FORMER Rivers State Governor, Chief Rufus Ada George, has said that the former Minister of Transport, Dr. Abiye Sekibo, was in the habit of clothing cultists in Nigeria Police uniform and sending them to perpetrate brigandage in Okrika and other parts of Rivers State.
He accused Sekibo of being a man with "inordinate ambition to become governor, an unbridled liar, deceitful and dishonest man who armed and encouraged cultists and bush boys to cause massive destruction of lives and property in Okrika."
I make bold to state and restate that Dr. Abiye Samuel Precious Sekibo, the then Secretary to the Rivers State Government, who had the ambition and intended to contest and take over from Dr. Peter Odili as the next governor was undoubtedly, with the connivance of Odili, the planner financier, executor and sustainer of the entire monumental crisis that engulfed Okrika".
George told the commission, weekend, which has adjourned till September, in Port Harcourt, that Okrika was peaceful before the advent of Odili and Sekibo. However, as soon as Sekibo, who very much believes and practises the Governor Odili's doctrine, that government is next to God and can make and unmake, became the secretary to government in June 1999, all hell let loose.
In the two parts, 50-page memorandum, where Sekibo was mentioned 90 times and Ateke Tom 49 times, the former governor said in the build up to the mayhem and destruction in Okrika, "Sekibo fished out the hot heads in the community, sermonised evil into them, lured them with funds.
He acknowledged, praised and rewarded their so-called good jobs, including Ateke Tom and the youths then training in the bush later known as bush boys. He exploited local boy Ateke Tom, procured non-Okrikans to assist him, armed, funded and built him up to a mega national force. He provided security for them including clothing some of them in police uniform.
The former SSG "chastised and tormented groups/persons who refused to play ball with him, factionalised, hunted and tormented even his PDP party members in Okrika who dared caution his excesses. He mounted wicked propaganda against perceived enemies with government controlled radio and electronics media.
Sekibo became of course Odili's most trusted boy to whom all power and authority was delegated to use at will. Cheerfully filed weekly reports over bottles of Cristal Champaign and large golden purses in the Brick House, on how many perceived enemies of the government in Okrika had been retired from this world. He became power drunk; arrogant and even exercised the power of life and death in Okrika through surrogates.
It is apparent that the then SSG, later on Federal Minister of Transportation and would-be governor of Rivers State Dr. Abiye Samuel Precious Sekibo, unfettered by the willful, unlimited delegatged authority by Odili, completely demonised himself with the instrumentality of government.
Most Okrikans, including most of his fellow PDP members who are non-Okrikans in the then Odili's administration and most unbiased citizens of Rivers State know that this is the truth.
I pray Dr. Sekibo should be repentant enough to swallow his pride and arrogance, show some remorse and ask Okrika people to please forgive him. Hopefully, this will be his first step in making things right in the eyes and minds of Okrikans and possibly also with God Almighty.
Who and What was Ateke Tom
Ateke Tom, an obscure local youth, emerged while most of the able bodied youths were out either defending or mounting surveillance in the bush to unsure none infiltration of the enemies of Okrika. I understood that because of Ateke's slight disability, he was to his dismay, considered ineligible and was not picked by his war canoe house to join the youths in the bush. Determined not to be sidelined and possibly to prove his mettle, he decided, unprompted, to organize some other youths in the town to form vigilante groups.
These groups I understood, he claimed were to be mounting surveillance over the town at night, to checjk any infiltration to the town through the waterfronts.
While the youths selected by the chiefs were fed and generally catered for, including generous donations and gifts of cash and arms supplied from Dr. Abiye Sekibo, Ateke's private formations were left in limbo.
This situation must have probably forced Ateke to launch out to what he probably considered as more economically viable aspects of surveillance, before Sekibo picked and idolized him.
Ateke's vigilante groups were then said to be extorting money from people especially women, imposing levies on market women and traders, demanding protection fees, collecting levies before ceremonies could be performed, serving as hired debt collectors, forcefully searching snatching of ladies hand bags, handsets etc. robberies, raping, bunkering and sea piracy.
How on earth could the Okrika PDP members and Dr. Abiye Sekibo, the SSG, describe such actions as 'a good job' 'that should be encouraged'.
If Sekibo felt or considered rap and robbery where the people were helpless under the military as offensive and repressive, how is it that the same Sekibo would now consider Ateke Tom committing the same offences as doing a good job? This is clear evidence of Sekibo's passion for double-speak to suit any occasion.
