By Emma Amaize, Editor
WARRI—FROM London where he is vacationing, President Muhammadu Buhari, last week, extended a lifeline to founder of the moribund Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, High Chief Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo.
Tompolo, also the former General Officer Commanding, GOC, MEND, and Ibe-Ebidouwei of Ijaw nation, visited President Buhari few months into his administration in Abuja and assured him of his co-operation, but events later on, especially the bombing of pipelines by militants and hunt for the ex-militant leader over alleged sleaze, not only put a wedge between them, but compelled Tompolo to go into hiding until date.
From hiding, former warlord, who is also the chief priest of Egbesu goddess in his native Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South-West local government area, Delta State, decried, last year, the desecration by Nigerian soldiers of the deity and their disapperance with the golden sword (ark of Egesu goddess) which is the symbol of office of the traditional ruler of the kingdom, kept in his custody as the chief priest in the Egbesu shrine.
Misreading Buhari! Last week, the news was everywhere that President Buhari had ordered the immediate return of the golden sword, seized by soldiers from the 4th Brigade, Benin City, Edo State, May 28, last year, while searching for Tompolo in the heat of oil facility bombing in the area.
However, checks by NDV, weekend, showed that neither the Presidency nor military authorities have contacted the Gbaramatu monarchy on the return of the golden sword, but the people are appreciative and hopeful. But some people strangely claim that the Egbesu goddess prevailed on under the weather Buhari to order a return of the looted symbol of office. The sources insisted that the strangers, who touch the sword normally, come under a curse and the deity, if provoked further, could harm the chief priest under whose custody the sceptre came into danger, Tompolo in this instance.
Roar from hideout : It was, therefore, not surprising that Tompolo yelled from his hideout, last year, about the missing sceptre, but not many understood the reason for the throbbing alarm. In fact, he first screamed on June 11, 17 days after the disappearance and exactly 31 days after, he renewed his apprehension in an open letter to President Buhari.
Traditional ruler of the kingdom
His words: “Today is exactly 31 days after the invasion of the traditional headquarters of Gbaramatu Kingdom, Oporoza town by your military, led by Brig. General Faruk Yahaya of the 4th Brigade, Benin City in search of me. They came on the allegation that I am the one behind the bombing and destruction of crude oil facilities in the Niger Delta region, and the incident happened in my absence.”
“But, I was informed that the army was on the loose and committed so much abomination in the community. Imagine, the traditional ruler of the kingdom was literally placed on house arrest for one week. “As I said in my previous publications, the military made away with the symbol of authority of the Gbaramatu people from the Egbesu Shrine, which I am the Chief Priest. They also made away with other valuables worth several millions of naira from the community,” he said.
Tompolo, who disclosed that the King’s golden crown was earlier stolen in 2009 during a military raid on the kingdom, said: “Traditional worship centres were desecrated, property were looted and above all, the multi-billion naira ultra-modern magnificent palace of the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom was burned down, and his golden crown was stolen by the military.” He appealed: “Mr. President Sir, please kindly direct your army to return the looted items, including the symbol of authority…”
The gods could kill Tompolo… National President of Ijaw Peoples Development Initiative, IPDI, Mr. Austin Ozobo, who captured the deep pains of Tompolo on the golden sword told NDV: “Except it is returned, a time will come when the symbol of authority wants to return home, it will compel the Ijaw nation to go into serious war with her enemies to return home the symbol of authority. Equally, the camp of the enemies will not be at peace; there will be tribulation and grave destruction in the land of the enemy.”
“Another implication is that if Tompolo fails to fight for its return, the gods may decide to kill Tompolo and raise another warrior to fight for her enemy to return the stolen staff of authority back to base.
“Despite the fact that Tompolo is on the run, he knows the implication and that is why he is telling Buhari to compel the military men, who stole the sword to return it. He is trying to avoid a situation where he will be either killed or forced by the gods to lead another war against the government or Ijaw nation being compelled to go into a serious war with the government one day to return the Egbesu staff of authority,” he asserted.
Curse on the enemy:Ozobo stated: “The gods of the land are angry at the unlawful invasion of their privacy. Cursed are the hands that took away the insignia and they are doomed already. The only thing that will annul the curse is for them to return the symbol and present themselves for purification. This is why Tompolo is worried being the current chief priest.”
Motivation to live: Looking at the federal government’s renewed interest in opening the Nigeria Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko, for academic studies, order to release the golden sword, recent release of 10 Niger Delta agitators held for months without trial by security agencies and other peace moves, Tompolo, even in his hideaway, knows that President Buhari has given him another reason to.
With the way things are going, he can be sure that political solution is not ruled out in the case against him, which he insisted all along, was politically masterminded.