Former commander of the defunct Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Victor Ben Ebikabowei, popularly known as ‘Gen. Boyloaf’, says his only regret in the Niger Delta Struggle is the inability of the Ijaw Nation to speak in one voice, just as he called on all Ijaw sons and daughters to rally round the Governor of Bayelsa State, Senator Douye Diri in his drive to unite the Ijaws.
Victor-Ben Ebkikabowei who just bagged a First Class Honours Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at Baze University Abuja recently, said he still believes in one Nigeria as long as the leadership upholds justice, equity and fairness in governance.
“My only regret in the Niger Delta Struggle is the inability of the Ijaw Nation to speak in one voice, being the fourth largest ethnic nationality in Nigeria. If we were united the way I anticipated while in the struggle, we would have developed far beyond where we are now in terms of infrastructural development, human resource development and political influence within the polity.
“I want to encourage my fellow ex-agitators in the struggle and the youths in the Niger Delta in general to always conduct themselves in a manner that will engender peace and harmony among ourselves, so as to achieve the socio-economic development that we are looking for in the region.
“My message to my fellow ex-agitators is that they should conduct themselves in manners that will change the earlier narrative about us so as to change the earlier negative perception people have about the youths of the Niger Delta region to give confidence to would-be investors to invest in our oil rich region without doubt or fear.
“My advice to the politicians in the Niger Delta region is for them to keep to their part of the Struggle. They should ignore personal differences and political differences and focus on those things that unite us as people. They should use every opportunity at their disposal to develop the states in the region and avoid selfless tendencies in governance. They should develop the states in such a way that will change the wrong perception other Nigerians have about us.
“I want to commend the governor of Bayelsa State for his visionary leadership style. He is making spirited efforts to unite all Ijaws, irrespective of political party affiliations and interests. I want to use this medium to call on all Ijaws to rally round the Bayelsa State governor, Senator Douye Diri to encourage him to continue to open up the state to investors. We should encourage him to develop Bayelsa State which is the only homogeneous Ijaw speaking state in Nigeria for now.
“As Ijaws, we don’t have any other state in Nigeria we can call our own outside Bayelsa State. Therefore, we should come together to ensure that we speak in one voice and support the political leadership to achieve our common goal of unity and rapid socio-economic development across the length and breath of Bayelsa State.
“The differences in political parties do not mean difference between brothers and sisters. We should not keep permanent enmity because of party differences or personal interests. The differences in party politics are just to ensure that we choose a leader to develop the state or region and not to divide us as brothers or sisters”, Gen Boyloaf added.
It will be recalled that the name “Gen. Boyloaf” became well known throughout the Niger Delta after he recruited hundreds of men and turned them into well trained soldiers to fight for minority rights in the Niger Delta region. By 2008 Gen. Boyloaf had influence over many soldiers and people throughout the Niger Delta region.
On August 27, 2009, Gen. Boyloaf voluntarily accepted the federal government’s amnesty proposal and was granted State Pardon by the late Nigerian President, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. He also convinced his colleagues in the struggle to drop their arms to accept the federal government’s amnesty proposal.
Soon after leaving MEND, he became a prominent Nigerian politician and became so popular among the people in the Niger Delta region.
By Glory Edoni