This piece attempts to explore some of the major reasons why President Muhammadu Buhari cancelled his landmark trip to Ogoni land in Rivers State to flag off the Niger Delta clean-up exercise.
There is every indication that there would be wild jubilation in the camp of the Niger Delta Avengers, the group which has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks on oil installations in the country.
First, the dissidents caught global attention for their nefarious acts which pushed oil price to a 2016 all-high of $50. Next was the sustained attacks on oil assets, despite heavy military presence in the region, and now President Muhammadu Buhari has canceled the landmark visit to the oil-rich land of Ogoni.
Though no reason was given for the cancellation, the fact that it was announced hours after the militants threatened to assassinate the president has raised suspicions.
A militant had told one of the hosts of UK-based Radio Biafra that Buhari “should sign his death warrant” before his visit to Ogoni.
“Buhari is trying to visit Ogoniland, but he should sign his death warrant before coming to Port Harcourt or try to visit any state of the Niger Delta community, Biafra land,” the suspected NDA member had reportedly said.
“We are starting a dance he cannot finish. We shall dance like vultures. He [Buhari] has dared to wake a sleeping lion, but I promise him this time around if he tries to step his foot in any community of the Niger Delta, in Biafraland, he will not go back alive. Any Niger Deltan who will try to walk with Buhari shall also go to his grave that day. This is our assurance.”
JONATHAN WAS ALSO FORCED TO CANCEL A VISIT
Goodluck Jonathan 2The last time a sitting president succumbed to the threat was in November 2014 when ex-President Goodluck Jonathan suspended his planned visit to Delta state for the ground breaking ceremony of the $16 billion Export Processing Zone (EPZ) in Ogidigben, a community in Itsekiri land.
The Ijaw had protested the decision to site the project in another community other than theirs. Rumours had it that Government Ekpemupolo, better known as Tompolo, was behind the cancellation of Jonathan’s visit.
The warlord even allegedly ordered his boys to abduct journalists who went to cover the event.
CAN A RAG TAG ARMY THREATEN A WAR VETERAN?
However, until the report of the cancellation was confirmed, many regarded it as a figment of the imagination of rabble rousers. Who dares threaten a president in the mould of Buhari: a veteran, who was promoted to the rank of a four-star general 37 years ago – probably when most of the avengers were still toddlers in diapers? A man who has fought wars and survived coups, Sai baba himself!
BUHARI’S MILITARY BACKGROUND HELPED HIM DURING ELECTION
A strong argument can be made that Buhari rode to power on the account of his military background. This point was marshaled by Bola Tinubu, former Lagos state governor and of the main architects of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
In the buildup to the 2015 election, Tinubu commanded respect at the Moshood Abiola stadium in Abeokuta, Ogun state, while selling the candidacy of Buhari.
Prior to the time, the campaign had been losing steam as result of the familiar tales reeled by the leading figures one of the then opposition party. Many of the things said had become boring. ‘We will kill corruption; we’ll revive the economy and provide security’, but known for his oratorical prowess, Jagaban, as he is popularly called in political circles, brought a different tune.
TINUBU BOASTED ABOUT BUHARI’S STATUS
Holding the microphone on a sunny afternoon, Tinubu said: “When France was in trouble, they turned to their general, Gen Charles De Gaull; when Britain was in trouble, they turned to their general, General Winston Churchill; when America was in trouble, they turned to their general, General George Washington, now Nigeria is in trouble and we have brought General Muhammadu Buhari!”
After a moment of pin-drop silence, apparently to grasp the message, the stadium erupted with chants of ‘Change! Change! Change’
Coincidentally, it was at that venue that the then presidential candidate of the APC unveiled Aisha, his wife, who had led a private life all along.
However, Buhari is now in office, will he use his experience to crush the insurrection in the south-south, just like the way he has been able to push insurgency to the background?
The last minute cancellation is the second from Buhari in two weeks – first was that of Lagos, and this would have been the second visit of the president to the Niger Delta, as against the report in circulation that it is his first. In May last year, Buhari was in Cross River, one of the six states of the region