Saturday, January 28, 2012

We’re ready to meet Boko Haram for peace talks —Ex-Militants’ leader

The Nation
28 January 2012

Some call him Pastor. Others call him General. And in some cases, some of his fans put the two titles together as they addressed the former freedom fighter, Reuben Wilson, who held sway in the creeks of the Niger Delta for about three years before he was dragged out by the Federal Government in 2009 when he accepted amnesty and surrendered his arms. Today, Wilson is the chairman of the Leadership Forum for Peace in  the Niger Delta and has used the organisation to reach out to militants who are yet to surrender their arms. 
 In this interview with a group of journalists, Wilson said he was ready to meet the Boko Haram terrorists to convince them to surrender their arms so that peace can be restored in the country. Excerpts:
Is it easy to identify those who are still with arms in the creeks?

Yes, very easy. We know most of them. We talk to most of them on the phone. I have visited two camps when government sent me. I went to a camp in the Ekeremor Local Government Area of Bayelsa State and I went to see General Mammy Water and before I went there, he warned that I should not come to his camp with security men. Of course, that was normal. I led the team to the place with ordinary people, and he appeared with his boys and guns. We told him that it was of no use for him to remain in the creeks, that if he continued that way, he would have nothing to gain. I told him to embrace peace. In November last year, I also visited General Lato who is leading a camp in a creek in Cross River State. I went there with an army captain who  dressed in mufti. I can’t talk about the quantity of guns he came out with, but among them were machine guns. But I was undeterred. I told him to consider coming out of the camp to embrace peace. The good thing was that he was ready to drop his guns, if the Federal Government opened the amnesty doors for him.


What is it that worries you most about this country?
For now, it is the menace of Boko Haram, the spate of bomb blasts in the country. I don’t want to talk about the protests that seized the peace of our country. You won’t believe that those guys were paid by certain people. They had coordinators. But that is aside. Boko Haram is becoming a major threat to the peace and security of our country. I have always said if they think they have a case, they should come out and tell the government what their problem is. When we were in the creeks, we were known. The SSS, the police and  government officials were talking to us and we told them our problems. Sometimes the governors would come to the camp to talk to us and we would tell them our problems. In Bayelsa State, the governor even said he would give us some money so that we would not disturb the peace of the land and then we later came out of the creeks. I was among the first group to meet Yar’Adua and when we met him, we told him our grouse and things were sorted out. Now, there is peace in the Niger Delta. If Boko Haram has anything that is disturbing them, let them come out. They should not hide and then continue destroying churches and killing innocent people. 

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