By High Chief Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo)
Words cannot express the grief I felt, a few weeks ago, on the news of the loss of Captain Samuel Owonaro on June 16, 2020. Sam Owonaro was a foremost Niger Delta revolutionary and an inspiration to contemporary struggles for the betterment of the region. As a cadre of the Niger Delta Volunteer Service (NDVS), Owonaro in company of Major Isaac Boro and other compatriots initiated a ’12-day revolution’ to rid the region of poverty, diseases, famine, underdevelopment, discrimination, domination by other tribes and exploitation by persons/corporations.
For Owonaro arguments were not necessary. It was enough for him to know that Niger Delta (especially Ijaw) lived under ethnic domination and socio-political deprivation. It was enough for him that there were men like Isaac Boro and Nottingham Dick determined to fight that situation with weapons in hand. It was sufficient for him to know that his compatriots were inspired by genuinely revolutionary and patriotic sentiments. For Owonaro that was more than adequate to revolt against the State/Corporate hegemony. Hence, on February 23, 1966, the Niger Delta Volunteer Service declared the Niger Delta an independent republic and engaged the Nigerian State in gun battle for twelve days. Owonaro and his compatriots were vilified, arrested, detained and sentenced to death but were later commuted to life-imprisonment. While their ordeals lasted Owonaro and others were never deterred or shaken. They showed great courage in the face of naked brutality by the Nigerian state and were prepared to pay the supreme price for the liberation of our people and region. On the eve of the Nigerian civil war they were granted amnesty and fought on the Nigerian side – still for the liberation of the region from the secessionist.
I highly admire the warrior in Owonaro, a man capable of great feats who with a handful of men (59-man army), faced an entire nation’s artillery supported by corporate oligarchies. It is a proof of his love, admiration and commitment to the people and region. It is practically difficult to find in one person all the virtues embodied in Owonaro. I would say Owonaro was a great ertraordinary historical figure who is impossible to equal and practically tough to match. Sam Owpnaro was certainly ahead of his time, hence; men like him are able with their example inspire and awaken the spirit of rebellion against oppression and deprivation in later generations.
The death of Owonaro, is a tremendous blow, it is a great setback to the struggles for the emancipation of the Niger Delta because, without any doubt, it deprives us of the most experienced, invaluable and capable elders for counsel when required. But I take solace in the fact that this unbreakable soldier’s indubitable bravery, extraordinary ideas, unbeatable principles, incorrigible tactics and highly laudable intensions for the Niger Delta would be taken to the next level by generations long after him. His political insight and ability for foresight are two exceptional qualities that have encouraged and never failed us.
I am certain that the Niger Delta you dedicated your entire life and the freedom of Ijaw you yearned to see is just around the corner.
On behalf of the entire Niger Delta youth, men and women, foremost revolutionary torchbearer, Farewell!