Tompolo and the City of Freedom
By Ekanpou Enewaridideke
Many centuries have lived comfortably and gone by. For centuries there lived the city of Freedom in the city of Freedom. The city of Freedom is yet to be denied the right of habitation in the city of Freedom. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Wishes became horses and beggars began a ride into the city of Freedom. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. road into the city without carrying blood-stained hands as a badge or passport of entrance into the city of Freedom. Respectively, their ride into the city of Freedom was loudly applauded because the ride and the arrival were driven vociferously by a functional philosophy or theory. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. drove into the city of Freedom without deprivation because they had defeated deprivation theoretically and pragmatically to earn the right of admittance.
The truism constantly smiling upon the lips of everyone is that for Gandhi and Martin Luther it was no longer the prayerful wish for beggars to ride. Contrarily, the Nigerian city of Freedom carries different aromasoppressed and echoes because Tompolo is involved as ‘involved’ once involved Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. After all, late Ojukwu was involved in the Biafran days. Is the city of Freedom in India and America different from the city of Freedom in Nigeria?
Tompolo the unshakable believer that “freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressed, sir; it must be demanded by the oppressed (191, Martin Luther King JR) …Tompolo the man who holds the view that ‘noncooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good’ (14), is currently in the city of Freedom, apparently, but with each step taken, freedom keeps unbridgeable distance away from High Chief Ekpemupolo Oweizide Government. For many who have struck alliance with the daily theory that pushes forward a dangerously refracted and distorted image of Tompolo,
he has reached the city of Freedom. Like receding objects cast by a moving speedboat or motor, the city of Freedom still glares at Tompolo with a hawklike agenda despite the questionable claims of the Buhari-led APC Federal Government that Tompolo is now comfortably at peace, gripped by his certified freedom.
The sun knows no failure in her cosmically programmed seasonal dance across the sky. Like that unfailing seasonal dancer in the sky called a sun – always breathtakingly balletic in dance steps – for that famed Tompolo, whose ideological stand is that ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice’ (189, Martin Luther King JR.), had unfailingly fought or confronted the injustices in the Niger Delta region for years using his pragmatic philosophy of non-violence that deploys love for the enemies as the handmaiden of the theory of nonviolence.
Admirably admitted by every lip is the fact that Tompolo fought sacrificially for the Niger Delta region without rabid thoughts of self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment and self-economic progression to conquer the city of material acquisition and wealth and become the Lord or mayor of the Island of material wealth. He was determined never to be ‘bill-gated’ through the emancipation struggle. Like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther, Tompolo strategically massed his people to stand up to the oppressive and exploitative institutions but it was piloted by a clear philosophy that sacrificially denied himself self-enrichment. That he ideologically distanced himself from self-enrichment was the cornerstone for the success of his freedom voyage across Nigeria.
Over his principled stand on development issues in the Niger Delta, and his long-existing Diving Institute sacrificially given to the Nigerian Federal Government at a lowly priced amount for the take-off of the Maritime University, Okerenkoko, stories were afterward created to entrap Tompolo. Manipulated charges of fraud were heaped on him. He was declared wanted by the Buhari-led government of APC and later freed by Justice Ibrahim Buba of Federal High Court, Lagos, who dismissed all the charges on 15 July 2020. Upon the judicial pronouncement that exonerated him from the charges vindictively thrust on him, many hold the view that Tompolo has been magnanimously freed by the APC-led government, but what about the economic strangulations he is subjected to ranging from debts owed him and seized assets, property, and companies? What of Tompolo’s waterfront in Warri long laid siege to by the Nigerian Navy? What about Tompolo’s equipment and property left in his company yard on the waterfront? Is this not freedom without freedom because the oxygen is still obstructed?
