His fans call him pastor. Those who knew him in his days as an agitator for the development of the Niger Delta call him ‘General.’ And there are others who put the two titles together and simply call him ‘General -Pastor.’
But Reuben Clifford Wilson is neither an ordained pastor with a flock to take care of, nor is he a General in the Army. If anything, he may be that shepherd who takes care of a huge army of sheep whose owners he does not even know. He has given some of them scholarship to study at various levels. He feeds and accommodates some hundreds of others. He feels comfortable catering for them. And he can be loyal and committed to his political leaders to a fault.
He started very early in life to show signs of expertise in leadership. As a growing young man in the fishing settlements of Koluama, his native Bayelsa village, he commanded a high level of influence among his peers. While at Oron, Akwa Ibom State for the same fishing business, he led his fellow fisher folks, giving them direction.
After he accepted amnesty and left the creeks with his colleagues, he it was who was chosen to lead the others. That was how he floated the Leadership, Peace and Cultural Development Initiative, the umbrella body for all the first phase of freedom fighters who decided to embrace the amnesty offer of the then federal government.
As a politician, people will always want to follow him. They believed in his leadership prowess and humble disposition. They believe in his giving spirit and candour. Maybe, this was what many APC disciples and believers in the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu presidential project saw when they approached him to lead The Asiwaju Group, the organisation that coordinated the campaigns for Tinubu, in the south south.
Wilson it was, who was able to mobilise thousands of people from the region for Tinubu, before and during the election that produced the former Lagos State governor as president.
In line with his passion for the development of the Niger Delta and the proper management of resources derivable from the region, Wilson has always advocated for a leadership that would deviate from the past; a leadership at the centre, that will see to the welfare of the people of the Niger Delta; a leadership that will not pay deaf ears to issues of strategic development of the region and its people.
As a beneficiary of the federal government’s amnesty programme, and having been able to coordinate the activities of ex-agitators for years, he feels so concerned about the way and manner the programme has been driven in the recent past. And this is the way many others feel.
Perhaps, it is this concern that provoked him to make a public statement recently, urging Tinubu to take steps to ensure that the Presidential Amnesty Programme did not die.
Hear him: “I wish to most humbly use this medium to call on His Excellency, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, to appoint a credible and critical stakeholder in the Niger Delta struggle as Coordinator of the Presidential Amnesty Programme.
“This call is premised on the need to reposition the Presidential Amnesty Programme to actualize its original design and objectives. The programme has derailed in recent years due to the appointment of people who don’t know anything about the programme and its foundational philosophy. The programme has become a platform for the engagement of all sorts of people that were never part of the programme. The original beneficiaries of the programme that are officially captured are abandoned for others that are not part of the programme.
“As the immediate past President of the First Phase Leaders of the Presidential Amnesty Programme and a critical stakeholder in the Niger Delta Struggle, I’m greatly worried by the way the programme is being run in recent years. I was privy to the aims and objectives of the programme as conceptualized by late President Yar’Adua because I was among the first set of Ex-Niger Delta Agitators that met with him. I’m therefore highly concerned because the programme is not being run in accordance with its original design and the true beneficiaries have been abandoned without the necessary rehabilitation , empowerment and re-integration .
“I’m therefore calling on Mr President to ensure that , henceforth, only credible and critical stakeholders in the Niger Delta Struggle are appointed as Coordinators of the Presidential Amnesty Programme. The programme is very important to the sustenance of the existing peace in the Niger Delta and therefore, should never be trivialized. It’s the major reason for the existing peace in the Niger Delta.
“I’m also using this medium to appeal to President Tinubu never to stop the Presidential Amnesty Programme until the entire captured beneficiaries are trained and empowered. Mr President should never listen to people calling for the stopping of the programme without fully actualizing its mandate, for such will cause another round of unrest in the Niger Delta region. Anyone calling for the stoppage of the programme is an enemy of his administration and the country in general. What is needed urgently is the appointment of a credible person that knows the fundamentals of the programme that can effectively run it in accordance with its founding principles and not stopping it without realizing its mandate.
“My call on Mr President not to stop the programme without actualizing its mandate is also strengthened by the fact that I want his administration to succeed in transforming Nigeria without unnecessary distractions .I believe in his capacity to holistically transform Nigeria as a visionary and transformational leader. It is the primary reason I was actively involved in his election as the South-South Coordinator of The Asiwaju Group (TAG) and the Founder of the Pastor Reuben Initiative for Good Leadership and Accountability (PRIFGLA). We massively mobilized the South -South people to vote for him, which also accounted for the remarkable electoral success Mr President recorded in the South -South region.
“It is therefore, on the strength of my burning desire to ensure that your administration enjoys a peaceful era in the Niger Delta region, that I’m making this patriotic appeal to you to appoint a credible and critical stakeholder in the Niger Delta Struggle, that is passionate about the success of your administration and who can create a peaceful atmosphere in the Niger Delta region for the economic prosperity of the country.”
If Tinubu listens to Wilson’s plea, if Tinubu takes the expected action, if Tinubu does what ex-agitators want; if the president acts in line with the general belief that the amnesty programme needs to be out the current life support machine, then there might just be a lasting peace in the region.