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Buhari's Dialogue With Militants And MEND's Curious Turnaround on Avengers?

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Now that President Mohammadu Buhari's focus on the Niger Delta question has been “sharpened,” the need to help him see clearer the genuine issues at the core of the protest by the oil devastated communities cannot be over emphasised.

When The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) released conditions for the inclusion of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) in its negotiating team for the proposed dialogue with Federal Government towards the resolution of the latest crisis in the Niger Delta, what actually was going on in their heads?

Is it not curious that MEND suddenly declassified NDA as rogues and miscreants and   change its position on the credibility, integrity, and actual intents of the Avengers who hitherto now were called “criminals and thugs”?

In a statement issued on Thursday July 14 2016, MEND said it took the decision to have the NDA included in its peace effort after observing that the group is willing to embrace dialogue. It added that it has received firm assurances from the Federal Government about its readiness to dialogue with the Aaron Team. This, MEND explained, has created a desire to expand the representational capacity of the Aaron Team 2 to accommodate the (NDA) and this is not without some stringent terms NDA must meet to qualify as a participating group.

“That willingness could be gleaned from an exclusive interview granted by the NDA and published by Vanguard on 11 July. After an in-depth study and thorough analysis of the interview, MEND is glad to note that the NDA have finally, welcomed dialogue on the Niger Delta question as the only credible and sustainable solution to the festering Niger Delta question.

“With this development, it has become more imperative for the entire Niger Delta region to unite and speak with a single voice under a single umbrella in the forthcoming dialogue on the Niger Delta question with the Government of President Muhammadu Buhari. The single umbrella is the MEND Aaron Team 2 Peace Initiative, headed by Mr. Odein Ajumogobia ( SAN),” declared MEND.

How did my people sink into such a low? Now MEND is speaking for the entire Niger Delta and unilaterally forming the team to negotiate the future of the Niger Delta and deciding who participates and who will not. Haba!

Is it not incredible that MEND could name, people like Henry Odein Ajumogobia, (SAN) as Team Leader and King Alfred Papapreye Diette-Spiff, Amayanabo of Twon-Brass as Deputy Team Leader & Representative of the Niger Delta Dialogue and Contact Group (NDDCG)?

The first question to ask is: who or rather what is MEND that it now speaks for the entire region? And how could MEND be dictating a seven-day ultimatum to the NDA – a violent group that does not yet see eye-to-eye with it or is it unfolding now that they may afterall be the same people? Maybe there is something some of us following blindly are not seeing in this whole thing!

Agreed that the NDA must renounce all forms of violence through an unconditional ceasefire, is it MEND's business to use the media to enforce that? This people should actually help us understand them better.

Just hear what MEND has in their minds: “By virtue of the extant provisions of the Presidential Amnesty Proclamation of 2009, all Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) fighters and commanders who agree to ceasefire are automatically entitled to benefit from the Presidential Amnesty Programme after due diligence and documentation by the office of the National Security Adviser and the Presidential Amnesty office headed by Brigadier General Paul Boroh (rtd).”

Interestingly, MEND seems to be sinisterly canvassing for a new set of amnesty-gulping brigade out of the “Avengers.” Since when did MEND change its mind to now believe in the amnesty programme as currently packaged? As far and as well as I know, the group had from day one discredited the amnesty programme describing it as a sham and mere settlement token to appease warlords and criminal gangs. So how come this new canvass? What has changed? Abeg, make all of una go sit down !

This is one of the worst blunders I keep seeing my people make- the use of the word “Amnesty” even now by MEND is not only derogatory but insulting, foolish and outrightly stupid especially when applied by anybody from the Niger Delta. What is amnesty? Are you asking for forgiveness, official general pardon from who and for what? Why in the first instance did arose as a militant group? We need to get this right as it will greatly help us know whether the violence we are witnessing in the oil region is actually agitation/protest for years of neglect and misapplication of funds meant for the development of the region.

MEND also demanded that the NDA must publicly declare full allegiance to the country and recognise Buhari as the country's President and Commander-in- Chief.  This particular condition as listed would enable the NDA the opportunity to nominate one delegate to represent the group and articulate its demands.

In addition, MEND demanded that the NDA must make a public declaration to abide by the outcome of the proposed dialogue between the Federal Government and the Aaron Team 2 Initiative. Should the NDA agree to the terms listed and communicate its agreement within seven days from 15 July, MEND concluded, it will be regarded as a genuine partner in the Niger Delta struggle.

Let's even believe both MEND and NDA are agitators as they claimed, and that they resorted into bombing because of the federal government's inability to negotiate or rather dialogue properly. As both groups now want negotiation/dialogue and the federal government wants it too, does it not occur to MEND that they should in the first instance dialogue or rather negotiate with NDA and all the pockets of so called militant groups scattered from Bakasi through Ibeno to all of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Ondo states.

As the hitherto frontline militant group has now come to accept particularly NDA as a force to be reckoned with, the need to first harmonize positions before anything else including naming the negotiating team and the actual meeting with the federal government can proceed cannot be overemphasised.

Why this MEND's hurry to show-off as the driver of the efforts to restore peace to the troubled Niger Delta?

Whether anybody wants to hear this or not, MEND's now familiar taunting of high level contacts in the Presidency and discussions with some top government officials- whether real or imaginary, will continue to be very counter-productive in engaging the government to seek genuine and sincere solutions to the issues around the Niger Delta agitation. I pray for the peace of my region and country. God bless Nigeria!

(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: [email protected] ; 234-8033043009)

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