A violent end ha marred the 46th birthday lecture of ex-militant leader, Chief Government Ekpemupolo, popularly known as Tompolo.
The lecture which held on Wednesday, April 12, came to an abrupt end, following a clash between factional groups of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).
Various Ijaw interest groups and some of Tompolo’s associates had put the lecture together to celebrate the life of the former militant leader who went into hiding since 2015 and invited eminent personalities, including renowned professor of English Literature, Professor Godini Darah, to discuss peace in the Niger Delta.
The Nation reports that the atmosphere became charged when two leaders of the two factions of the IYC; the Eric Omare camp and the recently inaugurated Peretubo Oweilami camp met at the event. Omare, who arrived at the event, had been seated with some of the executive council members of his camp before the leaders of the other faction arrived.
The atmosphere turned violent when members of the Omare faction, who identified Oweilami and his entourage, tried to prevent him from entering the hall of the in Okuemi Hotels, Warri. The clash escalated into a scuffle and later the use of all manners of weapons, including guns, axes and broken bottles.
The order inside the hall was disrupted when some of the men involved in the fracas gained access and started charging at each other. The riotous atmosphere, which had already scared several guests, was later quelled after about 40 minutes by the law enforcement agents on guard duty.
Although there were no casualties as at the time of filing this report, many of the escaping guests, including journalists and other participants, reported loss of their personal effects like mobile phones.
Reacting to the sad development, factional president of the IYC, Eric Omare, who said he was not sure the disturbance was occasioned by members of the Ijaw youth body, said he would inquire to know what really happened.
“I don’t have details of what transpired minutes ago, but if they (the invaders) happened to be IYC members, I apologise for that, but I need to confirm if indeed they were IYC members.
“If factional IYC members tried coming in to disrupt an event to honour Tompolo, it is condemnable because they ought to know that Tompolo represents peace and they ought to conduct themselves in orderly manner,” he said.
Naij had earlier reported that while delivering his lecture titled “Niger Delta Struggle and The Question of Ethnic Identity”, prior to the disturbance, Professor Darah noted that Tompolo would go down in the history of the Niger Delta struggle as a leading emancipator, who did all he could to get what belongs to his people for them from oppressive powers.
“The Niger Delta is strategic to the development and survival of the world because it hosts very unique features and resources. It’s time for us to embrace and work together as one people. Niger Delta will be like Dubai if the people agreed to work together as one. After nearly 60 years of petitions, conflicts and warfare, there appears to be some channels of opportunities for a peaceful and just resolution of the Niger Delta conflict.
“The emergence of the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) in August, 2016, provided this channel of opportunity. This is the first time in many decades that different organizations and activists from different ethnic groups in the Niger Delta ever came together in a joint platform to prosecute in the cause of the region”, he said.
Also delivering a second lecture, Prof. Harriman, an ardent supporter of Tompolo said, “The fifth columnist is the greatest challenge against the struggle. If you are among those trying to accentuate the oppression of the Niger Delta people by those who steal their wealth, desist from it. Tompolo is not a militant. He does not need amnesty anymore. The people accusing him are the militant against Nigeria’s wheel of progress.”