President Muhammadu Buhari’s re-election bid is set to get a boost after former Niger-Delta militant leaders have vowed to endorse the All Progressive Congress (APC) man.
The endorsement is to come at a press conference scheduled to hold in Port Harcourt today, Wednesday. The conference is to be addressed by Victor Ebikabowei, also known as General Boyloaf, a source close to Boyloaf told newsmen.
According to a previewed text of Boyloaf’s address, the tension between the ex-militant leaders, now cooperating under the aegis of Peace Ambassadors of the Niger Delta, and the Buhari government at its inception has been resolved.
It reads: “In spite of the tense beginning and moments we have had with the current administration following his defeat of our brother Goodluck Jonathan, we have formed a new partnership for the Niger Delta and have seen a deep-seated commitment to addressing the issues that we in the region are facing.
“We have to give special credit to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo for painstakingly leading the engagements in the Niger Delta and assuring us of his plans.”
Apart from Boyloaf, other ex-warriors believed to be at the vanguard of the move are Government Ekpemupolo, alias Tompolo, wanted by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission over allegations of money laundering; Ateke Tom, now a traditional ruler; Bibrope Ajube, also known as General Shoot-at-Sight; and Farah Dagogo, who is the Peoples Democratic Party candidate for the Bonny/Degema federal constituency election.
“In the Niger Delta, these are people who matter,” said our source, playing down the influence of Edwin Clark, respected Niger Delta leader who is supporting PDP’s Atiku Abubakar. “Edwin Clark is well respected but he’s old.”
On Mr Dagogo, a PDP member currently in the Rivers State House of Assembly, our source said: “this is not about a political party. It is not about endorsing APC. It is about Buhari.”
The Niger Delta is a region where Mr Abubakar is expected to record a clear win. Apart from being traditionally a “PDP home,” Mr Abubakar’s core campaign vow to restructure the country to allow states have greater responsibilities and control of resources appeals to the region, long drawn in agitations for resource control and more development.
However, the endorsement of Mr Buhari by the ex-warriors who wield some influence in the region may swing some votes across the states in the region to APC.
According to our source, the endorsement would be a part of a “peace workshop” promoted by the ex-militant leaders.
They were high-ranking commanders of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, MEND, and also ran, separately, camps of guerrilla fighters spending years in violent protest of the environmental degradation and socio-economic underdevelopment of the Niger Delta