived enemies. The present crises in Ugborodo amply demonstrate this.
In fairness, crises over leadership in the Ugborodo Trust (during periods of election/appointment into positions) are not new. But what is new is the direct involvement of Delta State Government in strictly community affairs to the extent that officials of Delta state government (as already stated) even went to the ridiculous extent of pretending to conduct election into leadership positions in Ugborodo Trust in contradistinction to the tradition, rules and the legal instrument of the community. Added to such aberration, is the endless wilful brutalization of agents of reasoning and decency in the community as exemplified in the Nigerian Navy being used by the government of Delta State to bundle the traditional head of the community Olaja-Orori Dube Omadeli, and three others in leadership cadre from Ode-Ugborodo to Warri; and were left to languish in prison custody for months until two days ago when they were granted bail by a Federal High Court, Warri. To demonstrate the involvement of the government of Delta State in the Ugborodo crisess particularly to be sure that the ‘captured’ leaders of the community will remain in prison custody in-perpetuity, the government of Delta State deployed its Commissioner for Justice and Attorney-General, Mr. Charles Ajuyah (SAN) to personal lead the legal team to persuade the court not to grant them bail. It was a failed mission, even though after much suffering!
Thus, while the Naval boss as shown in the electronic media was warning the two groups over the protracted crises which culminated into the genocidal act, he however failed to explain how the Sunday January 5th massacre could have been executed when the Navy was surely on ground in Ode-Ugborode which was turned into a slaughter community. Could it be that the Naval officers carried out the killings themselves, or turned their eyes away while (possibly) one of the factions executed the heinous act?. Vice Admiral Ezeoba is morally and officially bound to tell the whole world how such fratricidal crime could be executed in the broad day light, with full compliments of the Navy said to be fully on ground, and even patrolling the waters of the estuary at the material time. It thus behoves the Naval boss to get explanation from his officers on ground especially those stationed in the Chevron and EGTL facilities; and such explanation (assuming Ezeoba will be professional, honest and courageous enough to demand for such explanations) must be made public. It is an open secret that many of these officers including the police in the Warri axis are alleged to be on the pay rolls of some of these local filthy millionaires; and these top security brass daily provide them (these filthy millionaires) with gun wielding uniformed men to protect them, wives and their children, even though they occupy no-known official positions except being friends of top Delta State government officials.
Even though the struggle for occupying the expected strategic and juicy positions of interfacing with the trans-national companies (on behalf of the Ugborodo communities) that will execute the EPZ project has been endlessly canvassed as the cause of the January 5th killings; a said causal factor which the Naval boss sloganized with iron-clad certitude, a specific and equally fundamental factor of the protracted crises has conspiratorially been underplayed, even by the media.
During the first term of Chief Ereyitomi Thomas’ led Ugborodo Governing Board, (2008-2011), a project tagged New Ugborodo Town came on board, and was being ‘executed’ with the ‘strong’ involvement of the Delta State government. During the present crises for leadership, the David Tonwe led faction claimed to have stumbled into documents indicating that the government of Delta State as at 2011 had committed a whopping sum of over Three billion Naira into the project; when what is on ground cannot in pecuniary computations worth just more than few tens of millions of Naira. Since this issue came to the public domain and precipitating lamentation from the people of Ugborodo, the Delta State government has not made any categorical statement. The government’s choice for mute-indifferent to this weighty allegation of financial criminality has no doubt precipitated series of petitions from the Ugborodo Council of Elders, individuals, including the David Tonwe led-faction of Ugborodo Governing Board. Some of these petitions were directed to the office of the Inspector General of Police, and other persons in Nigeria’s political high places. As usual, the Nigerian police is taking its time to conducted its traditional endless investigations. On the part of the Ugborodo community, the battle cry for justice and unearthing of the truth gain daily crescendo. In their lamentation, they stop at nothing to accuse the Chief Ereyitomi Thomas led Ugborodo Governing Board (2008-2011) of conniving with some officials of Delta State Government to swindle their communities, themselves and future generations. In the reasoning of the Ugborodo Elders Council, the cosy relationship between the Chief Ereyitomi faction and the government of Delta State is born-out of the need for mutual assistance to ensure a cover-up. The reason for the arrest and detention of Olaja-Orori,Dube Omadeli by the Nigerian Navy on the order of the Delta State Government has (rightly or wrongly) been traced to his persistent and ‘vociferous’ calls for the arrest, prosecution and punishment of all those involved in the alleged scam.
Thus, while Ezeoba was hectoring and calling for peace, he should not be unmindful of such subterranean factors that consistently exacerbate the crises. He should appeal to his comrade in arm, the Inspector General of Police to speed up investigation on this matter and others from Ugborodo individuals, Council of Elders and both the Thomas and Tonwe led factions.
While the call for peace by the Chief of Naval Staff is most welcomed, ( even though pretending not to know that his officers and men were around when the killing were taking place), he should know that it is not yet uhuru for Ugborodo and its people as any peace achieve at the expense of justice will amount to ‘pyric peace’.