Okowa's Deputy, Otuaro, Has Enviable Background
In his write-up titled “Okowa's Deputy, Otuaro is a Niger Delta Militant”, published in TheNews magazine edition of 27 April, 2015, Selekere Timipre hoped that he rubbished the towering image of Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, the Delta State Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) deputy governor-elect. Timipre's article, however, only served to illuminate the path to greatness trod by Otuaro, a humble, God-fearing and silent achiever over the years.
Let me address Timipre's misinformation. I should therefore quickly keep the issues in focus so that my readers can discover the lies Timipre ditched out. Timipre noted that the Chief Bello Oboko-led Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC) to which Barr. Kingsley Otuaro was Secretary was responsible for taking 9 expatriates hostage in 2006. He stated that FNDIC was listed as terrorist organization by Terrorism Research Analysis Consortium (TRAC) which prides itself as “one of the world's most comprehensive terrorism research centres”. Holding out Otuaro as having personal nefarious background, he asserted that FNDIC worked alongside the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) which Timipre implies is also a terrorist organization, adding that FNDIC was involved in terrorizing Itsekiri communities.
Let us critically examine Timipre's futile political hatchet job. It is on record that it was MEND, not FNDIC that claimed responsibility for the 9 hostages which heralded MEND's formation in 2006. This action and a series of others eventually led to the military Joint Task Force (JTF) creek war in Warri especially in the Gbaramatu Kingdom axis in 2009 with huge humanitarian crisis. The media exchanges of Bello Oboko/Kingsley Otuaro's FNDIC with MEND shows that FNDIC was diametrically opposed to MEND's activities. The JTF in its engagements with MEND made Gbaramatu Kingdom the theatre of war that was neither bargained for by the Gbaramatu-Ijaw people nor the larger Ijaw nation with which FNDIC collaborated in pursuing resource control, federalism and equal political space through constructive engagement of the Nigerian nation. It is thus ridiculous to say FNDIC worked alongside MEND when as the Bible says “two cannot work together except by agreement”.
It must be conceded that one can belong to two organizations, say Rotary Club and the Red Cross, for instance. Therefore, it is possible that a member of FNDIC may decide to be part of MEND at once or leave FNDIC to be part of MEND. Otuaro, who was Secretary of FNDIC, however never claimed being at any time part of MEND. It would thus be mischievous for Timipre to say that Otuaro was responsible for taking the 9 expatriate hostages.
Following the 9 expatriates hostage saga for which MEND claimed responsibility, the Bello Oboko-led FNDIC with Kingsley Otuaro as Secretary was, for its credibility approached by then President Olusegun Obasanjo to intervene with a view to effecting their release. FNDIC was thus charged with responsibility of acting as negotiators on behalf of the Obasanjo-led Federal Government. President Obasanjo, who spoke to FNDIC President, Chief Bello Oboko in a telephone conversation facilitated by Chief Timi Alaibe, did not see FNDIC, which eventually succeeded in facilitating release of the hostages, as dealing with a terrorist group. The Bello Oboko/Kingsley Otuaro's FNDIC was also engaged by the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Ltd (SPDC) in truly releasing its staff Nelson Ujeyah kidnapped around Letugbene community in Bayelsa State before the volleys of JTF gunfire mistakenly silenced him and 15 FNDIC peacemakers. Shell (SPDC) did not see FNDIC which they dealt with in this noble venture as a terrorist group. Indeed, in a condolence letter to FNDIC president, Hon. Chief (Dr.) Bello Oboko, personally signed by the Managing Director and Country Chair of Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), Basil Omiyi, the company said of FNDIC: “Permit me, also, Hon. Oboko, to use this opportunity to acknowledge the key role of the Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), under your able leadership, in ensuring peace, security and development in Ijaw land. It is our hope that working closely with you, we would be able to resolve our differences for the mutual benefit of both SPDC, and the entire Ijaw nation. Finally, accept….assurance of our deepest regard” (Italics mine). The Delta State Government also relied on the FNDIC structure in its Delta State Waterways Security Committee that was policing the waterways to make it free of pirates. The JTF also did not see FNDIC as a terrorist organization but as local collaborators in routing the Warri waterways of pirates terrorizing Ijaw/Itsekiri riverside communities, for an emergent peace and security to which Otuaro remains committed.
I am confident that it is only for strange political advantage that Timipre could be heard to say that because he was nominated to be their negotiator with the Federal Government, Prof. Wole Soyinka is now a terrorist of MEND's plumage. Would Soyinka have accepted the offer if he thought MEND a terrorist group? It would do the All Progressives Congress (APC) great disservice for Timipre to state, for instance, that because he was named to be their negotiator with the Federal Government, our revered now President-elect, General Mohammadu Buhari is a terrorist of Boko Haram family. Someday, history will be kinder to Barr. Kingsley Otuaro, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, Dan Ekpebide and Hon. Timinimi George who queued behind Chief Bello Oboko Presidency of FNDIC in engagements with the international community and aiding President Obasanjo to declare the Niger Delta a national challenge leading to concession of the Vice President slot to the South-South and ultimately arriving at a South-South President in Gooodluck Jonathan. Senator W. Diffa and Timi Alaibe well remembers the facilitator roles they played in the result-oriented FNDIC engagements with the then Obasanjo-led Federal Government.
