When Rivers State Governor, Chief
Nyesom Ezenwo Wike declared war
against cultists a couple of days ago, people largely waited to see how that was to be accomplished, but when he clarified his stand on the matter and offered to grant amnesty to repentant ones, tongues began to wag, some even made it a political issue.
Governor Wike said last Thursday that the State would grant amnesty to criminals and cultists who lay down their arms and embrace peace, even as the State works with relevant security agencies to ensure that Rivers State was safe for all. Clearly, declaring war on cultism without the opportunity for repentance would result in too many deaths among the Rivers youth.
While we sympathise with persons who reacted negatively to the amnesty offer because of the failed example at the federal level, the difference in the two needs to be understood in order that this opportunity to stop the wasting of young Rivers lives would succeed.
The Tide understands the feeling of people on the unacceptable path many young persons have taken in Rivers State but it does not remove from the fact that they make up the population of Rivers State. The point must be made that the youth, as distracted as they may be are the greatest assets of the State.
Already, rightly or wrongly, the State has lost hundreds of her young persons through avoidable violent acts. This has created huge vacuum for the State in the future, a reality that may not be visible now. Besides, humanity has accepted the fact, from time, that people do not throw away the child with the bathe water, no matter the degree of filth.
The Federal Government Amnesty did not achieve the desired results because the demand was for resource control which also gratified the yearning of the people of the Niger Delta. So, choosing the vocal ones to appease was more or less a tacit approval of violence. Besides, the conditions and scope of the deal were undefined.
On the other hand, the clashes that test the peace of Rivers State are of a different nature. There is no demand, popular or otherwise. It is a crisis fuelled largely by ill-motivated pleasure. It is either one cult group seeking supremacy or one group wanting to take possession of the financial benefits from an oil firm or one leader wanting to become the paramount ruler.
As a matter of fact, what makes the offer of amnesty for Rivers cultists divine is the fact that most of the young ones that are in cults were helplessly recruited. Some were brutalised and had no one to run to for help. They could not report to the police because of stories of compromise. Others joined to prevent constant harassment by cultists.
Clearly, no one can hold brief for many of the cultists because some actually got into it to feel among, or get the opportunity to get at perceived enemies or to make quick money. Some actually got into the cults without knowing that it would include criminality and killing.
These are the ones that the amnesty will help save for our State. It is possible that many of them have realised their mistakes, but labour under the impression that they have gone too far to return, afraid that such discretion could be injurious to them.
Because of this misadventure, many communities in Rivers State are no-go-areas. Nobody can estimate the number of young Rivers people that have been killed and how many people have had to die in their hands. Blood has become of very little value in the land and this has consequences.
It is easy to call them names and condemn them, if we do not forgive them and try to win them over with love, nothing would be seen standing soon. As a Christian family, the State must emulate our Lord Jesus the Christ whose primary responsibility was to save the lost. Besides, we have all sinned at one point or another and enjoyed forgiveness.
That is why we think that Governor Wike deserves not only our commendation but support in making the young ones believe in this programme and turn around. Rivers State is indeed blessed with a Governor that has the heart of a father and the love and compassion of a true Christian.
However, The Tide thinks that whatever is worth doing is worth doing well. The State must come up with a clear plan on how to protect the ones that would repent. There must be a process of re-orientation and re-integration. But any start-off arrangement for responsible living must only be once.
Finally, more enlightenment should be made to make the general public not to stigmatise or discriminate against them. It is the duty of all to join in this programme of welcoming back home our once lost children, now found.
When Rivers State Governor, Chief