By Soni Daniel, Northern Region Editor
For the first time since the flop of the parley, major factors that aborted a planned meeting between the Minister of Sports and Youths Development, Comrade Solomon Dalung, and key Niger Delta militant leaders, emerged last night.
The facilitator of the failed meeting, Jude Tabai and former Special Adviser to Bayelsa Governor on Security, told Saturday Vanguard that the minister messed up the meeting by claiming that he was ‘going to Oporoza to meet with Niger Delta Avengers’, a claim that infuriated the natives of the Ijaw community even before his arrival.
“Niger Delta Avengers do not reside in Oporoza” Tabai, who claims to have deep knowledge of the Niger Delta and all the major actors in the Niger Delta imbroglio, told Saturday Vanguard, adding that the natives of the community felt they were being stigmatized as ‘harbingers’ of evil men.
“What happened was that I took the minister as Oporoza in what was supposed to be a ‘coded visit’ that was to known to only concerned ‘stakeholders’ in the militant camps.
“The journey took us two hours from Warri to Kurutie to Oporoza with a stopover at Okorenkeko, which is the site of the National Maritime University spearheaded by the previous administration and currently one of the sources of the faceoff between the militants and the Federal Government’’
“Unfortunately, we did not even reach the first camp in the vast creeks when some of the leaders who were waiting in their various locations to meet with us started calling me that the meeting had leaked and they were no longer comfortable to meet with us.
“That was why the key actors and community leaders became angry with us and began to make negative remarks against me and the minister, accusing us of trying to impugn them and we could not do much during the trip.
“I also strongly believe that some of the elements, who want to make money from the Federal Government by continuously bombing oil facilities by giving impossible conditions, got wind of our proposed meeting and decided to stir up strife among the major people who would have received us and everything collapsed,” Tabai said.
The former governor’s aide also blamed a top security official attached to the Minister of State for Petroleum, who was to be part of the peace team to Oporoza but opted out of the team on reaching Warri, apparently not to be seen as working with our own team to achieve peace.
According to Tabai, who claims he belongs to neither the Niger Delta Avengers nor MEND, chided the unnamed minister’s aide for feigning ‘stomach ache’ and turning back from the Oporoza journey as they arrived Warri on the instruction of those he called the ‘real enemies’ of peace in the Niger Delta, who have given them false hope that they were in charge of the ‘situation’ in the creeks.
Tabai pointed out that the ‘impostors’ were responsible for coning top government officials into parting with huge sums of money with no result achieved at the end of the day.
The former governor’s aide blamed the acrimony between Chief Ayiri and Michael Johnny on one hand and Government Ekpemopolo alias Tompolo, for the rising crisis in the region, saying that until peace was restored between the two factions, it would be difficult to achieve any meaningful dialogue in the Niger Delta.
According to him, Ayiri and Johnny were opposed to Tompolo because they see the Buhari’s government as their ‘turn’ to also eat from the federal government while regarding Tompolo as a man of the past who had had his fair share of oil money and contracts from the previous government.
Tabai stated that unless those he called ‘fifth columnists’ are cleared from the Niger Delta actors; it would be difficult to make headway in the peace effort to put things right in the Niger Delta.
Lalung has come under severe flaks for making the Niger Delta trip without the authorisation of the presidency, earning a query in the process.
But the minister has not been able to speak on the matter, almost a month after the aborted controversial trip still causing ripples.