Like me, many Nigerian journalists were confused when press releases from Cynthia Whyte of the erstwhile JRC started dropping into our inboxes.
I had covered the uprising in the Niger Delta from 2004-2010 with the National Standard newspapers and had in that period immersed myself in the complex and dangerous intrigues in creeks of the Niger Delta.
The Joint Revolutionary Council was the umbrella platform for press releases at a time when the agenda of Niger Delta militants almost derailed with the arrest of Mujaheed Asari Dokubo and the late Ijaw Governor-General Chief Diepriye Alamieyesigha, and the consequent emergence of the Movement of the Emancipation of the Niger Delta.
The JRC emerged unchallenged as it sought to use the already established international media network of Alhaji Mujaheed Dokubo and his media strategists, formed around the pseudonym Cynthia Whyte.
As mysterious as the name was, it became the authoritative unchallenged mouthpiece of militants in the Niger Delta, until the organization of MEND was complete and another pseudonym Jomo Gbomo emerged as spokesperson.
While Cynthia Whyte faded into oblivion with the declaration of Amnesty by the late former president, Alhaji Umaru Musa Yaradua, Jomo Gbomo, did not go away. After several efforts to pressure then president, Goodluck Jonathan, to give into their demands, the group resorted to blackmail.
The major issue, as I gathered months after the Abuja bombing, was that Mr. Henry Okah(now detained in South Africa), one of the founder and financiers of MEND, and his boys had not been ‘settled’ well enough like Mujaheed Dokubo and Tom Polo who met with Yaradua personally.
The arrest of Henry Okah by the South African authorities further infuriated Jomo Gbomo, who is now known within informed Niger Delta circles to be Charles – Henry’s younger brother. Days after the arrest of Henry Okah, Jomo Gbomo became alive again.
The inboxes of reporters covering the region welcomed Jomo’s press releases again. But this time, almost all the dreaded militants had accepted the FG’s amnesty, and Jomo Gbomo had become a mere barking Alsatian.
Fast forward to 2015, and the unpredicted emergence of the Niger Delta Avengers, suspected to be the crack squad of the erstwhile MEND that had earlier accepted amnesty.
The Buhari administration through the Amnesty Office and leaders of the ruling party in Bayelsa and Delta state attempted to infiltrate the ranks of the Avengers but were unsuccessful.
The second option was to reach out to the Avengers. While NDA was willing to negotiate, the group hated that MEND operatives were the key facilitators of the peace process. That process failed.
As frustration grew within the FG and the president began to lose faith in the people he had empowered to ensure the peace in the Niger Delta was restored, the DSS working with the APC leaders in the Niger Delta and some ex-militant leaders loyal to Chief Timipre Sylva resorted to a media campaign to blackmail prominent leaders in the Niger Delta who they felt should help the FG but wasn’t.
It was clear from the onset of this new agenda that Jomo Gbomo would no more be effective, as it had become synonymous with pro-FG and pro-APC messages.
A former militant leader from Bayelsa state, who is now a chieftain of the APC in Bayelsa, reached out to Charles Okah and together decided to resurrect Cynthia Whyte.
So MEND and the Reformed NDA launched a media war against Ijaw leaders. Charles Okah operated the accounts of Jomo Gbomo and Cynthia Whyte at the same from his prison cell with the help and support of the DSS officer Aliyu Mafara, known within security circles as K12.
My futile attempt to reach Chief Asari Dokubo, the leader of the Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, the agitators that configured the highly effective Cynthia Whyte media handle mainly for encrypted online communication with the international press, led me to one of his aides, who said there was no truth in the press releases by CW as they like to code it. “CW is no more…we know it is the DSS and Okah brothers working with Bayelsa APC leaders.”
What is clear from the events of the past few months is that the Federal Government is desperately trying to break the ranks of the Niger Delta Avengers and former militants. This method has not worked well for the government.
The FG’s deliberate strategy of ignoring Ijaw leaders who hold the magic bullet to region’s crises is already taking its toll.
It has become obvious to FG mediators that there will be no peace in the region and the country’s economy will continue to suffer if they deliberately refuse to deal with the issues honestly.
The big trouble for the Buhari administration will be its inability to be flexible –or maybe the sheer inability to eat the humble pie of approaching elders of the region that it has denigrated so badly and called the 5%.
If national interest is anything to go by, then the president knows that there are two people he must talk to – Papa Edwin Clarke and former president Goodluck Jonathan.
Chris Allagoa, is a freelance journalist and blogger based in Warri.