Travel stories . 16 Feb 2014 . Malarcky

The Adventures of Briggs and Dickson- Reformed Niger Delta Militants

Briggs and Dickson, childhood friends and Niger Delta comrades-in-arms, along with 88 other reformed militants, deplaned at the Cape Town International Airport. They were Batch 1 of the Niger-Delta Amnesty Training program. On the shuttle ride to The Ritz Hotel, Cape Town, which is to be their place of residence for the duration of the training, there is great excitement and happiness in all 90 former militants, none-the-less in Briggs and Dickson.

They had come a long way from being ‘General’ Tompolo’s foot soldiers; hiding in the creeks ambushing foreign oil workers; to marching to Abuja to demand their rights from the Federal Government; to attending the Rehabilitation Camp in Calabar; and, finally, going for the interview at the Grand Montecito Hotel in Rivers State. The road had certainly been long, but now they were here. They had arrived. They were resolved to make use of this hard-won opportunity, and put to shame all those who had called them ‘good-for-nothing-but-the-swamps’. They were intent on making it big time drilling wells in the Oil and Gas industry.

Briggs, the more talkative of the two, turned to Ugboli, spokesperson of the Niger-Delta Amnesty office in South Africa, and asked: ‘Ottono, when we go begin the training’? To which Ugboli replied: ‘Tomorrow; we go start the training tomorrow’. Briggs put his arms around his best friend Dickson and said:’ Bros, you can see that the Government is sincere; we’re not wasting any time. We’re starting the training tomorrow. Wait and see; we shall get ‘there’ ‘- ‘There’ meaning that absolutely happy place: Shangri-La; El-Dorado; Valhalla: Xanadu; Eden; the land flowing with milk and honey. At last they arrived at The Ritz, an old 3-Star hotel close to the sea. Dinner was at the revolving restaurant at the top of the 22-storey hotel. They were all impressed. ‘I hope you’re taking notes, Briggs said to Dickson, ‘With the money we shall get from oil and gas drilling, we’ll be able to build our own revolving restaurant in Yenegoa’.

The day of the training came amid great optimism. The reformed militants were taken to the school-North link College-to begin their training. As they registered for their courses, they found to their dismay, that there was no training for oil and gas drilling! There was: welding and Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Automotive repairs, and boiler-making; but no Oil and Gas drilling.

They grabbed the Amnesty Spokesman: ‘Ugboli! Wetin be dis! There is no Oil and Gas drilling on the course form’!

Ugboli, in conciliatory tones, replied that that was all there was at hand, and that they should kindly choose one from the list, apart from Electrical and Civil Engineering which would take years. The guys replied in unison that they were not going to stand for such fraud! They were going to get in touch with Kingsley Kuku, Special Adviser to the President on Amnesty! No way! They weren’t going to stand for it!

This dragged on for days till it was reported in the South Africa media. Kingsley Kuku hurried from Nigeria to South Africa, along with one of his assistants, Mudiaga, former secretary-general of the Ijaw Youth Council.

On seeing Mudiaga the boys hissed. They all knew Mudiaga, a dropout from the University of Benin. With the dues he received from being secretary-general, he had founded a fake firm; which never did an honest day of Business in its existence. Then he cozied up to Kingsley Kuku, and had through him, diverted sixty million Naira from the funds of the Niger-Delta militants, and now travelled the world posing a an Amnesty Officer. He had bought a brand new car for his Warri girlfriend and was planning a big wedding in June. He bounced in, a big burly guy walking with all the air of self-importance in the world. Kingsley Kuku allowed Mudiaga to speak first.

He addressed them in Ijaw: ‘You guys should please manage the courses. There’s no Oil and Gas drilling course available. Just manage these ones, and we’ll see what we can do when we return to Nigeria’.

‘Shut up Vendor!’ the guys lashed out, ‘they gave you money for our course, you don chop am clean your mouth! Now you’re forcing us to learn Welding, boiler-making and mechanic work! You think we don’t know you stole our money to buy a Dredger to get contracts from NIMASA, and to buy a car for your ‘Waffi’ girlfriend, while your sisters are prostituting themselves in the creeks. Armed robber! Stealing from your own people! By the time we deal with you, even your mother in Bayelsa won’t be able to save you. Kingsley Kuku, if you like involve your-self in this matter’!

Mudiaga recovered quickly from the insults. He hit back with insults of his own. Soon vituperations were flying all over the place. Ugboli and Kingsley Kuku tried to placate tempers. Ugboli appealed to the militants while Kuku took Mudiaga by the arm and dragged him out.

The next day, nothing was heard from either Ugboli or Kuku. Two days after the fighting incident a stern Ugboli came with news from Kuku:’ those willing to manage the courses should resume classes. Those still agitating for the Oil and Gas drilling course should pack their things and return to Nigeria pending when we can get the course they want. 68 of the militants buckled down and decided to give it a rest; but the remaining 22, which included Briggs and Dickson, refused to give up the fight. With a heavy heart and tears in his eyes, Ugboli ordered the 22 inflexibles to the shuttle bus.

Briggs was almost in tears! His dreams for a better life were going up in a smoke! He wasn’t going to allow this to happen. The esteemed commander, ‘General’ Tompolo would hear all about how Mudiaga’s fraud prevented his boys from getting their training. The matter would also be reported to the Ijaw Elders Council for good measure, he thought in satisfaction.

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