Understandably, it would be a blizzard of intellectual and historical excitements to recall that, like Henry David Thoreau who reasons ideologically ‘that evil must be resisted and that no moral man can patiently adjust to injustice’ (14, Martin Luther King Jr), Tompolo’s moral uprightness and depth of mysticism is such it rises to the peak of mountain Everest, and for such man, he is always suffocated by any ‘surging injustice’ in the Niger Delta. For Tompolo who had long gone Gandhian and Martin Lutheran in his resistance struggle, it is high time the APC-led government opened the gate for him to walk freely in every dimension. The freedom supposedly given to Tompolo judicially is no freedom. It sounds like creation to win the heart of Niger Deltans temporarily. It looks like a grand plot to parade the city of Freedom to lure him like a decoy bird, ‘tarpaulin’ him away and activates the unstoppable developmental enslavement of the Niger Delta region – developmental enslavement already seen in broad outlines as foregrounded in the current NDDC theatrics and the grip on NDDC by forces of asphyxiation and deprivation.
Attitudinally, the Federal Government is a threat to the philosophy of non-violence. How can you claim to free a man when his assets, companies, property, and entitlements are still being held by the Federal Government like a prisoner of conscience held incommunicado? How can you claim to free a man when stories are still being imaginatively concocted to portray Tompolo as a non-believer of the philosophy of nonviolence in agitation? Would the Buhari-led APC Government be satisfied if Tompolo made a u-turn to the ideology of violence from his basic Tompolonian philosophy of non-violence in the quest for justice in the Niger Delta? Or has it escaped the reactionary forces anywhere on earth that it is the John F. Kennedy-powered conviction that: ‘Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable?
From Tompolo only patience, tolerance and love have come to the Nigerian Federal Government despite glaring provocative actions from the government as regards his seized assets and unpaid entitlements because he reasons like Mahatma Gandhi that ‘love is a potent instrument for social and collective transformation (24, Martin Luther King, Jr). This is where the Buhari-led government should reciprocally usher Tompolo into the city of Freedom because for now, Tompolo is only at freedom a priori but a posteriori, Tompolo’s said freedom is a charade – the first kind of ‘April-foolism’ never known before.
Even the heavens have opened up for Tompolo. With every sun that appears in the sky, it casts expectant eyes of welcome at Tompolo. Even the birds hover with dignity and fly heavenward in anticipation for him, all waiting by the gate of the city of Freedom to throw up a fanfare for Tompolo’s arrival, but vindictively against Tompolo, the Buhari-led government has rolled a mighty boulder against the gate of the city of Freedom as a barricade against Tompolo’s entrance. This is the right time for Tompolo to live comfortably in the city of Freedom where Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King JR., Nelson Mandela, and others had once lived and lived forever.
Rituals exist in every space – religious or traditional – because they are indicators of readiness to engage in any task at hand. Tompolo had long consummated the ritual to live in the city of Freedom. This charade of freedom without freedom in actuality in the city of Freedom must stop now before the tide tides strangely in reciprocal reprisal and language because Tompolo is an accredited candidate for the city of Freedom, who by now, should be an aborigine in the city of Freedom. The Nigerian city of Freedom gathers moss, mold, stench, without Tompolo the city of Freedom.
The unspoken admission everywhere is that we do not need parrots to parrot the perilous perception that the APC-led government has now unapologetically become ideologically unwilling to effect the desired change that brought it into power. Ideally, the city of Freedom denies no one freedom but denying people their deserved freedom is fast becoming the ideological pastime and identity of this city of Freedom. Must this city have been ‘Nigerianised’ to ‘de-Nigerianate’ Niger Deltans made Nigerians by history and destiny? could this be a hooded plot to de-Nigerianate Tompolo for his development-driven activism and perpetually deny him entrance into the city of Freedom first created by Martin Luther King Junior in his memorable autobiographical journey?
In all my years of debating, I have not seen any accredited co-debater who dances argumentatively against the fact that Tompolo is known globally. That the Tompolo known globally is not yet in the city of Freedom will always provoke questions – that Tompolo only demands that corresponding developmental attention be given to his people in the Niger Delta. Does any devil dwell in the determination of Tompolo to dispel the dampening deadly darkness of developmental displacement and damnation for the appearance of the dawn of development deposited at the doorstep of Niger Deltans? Then why is Tompolo’s flight into the city of Freedom still barricaded?
Enewaridideke, a poet and political activist, wrote from Akparemogbene, Delta State.
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