Chief Godspower Gbenekama, has said that regardless of what people think about former Niger Delta militant leader, ‘Tompolo’ Ekpemupolo- he remains a rallying force to the Ijaw people and he’s not a criminal.
In an interview with Niger Delta Voice, in Warri Delta state, the prominent Ijaw leader stated that:
“People can call Tompolo, the Ibe-ebidouwei of Ijaw nation (Someone who wants the good of Ijaw nation) criminal or somebody, who has eaten all the federal government’s money, but at home in Gbaramatu, he is still revered. They (Tompolo and Federal Government) were business partners; they should settle the issue amicably instead of dragging everybody into it.”
Gbenekama, the Chief Mobilizer of Gbaramatu Kingdom, further stated that: “For me Tompolo is more than a Gbaramatu leader. He is a symbol of Ijaw struggle. He has tried his level best to attract development to our area. He is also standing in for federal government as far as vandalisation and crimes in the waterways are concerned. I stand in solidarity with him.
“That is not to say I condone illegality. He has made enemies in the course of fighting for federal government. If you have issues with him, sort them out amicably so that the people in Gbaramatu do not have to suffer. They can look for soft landing for him. That is what we are saying.
“When these business transactions were on, I was no party to it, but I know that this young man made a lot of enemies so that what is happening could as well be the handiwork of those bent on getting their pound of flesh.”
“He (Tompolo) actually frustrated the economic lives of some people who were criminals; I stand in solidarity with him. He has also said he would respect the law under a due process. It is for the federal government to keep faith and make him believe there is no hidden agenda in this whole saga. Because what we find these days is somebody arrested for one thing, tomorrow, 1001 extraneous things come up and you are not given the right freedom.”
Gbenekama, who called on the Olu of Warri to step into the matter, also said that: “The Tompolo that is now a bad boy in the eyes of the Federal Government helped the Delta Waterways Security Committee to succeed.
“People that he could listen to and people that could listen to him were in that committee. Are we not aware of the fact that even when Ayiri was the committee chair, Tompolo was going about burning and destroying illegal refineries, boats, chasing illegal bunkering syndicates and all that?
“Besides, any perceived success recorded by his (Ayiri’s) committee could not have been by his input alone. As far as am concerned, Tompolo has assisted every agency concerned with bringing sanity to the waterways and he is still assisting until tomorrow. It could not have been Ayiri alone.
“All of us worked to ensure peace and security reigns in that axis, I was born and have lived in that area; I have never seen any of these people claiming credit on security in the area come near our kingdom. I only see the aura and power of Tompolo ensuring that people were not stealing, kidnapping or cooking illegal oil arbitrarily.”
While speaking on the controversial topic of Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), the Ijaw chief noted that: “The purported inflammatory news on the Marine University in Gbaramatu, if it is being dreamt in the coven must not be allowed to happen in the real world. Niger Deltans, Ijaw, nay Gbaramatu people say that this government does not have Niger Delta at heart. How do you explain that a school approved to have commenced September, last year, with a temporary site in place, whose permanent site is already under construction, is now removed or relocated to where we do not know?
“I do not know how the Minister for Transport transformed into Minister for Information that now announces such inflammatory news. That school will bring development, education, civilization, employment and empowerment to Gbaramatu, the immediate host, its environs, Delta state and Nigerian at large. We are crying about employment, and this is happening, the university is another way of stopping pipeline vandalism because an idle mind, they say, is the devil’s workshop.”