3 March 2012
By Emma Amaize
Mr. Hendrick Opukeme, one of the youth leaders in the Niger-Delta that started what turned out to be the Niger-Delta struggle from the Warri crisis spoke to Saturday Vanguard on the dreaded Ijaw god of war, Egbesu and how it propelled militants during the suspended struggle.
What is Egbesu and what role did you play in re-awakening its soul?
Egbesu is the ancient war deity entrusted to the Ijaw ethnic nation by the Almighty God to defend ourselves in times of oppression and war.
That is why there is Egbesu in all the 64 Ijaw speaking communities and clans from Arogbo-Appoi in Ondo state to the territories and boundaries of the Ijaws in
Eastern Ibeno in Akwa-Ibom state and in the core south of Federal Republic of Nigeria. A significant number of us played diverse roles in the re-awakening of Egbesu Institution between 1997 to the present day.
This struggle started from Warri axis and subsequently snowballed into the entire Niger Delta region, where Egbesu adherents from the Ijaw speaking states were divinely instigated and directed in the symbolic protests and characterizations that brought Federal attention to the plight of the Ijaw people and our neighbours in the Niger Delta. Not only I, but a generation of people volunteered themselves and confronted headlong the status quo.
The government of the Federal Republic of Nigeria knowing at all material times that the plight of the communities in the Niger Delta are purely economic and political issues declared our indignity a security risk because of the transnational oil corporations.
It was to defend ourselves and posterity that a group of young men, particularly from the Delta axis volunteered to resist the criminal appropriation of our resources. It was in the process of doing this that some of us are styled hoodlums, some militants, and some criminals tried to hijack the scene.
Recently, there was an attack on an AGIP oil facility in Bayelsa state and MEND claimed responsibility for it. Is it true that MEND has resumed hostilities in the Niger Delta?
It is not true that MEND has resumed hostility. The fact of the matter is that there is anxiety and high expectation from a section of the former militants of the
Delta Liberation Force, NDLF fame, who have not been appropriately, captured in the ongoing reintegration and rehabilitation programmes ongoing. Niger
And also, there are elements within and outside the Niger Delta region whose business is the procurement and sale of arms to the willing tools in the
-Delta to continue their nefarious activities. Therefore, what happened was not actually MEND that struck but disgruntled and frustrated former members of the NDLF, operated by the late John Togo, who have not been disarmed. Niger