Ex-Chief of Defence Staff, who is in the fray over the crisis, General Alexander Ogomudia, told his side of the story.
The king of Uzere, your home town, said you are after him. Why?
There is nothing to hide. The statements he has made are the very reasons the whole community is against him as their king. It is not I. I live in Lagos. His being a king is of no consequence to me. He doesn’t feed me. I don’t have anything that I gain from his being a king. I have done more for him in life than he can ever do for me, but what a king must never do is to lie. To say that I met him because of election is a bogus lie. First, in the last two years, we have not been on talking terms. I don’t go to his palace. So, at what point did I meet him to ask him to vote for somebody? No. The issue is that if he decides to support a non-indigene, which I believe is his right, that is his problem. But if I also support an indigene of my community, have I not got that right? The person I am supporting now is prominent and someone who has worked so well for the community. The person who they rigged into the place now, who he is supporting, is there now for the third time. What has he contributed to the community? Zero.
There is flood in the place now. Does he know there is flood and making law? I don’t blame him. He doesn’t come from that community. So, how will that community be his priority? And the king in that community does not even see this. I think his problem is that he is worried about anybody who is superior to him. I rose to be Chief of Defence Staff without the role of Delta. If my rise to the CDS was to depend on Delta, if I were to depend on the people of Delta or Isoko, you know I would never have been. God knows that. But in spite of that God took me to that appointment and today, I thank God, I live happily.
Can you react to his allegation, Sir?
Now, in case you don’t know, a king who is accusing me of not supporting him has got the governor and came together to make sure they destroy the community. The whole Uzere community is flooded. What you have in Lokoja is what you have in the community now, but instead of coming to the aid of the people, they have brought death, destruction and killings. The police are there now committing all manner of atrocities and there you have the man who still thinks he has the mandate of his people? It is not about Ogomudia. It is the people versus him. But my position is that if you can oppress the people and the people ask for my support, I will support them because I have relatives there. That’s where I was born. I grow up there. I am not a Lagos man. So, for him to say that, doesn’t make sense. He is a drowning person. He was just telling people all manner of stories. The issue is not about election.
What is the issue?
Uzere was the second town where oil was found, after Oloibiri in 1956. In spite of that, there is really nothing we can beat our chest about apart from the few things we have done for ourselves. Water to drink is a problem. When I was young we used water from the wells, but today all those wells are bad because of oil activities and all that degradation of the environment. The people only rely on a few of us that have boreholes in our houses. A few ones the government has built, they don’t work because there is no way to power the pumping machine. We have an executive in the town that is supposed to run the affairs of the community, but the king will not allow that. He wants to run everything all alone and by himself. He doesn’t allow the executive to function. So, what do you find? All those issues are working against him. Shell gave him a contract to supply water. They gave him mobilisation of the whole money. Has he done it? He didn’t do it. These are all the issues the community is raising against him. So, they decided they must have an MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Shell because Shell is the company drilling in Uzere and that MOU will define how Shell will relate with us, what they will be able to provide for us, how they will empower people in our community, the kind of facilities they can provide; that is what the MOU is supposed to define.
Now, the community went to him and told him they want to demonstrate in Shell. I was not there and I couldn’t have been there at my level. In fact, if I know when the people were going to stage that demonstration, I would have stopped it because I told some people later that the town is too divided for them to go for that kind of demonstration. The police would come and begin to arrest people and with this, police will begin to arrest people not on his side. I don’t run the community; he runs it. But the people in their wisdom, the President General and other people decided they must go on a demonstration to the Shell flow station, they went to the flow station, only to find the police who tear-gassed them and in the confusion, forced Shell to close the flow station. All that was well managed by the police, the immediate past DPO in the area but after that the youths were now going back. This king called soldiers. That was the cause. With that, what do you expect? The angry people stormed his palace and attacked it. A panel of enquiry was set up. He made accusation against everybody but in that commission, I don’t think he mentioned my name. He knows I wouldn’t be involved in all those things.
Why is the crisis still festering?
While this problem is on, everybody who cares to speak with him, on how to resolve the crisis, he is not interested. He keeps boasting he will burn the community because they burnt his palace. And I said the house that was burnt belongs to the community; it is not his own. When you are a king and you don’t carry your people along, anything that happens you have to stay with it. So, it is the community that decided the man should be removed as king. That is why he is afraid of his own shadows and accusing everybody. That is his problem. So, I don’t know what part I played in that. I don’t have anything to do with him anymore. I live in Lagos. Somebody I don’t have anything to do with, what is my issue with him? I have moved on with my life.
Why is the town now deserted?
Look at the level of destruction being visited on the community now. Because they have been waiting for an opportunity to kill and deal with the community. The deputy governor came there to inspect flood, after inspecting the flood, he went to visit the man. This is what I was told, I wasn’t there but of course that was what happened. The youths got angry and blocked the road, somebody spoke to the youths and they stopped, removed the barricades. The deputy governor being a professor, I expect, should know the character of the youths. He went ahead and painted the picture that he was thoroughly molested. Honestly, I don’t want to waste my time on this kind of people. They didn’t stone his car. They didn’t do anything to him physically apart from blocking the road. And because of that, the police now came two days later in trucks and started shooting everybody; unleashing destruction on the community, arresting any male they could see and everybody ran into the bush. Now, the place is a ghost town. The police are now guarding the flood. That is what he wants as a king. And on top of that, he is saying I am after him because he didn’t support somebody. When the people went to the flow station, everybody was there, including PDP, DPP, ACN, Labour all of them. So, it has nothing to do with election. It is the problem facing the community that the whole people wanted to solve. It has nothing to do with election. So, if he is giving it political coloration, that is his own headache. Even, if I were to be given a political coloration, he is still on the other side of the river. Because, as a king if you say it is an outsider you will vote for, it means you don’t want the progress of your own people. And if that is your position, how would you now think they will support you? That is a stupid thing.
Are you saying the deputy governor played any role in the crisis?
In any case, the deputy governor who has painted the picture of molestation, now knows that in this country, you find students protesting on campuses and the vice chancellor will come out, address them and everybody will go away. Youths in the village confronted with flood and so many problems, you go there to play partisan politics you didn’t have the courage to come down and address them with all the retinue of well armed mobile policemen only for you to go and mobilise all the police in Delta to go and destroy Uzere. Is that how to rule a people? The governor himself (Emmanuel Uduaghan) has been assaulted in Oghara. He didn’t bring down heavens because that is the place of his cousin, Ibori. In Oleh, the local government headquarters, they stoned the governor’s car. Did he arrest people? So what is the deal in a deputy governor visiting a community and then they blocked him and based on that, they must kill and destroy the community. As a father, can you say your children will not be rude to you one day?