Our expectations from Buhari on Amnesty Programme— ex-militant leader

He is the President, National Coalition of Ex-Agitators, NCE-A. ‘General’ Israel Akpodoro
was in partnership with the President Goodluck Jonathan-led administration to mop up arms and ammunition from militants in the Niger Delta after the declaration of amnesty by the Federal Government. In this interview,.Akpodoro bares his mind on the reasons behind the adoption by the coalition of Buhari, weeks before the presidential election.
What is your coalition all about?
The National Coalition of the Ex-Agitators, NCE-A, is made up of a group genuine youths of Niger Delta extraction who fought against the age-long neglect by successive governments of Nigeria. Membership of the coalition is strictly defined by the spartan lifestyle respect for constituted authority, solidarity for the region by ex-militant generals.
Are you saying the coalition is mainly   for ‘generals’ who engaged the Federal Government in the agitation for a better Niger Delta region?
Yes. The essence of forming the coalition was for us to form a united and formidable force against those threatening fire and brimstone should General Muhammadu Buhari win the presidential election. We represent a new face in the sustained agitation for a better and greater region and that is why we decided to support General Buhari.
We adopted Buhari because we saw in the general   the zeal, passion and commitment to render selfless service to Nigerian.
How did you ensure his victory in the Niger region?
Although we are all jubilating over the general’s victory today, that is not to undermine the fact that the forces against positive change in our clime stood against us but we were able to plant the gospel of General Buhari in the heart of our people. We engaged in a house-to-house campaign in the face of odds but God, with the victory of Buhari, has crowned our efforts. The law enforcement agencies denied us lawful association, we were forbidden from holding meetings where Buhari was the subject and to campaign for the APC candidate was like talking about contraband goods.
The hatred for Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu and Buhari in that region was so much that, at a point, they (agents of the establishment) started hounding us with all sorts of unfounded allegations such as being a gun runners, kidnappers, armed robbers.
Do you have camps and where are they?
All my ‘generals’ have camps with teaming people under them. Most of them are of the Phass Two and Three of the Amnesty Program but, unfortunately, the outgoing government of Dr Jonathan grossly mismanaged the goodwill inherent in the program.
Allowances weren’t paid ex-militants and, when paid, beneficiaries are shortchanged by those in charge it. Payments of allowances were more regular to ex-militants of Ijaw extraction while others groan in abject poverty and despondency.
Do you think Buhari’s government will better manage the Amnesty Programme?
I have implicit faith in the incoming APC administration of General Buhari  because his management of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) was enough to convince anyone that he has the ability to manage human and material resources.
The Amnesty Program is a brainchild of the late Umar Yar’Adua, an Hausa Fulani, which, of course, poopoohs the argument some people in the region that Buhari was going to withdraw the program when voted to power. We see the political will in the general and his incoming team to deliver.
Were you or any member of your coalition threatened or harassed by those in opposition to you from the region?
On several occasions, we were bullied and, at a point, I was arrested and kept incommunicado for over three weeks in Abuja for no offence. Till now, the police have no charges against me in any court of law.
In the name of APC and Buhari, I was humiliated in a failed attempt by the outgoing president to coerce us into supporting him but we resisted.
What about the threats of war by ex-militants?
Those threats were issued by the few beneficiaries of Jonathan’s administration who wanted the sustenance of status quo but they woefully failed.

Interview By Abel Kolawole for the Vanguard

Our expectations from Buhari on Amnesty Programme— ex-militant leader Our expectations from Buhari on Amnesty Programme— ex-militant leader Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, April 04, 2015 Rating: 5

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