The Wole Soyinkas, the Adams Oshiomoles have sometime professed being “intellectual militants” which could only have been Kingsley Otuaro's passion as would be further noted in this piece. Rather than tow this line, Timipre (please read the real person behind the pseudonym) would rather idle away intellectually and ditch out un-researched lies! For evidence of his advocacy of FNDIC as terrorist group, Timipre said TRAC listed it in their online database just as he said FNDIC activities are revealed in United States Defence Services/Wikileaks files. Against background of a world seized by terrorism, it is no surprise that organizations in genuine agitations are often listed as terrorist groups only for such status to be reviewed with resultant delisting. The Ijaw National Congress (INC), the respected umbrella organization of all Ijaws worldwide was once listed and then delisted as a terrorist group. During the pendency of INC's terrorist group status, Timipre, presumably an Ijaw and hence hopefully a believer/advocate of the INC as virtually all Ijaws are, may well have been a terrorist?
It is now time to view TRAC through the lens of Alex P. Schmid, a Visiting Research Fellow of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism (The Hague) and Editor-in-Chief of “Perspectives on Terrorism” as googled on 10/04/15. In his review, Schmid quoted TRAC as admitting in a disclaimer that it (TRAC) “cannot and does not warrant the accuracy of the entries in its data base”! There are over 3500 entries of perceived terrorist organizations! Schmid went on to reveal more about the competence of TRAC's membership that should sadden Timipre but suffice it to say that most of TRAC's entries, according to the Research Fellow, “derive from the US State Department”. For the sake of some of us who love the United State of America's trumpeted values, the US Homeland Security may have to avoid preconceived ideas/opinions and maintain clear ways of painting organizations as terrorist groups. The US Homeland Security (in August 2008) accosted Chief Bello Oboko, the President of FNDIC at Atlanta, USA while honoring an invitation for nonviolence studies by the Rhode Island University. His satisfactory answers to his American Homeland Security Operatives' questions including ones on terrorism “disarmed” them. They shook their heads for want of evidence but went on to jail Oboko for 10hours in Atlanta Maximum Prison without anything incriminating and without trial in court just because as his interviewers noted, they had instructions to jail him. The records/facts relied on by Selekere Timipre are thus not reliable.
FNDIC as a pressure group stood for federalism, resource control and equal political space/true democracy in the Niger Delta/Nigerian federation. It is instructive to be further reminded of the perceptions of FNDIC agitations from the impacted environment aside Shell earlier referred to. A 2003 Report by Human Rights Watch, a respected US-based international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) which investigated FNDIC activities/philosophy, posited: “All those concerned in the Warri crises are Nigerians, and should have equal rights in relation to the government of the State where they lived”. Thus, FNDIC in which Kingsley Otuaro served as Secretary was seen by this US-based NGO, not as a terrorist organization, but as being involved in a worthy cause. John Nwosu, KSJ, Resident Electoral Commissioner, INEC, Delta State 2005, after perusing the thrust of agitations by FNDIC advised “that INEC (headquarters) does not dismiss the protest of the people of Warri South-West as lacking in merit”.
Itsekiri-born Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, who was also former Secretary to the State Government (Delta State) noted in the Vanguard of May 12, 2009 thus: “Uduaghan who called on the Federal Government to adopt what he described as the principle of engagement rather than military option, stressed that the latter was for criminals, adding that the youths were fighting for their rights”.
Rather than terrorize Itsekiri communities which was never a policy of FNDIC, its Secretary, Kingsley Otuaro sprang up to broker peace between the Ijaw and Itsekiri as Chairman of Warri Ijaw Itsekiri Grassroots Peace Front (WIIGPF) which led to the final cessation of raging hostilities, in 2004. Prominent Itsekiri sons like Thomas Ereyitomi, Mathew Itsekure, Hon. Daniel Reyenieju, Member, House of Representatives, Abuja who among others worked with Otuaro to broker the peace see him as a forward looking peace advocate, not terrorist in Timipre's jaundiced vision. When the JTF war in the creeks broke out in 2009, it was Kingsley Otuaro, Chairman of Relief/Rehabilitation Committee that conveyed relief materials to both Ijaw and Itsekiri communities alike. His peaceful disposition made him opt for Peace Studies in his M.Sc. programme at the University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria which he completed at a time when he had no ambition to become Deputy Governor of Delta State.
Otuaro has no nefarious background but an enviable backdrop that endeared him to his Principal, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, the Delta State Governor elect when shopping for his deputy and their pair heralds hope for enduring peace and prosperity in Warri nay Delta State under an Okowa/Otuaro administration. As former Okerenkoko community chairman, Otuaro's leadership qualities had been honed for greater challenges. As Special Assistant to Governor James Ibori on Community Affairs 2005-2007, he was part of the remarkable peace accomplishments in Delta State during the Ibori era. As Commissioner representing Ijaw on the board of the Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), Otuaro's strides bestrode ethnic boundaries. As a deacon of the Christ Embassy Church, his human relations transcends ethnic barriers as he sees the entire human race as one.
As product of Oturaro's efforts in the past, the Ijaw and Itsekiri now live as one with mutual benefits now and in the future. The Ijaws voted for Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan, an Itsekiri who have in turn voted for Barr. Kingsley Otuaro as Deputy Governor, in the last polls. Timipre's effort to fan embers of disunity between the Ijaw and the Itsekiri is therefore a bird that cannot fly!
The Timipres, rather than futile hate campaign should be zealous instead for goodworks (Titus 2:14), maintain same (Titus 3:8) and hold fast what is good (Thess 5:21).
Written by Bulou Kosin