President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appears to have prevented any ex-Niger Delta militant leaders from visiting him in the presidential mansion in Abuja.
LEADERSHIP has learned that requests for courtesy visits to Tinubu in the villa by major militant leaders and ethnic militias from the oil-rich region have recently been denied by the presidency.
According to reports, the decision was made following a June 16 visit to Tinubu by the commander of the defunct Niger Delta Peoples Volunteer Force, Alhaji Mujarhedeen Asari-Dokubo.
Asari-Dokubo, a die-hard and staunchest supporter of Tinubu, backed and supported the president in the run-up to the 2023 presidential election.
It was gathered that Tinubu, in ordering the action, was disturbed by public utterances and actions of Asari-Dokubo in the aftermath of his visit to him days after he assumed the mantle of leadership of the country.
LEADERSHIP learnt that Tinubu was bothered that all “verbal vituperations and militant activities” of Asari-Dokubo in the Niger Delta were subsequently linked to him after the June audience with the notable activist.
As he stepped out of the Villa, Asari-Dokubo, in a chat with the State House reporters, took on the Armed Forces, accusing its personnel of being neck-deep in economic sabotage, especially crude oil theft and vandalism of oil equipment in the region.
The allegation, it was revealed, embarrassed and shocked Tinubu, especially because he made the shocking revelation, moments after departing his office.
Dependable sources in the presidency told this paper that Dokubo’s outbursts against the military within the vicinity of the villa gave the inkling that the president shared the same views with the notable ex-militant commander.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the presidency was ruffled by the attacks on the president by notable Nigerians over the utterances and actions of Asari-Dokubo, especially his effrontery in the reckless public assemblage of gun-wielding youths in his enclave in Rivers State.
The gun-bearing renegades often appeared in viral videos with Asari-Dokubo, assuming commanding roles.
Asari-Dokubo’s unacceptable conduct in the eyes of the presidency moved beyond tolerable level when he took on the Rivers State governor, Siminalayi Fubara, threatening to deal with the chief executive of the oil-rich state.
The presidency was said to be irked that his association with the president continued to give a wrong signal to the public that he enjoyed the support and backing of the nation’s number one citizen.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the president has ordered that he would no longer play host to the ex-militant commanders and militias in the villa apparently to forestall the negative impression and unenviable signal such association was likely to create in the psyche of the public.
To this end, one of our sources in the presidency told this newspaper that all individuals known to be linked with the Niger Delta ethnic crisis and oil industry unrest in the region, who requested for courtesy visits and audience with the president in the aftermath of the Asari-Dokubo’s experience, had their applications declined by the Presidency.
The president was said to have resolved to distance himself from some militant leaders (names withheld) in view of his experience with Asari-Dokubo.
A notable militant from the region, who made a request for an audience with the president last week, lamented to LEADERSHIP that his application was declined by the authorities in the nation’s seat of power.
The militant, who pleaded that his name should not be mentioned in print, said the presidency shunned all entreaties to enable him to meet with the President.
He said top officials of the presidency pointedly informed him that the President was not disposed to meeting with members of his group.
“I planned to lead my group to see Mr. President and we sent in our request as usual for that courtesy call in July. We have been waiting patiently for the approval of our application and likely date for me to lead members of my Niger Delta group for an audience with Mr. President. But surprisingly, I got a telephone call that the proposed visit was declined.
“I exerted desperate pressure but the presidency refused to buckle. When I challenged them on why Asari-Dokubo was allowed to see Mr. President and they are preventing me, they were forced to tell me that the experience of the presidency after the visit of that name that I mentioned (Asari-Dokubo) informed the decision to bar all former militant commanders from further interactive meetings with Mr. President,” the source added.
Similarly, one of our sources in the presidency said, “The president has given a directive that he would not like to meet any Niger Delta warlord or ethnic militia after the horrible experience when he granted an audience to Mujarhedeen Asari-Dokubo. You know the man Asari is a strong supporter and adherent of Mr. President. But the management of the fallout of his visit to the Villa was a nightmare to the Presidency.
“You can recall that he came out of the president’s office to lampoon the Armed Forces, accusing its personnel of being the arrow heads of illegal bunkering in the Niger Delta. He has been seen arrogantly going about with many gun-wielding youths, boasting about the prowess of his private army to deal with constituted authorities, including the military and a sitting governor, precisely Rivers State Governor, Mr. Fubara.
“Many Nigerians, who believed that his actions enjoyed the backing and support of Mr. President because of his closeness to him, have been pouring insults on Mr. President. It’s highly embarrassing and the Presidency decided that this mess has to stop. So, Mr. President will no longer allow these notable warlords, Asari- Dokubo would not be allowed into the Villa again to see him.
Meanwhile, the special adviser on media and publicity to the president, Ajuri Ngelale, has said he is not aware of the issue, let alone, the president’s directive on the matter.
“I have not heard any of such speculation going around within the State House. While we appreciate the desire for intriguing reportage, I think we should avoid speculative assumptions that have no verifiable basis in fact.”messages sent to his phone to elicit his reaction to the report.,” Ngelale.