It was last Tuesday, August 24, on the eve of my birthday, the angry weather over the Port Harcourt metropolis and its environs wept profusely, and her tear drenched me.
It was a day that Dame Patience Jonathan, President of Nigeria’s First Lady was paying an official visit to her Okrika home town in the State. It was a day that the wide caves that colonize our roads were repaired, to show the first lady and her crew of gun-wielding, stern-looking and over-zealous security officials, politicians and visitors that governance is working in the state. It was a day that the melodrama between first lady Patience Jonathan and Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi was staged. The setting was Okrika. Hon. Tamunokuro Oba (sacked chairman of the Okrika Local Government), one of the actors was edged out of the stage for being too loyal to the First Lady. Hon. James I. Aduko was sworn in as the new chairman of Okrika Local Government Council shortly afterwards. Politics and politicians! The weeping political weather and what is to come in 2011.
In spite of the severe traffic congestion due to the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan’s wife’s visit, I wondered through to the blustering Eleme junction around the evening where I boarded a taxicab to Aba, the uneasy market town in the South eastern Nigeria. From there I joined a decaying bus to Owerri, the capital of Imo state, the eastern heartbeat, my terminus. As our taxicab hastened towards the Aba enclave, chunks of darkness bedew our car, and unanticipatedly, three textual messages came into my low-priced, worn-out cellular phone. One from Oceanic Bank International Plc, the second one came from a contact in Rivers State, while the last was from another contact in Aba.
That of Oceanic bank proclaims, “Experience peace on this your special day. From all of us at Oceanic Bank International Plc, we wish you a happy birthday this year 2010”. The second one from Port Harcourt affirms too, “Today, August 24, 2010, Soboma George, the governor’s boy was killed by gunmen at the governor’s approved school at No. 32 Nembe Street, Port Harcourt, while playing football; several of his men were also killed”. The final one blazons, “E don happen for dis God forsaken Abia state again. For Isisioma area of Aba, the boys robed 4 banks for 6 hours, no body fit stop dem, dem kill 5 policemen, and poor people died too. Investigate na news I don give you”.
I receive regular textual messages from Oceanic bank, not only business related ones, but also charitable messages like the one above. I am just a proletariat, not a moneyed worker, politician or businessman who operate multi-million naira or other currencies account(s) in the bank, yet the bank keep on reminding me of a day I adventured into this wicked planet. Other big banks around would not do this to a poor customer like me. Oceanic bank always wishes me peace on my birth day. Peace is good for every body including those who hate it. The banks in Nigeria are frequently raided and millions of various currencies in various dominations carted away by heavily armed gunmen and women. The banks are always at the receiving end of violence and criminality. Peace is good, but we are far away from peace. A society where gun floods, can not achieve peace. A society where corruption and criminality is celebrated can’t be a peaceful society. A society where we promote criminal politics and politics of intolerance is a violent society. A society built on injustice and inequality is not a good society, rather it is a society designed to be violent. However, thanks to Oceanic bank for her good wishes.
Armed and aimless, this is one of the disentanglements of the proliferations of small arms, armed groups and violent conflicts in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. On Tuesday, August 24, 2010, Soboma George, who should be in his early 30s, was gunned down by suspected gunmen. The late Soboma George was an invention of the putrid and monstrous politicians that have seized Rivers State in vassalage since 1999, when we started this grave expedition to the Fourth Republic. On November 3, 2004, Soboma George, who hailed from Buguma community in the Asari-Toru Local Government Area of the Kalabari clan of the Ijaw nation, then second-in-command to Tom Ateke’s Icelander Confraternity (cult) reportedly allegedly shot dead Minabo Fiberesima. The late Fiberesima was a staunch member of Dokuba-Asari’s Niger Delta People’s Volunteer Force (NDPVF). The killing of the NDPVF Fiberesima happened at an interlude after the Ateke’s Icelander and Asari’s NDPVF blood bath, and at a period of reconciliation between both warring Ijaw militias. Soboma George and Osaroo, who hailed from Imo State and others, were exposed by Ateke as being responsible for the murder of the NDPVF militia.
They were arrested and held at the Port Harcourt prisons. In June, 2005, while Soboma and others were in prisons, Golden Kalio, the third-in-command, (Soboma’s junior officer) in the Ateke’s cult hierarchy had driven in his brand new mercedez E-Class Saloon car, to go to court to testify against Soboma and co, for their roles in the murder of Minabo Fiberesima. Soboma from his prison cell ordered the murder of Kalio. Kalio was shot several times in the chest by Soboma’s boys. He died instantly. It was around this period that Soboma’s Outlaws was also formed as a cult group, patterned after the Ateke’s Icelander. Their communication codes, method of attacks and disposal of weapons, ways of initiation are just the same with that of the Icelander. Whereas, that of the Icelander is same as those of the Supreme Vikings Confraternity (SVC), the tertiary institutions based gang founded at the University of Port Harcourt (known as “Alpha Marine” in SVC’s terminology) in 1984 by an Okrika, Ijaw History student.
Eight days after the slaughtering of Kalio, a hit squad from the Icelander struck, to avenge the death of its commander. Senibo George, Soboma younger brother and a member of the newly formed Outlaws was abducted and butchered by Icelander’s henchmen; his shattered flesh and bones squeezed band parked in a sack bag and dumped at I.B Johnson, a popular street in Port Harcourt. In same late 2005, Osaroo, the slim and diminutive marksman of the Outlaws had helped to form Elegemface, a new notorious cult. I had met and interviewed him few days before his death while working as a special correspondent with a local Port Harcourt newspaper. Osaro, that energetic fellow was arrested by a team of Policeman working for the Odili’s government and executed at the Port Harcourt cemetery. During their operations, the Elegemface posed as a vigilante group, but was a cult group. Scores of them were murdered soon after the death of their founder. Their initial funding allegedly came from Hon. Austin Opara, the ex-Deputy Speaker of the Federal House of Representatives. The Elegemface no longer exist, rather its members fizzled into other existing cult groups like The Deewell, Deebam, Icelander, Outlaws and others and continued the gangsterism.
The malevolent murder of Senibo George sparked another round of reprisal killings in Rivers State, and the struggle for supremacy and territorial control by the cult groups. The doltish butcheries on both sides continued until 2007, and at intervals the Odili government would release money to the warring cult groups to cease hostilities. Odili by his own actions and inactions encouraged his followers to form cults/gang groups and militias, to control their respective areas politically, and to ensure his victory during elections so as to achieve his inordinate political ambition. After each election the groups and their leaders became a liability on our society. Notable opposition figures were either intimidated or killed by their cult coterie. Around late 2004, Dokubo-Asari’s NDPVF was also engrossed in crisis too over money recovered from the sales of his arms surrendered to the state/federal disarmament programme. Farah Ipallibo Dagogo, one of Dokubo’s dreaded commanders had broken away and founded the Niger Delta Strike Force (NDSF), a militia group over this. Farah in late 2005 had undertaken a rescue operation. He broke into the Port Harcourt prisons and freed Soboma and others. The late Soboma George stayed in Owerri, Imo State capital for quite sometime before returning to his Rivers State. George earlier, while in the Icelanders was accused of killing Chief Dr. Marshall Harry, the most vocal opposition politician, who was traced and shot dead in his Abuja house by heavily armed gunmen who wore military boots.
Naagbanton writes from Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital, Nigeria
To be continued