Ateke's actions were perhaps exactly what Sekibo and his PDP cohorts wanted. To portray the All Peoples Party, APP, controlled council as incapable of maintaining security in the LGA. This is so as to pave the way for a subsequent call for the declaration of a state of emergency. Mr. Tamuno, the APP council chairman, knew their intentions and had to dance along with them.
Funding of Ateke
There is no iota of doubt in my mind that Dr. Abiye Sekibo's encouragement to Ateke was both moral and physical including funding, arms supplies, using his position as SSG, to arrange for non Okrikans to join Ateke in order to boost his group's numerical strength.
I challenge him to produce, apart from his bundle of lies, of allegedly visiting to plead with the youths in the bush and his false report to the brigade commander, any newspaper report quoting him to have publicly condemned the inter-communal crisis at that time. I do not double-speak.
Rejecting Sekibo's Claims
George in his position paper recalled Sekibo's testimony in Abuja when the commission moved there at the instance of former Governor Odili, Sekibo and former Deputy Speaker House of Representatives Chief Chibudum Wunche. In it he drew attention to Sekibo's statement to the effect that ' these armed youths returned to Okrika from the war front and became known as bush boys'
In response, George said "Abiye Sekibo if he is hones, should also remember that on their return, the youths ere initially generally known as 'peace makers and hailed in Okrika.
This was because they undertook to restore peace in Okrika by checking the excesses of Ateke and his vigilante group.
Also, he debunked the allegation by Sekibo that "I (Sekibo) made efforts to get the chiefs to take steps to disarm these youths, but the APP leadership in Okrika had other plans.
The bush boys expelled Ateke Tom and his vigilante group from Okrika and forbade them from returning to Okrika. From that point, the bush boys took on the colorations of the armed wing of APP led by Chief Rufus Ada George'
But in his testimony, George said "this appears to be the rattling of a drowning man. You will recall that Sekibo had earlier said that Ateke and his vigilante groups were pro Ada George and that the APP council chairman had collaborated the reports he got from his PDP members, that Ateke and his vigilante groups were doing good jobs and should be encouraged.
How on earth could the same Ada George or APP send another armed wing of APP to expel another 'good performing pro APP wing?
The truth is that Sekibo located a rather obscure local small operator, the then Ateke Tom, encouraged him, funded him, armed and wore him a national outlook.
The onus is on Sekibo to get his two funded groups Ateke and his vigilante group and the 'returned youths' to work together for his slfish interest.
However, he was unable to achieve that as according to the bush boys, they refused all his entreaties. So, to Abiye Sekibo, they were from that point no longer his boys but Ada George's boys. What a cheap blackmail.
Again, that the bush boys 'expelled Ateke' to use Abiye Sekibo's words did not connote fighting between the two groups.
I understood Atke was asked by the bush boys and other concerned citizens to take an oath to be of good behavious.
He refused, so they asked him to leave the town until he was ready to take the oath. He opted to leave. Why should the bush boys and other concerned citizens ask him to take an oath of good behavious if he was doling a good job as claimed by Sekibo.
"I (Sekibo) made several efforts to meet with Chief Ada George at any place of his choice." Responding, George testified that "never, never; Sekibo has never and I am sure, would not have before now made any efforts directly or indirectly to contact me.
He equally rejected another statement credited to Sekibo when he said in Abuja that "at some point, Alhajio Asari Dokub the then President of the Ijaw Youth Council IYC, came to my residence in Port Harcourt with a Youngman whom he introduced as Ateke Tom. That was my first time meeting with Ateke Tom in person. ... They asked me for my support"
To this he said "Sekibo want jus to believe that that was the first time he had ever met Ateke in life. In fact, that it was Alhaji Asari Dokubo who first introduced Atke to him; the same Ateke from his quarters in Okrika, the same Ateke whom accofrding to him, both his Okrika PDP members and the APP council chairman had paid glowing tributes to for 'doing a good job' Okay: let us believe him. He also confirmed that they, Dokubo and Ateke asked for his support.
In the first place, how could these two gentle men be bold enough to approach a whole SSG for support, if they had not been close and very familiar to him? Listem to Dr. Abiye Sekibo"
What was the nature of the support? Certainly, it mjust have been to assist them morally, financially, security wise and with other logistics to spring a surprise attack - wage war on the unsuspecting bush boys.
The SSG said he declined to give such support, Fine. But did he, as SSG and as a senior member of the State Security Council alert his friends, the police of the impending threat to security in Okrika?"