I HAVE taken out time to research into Mr Allen Onyema’s past and what you will read here should be of interest to every Nigerian. You will decide on the guilt or innocence of Mr Allen Onyema.
In 2007 when Yar’Adua mounted the rock, the Niger Delta was no man’s land, it was a region devouring itself. The Niger Delta was a warring nation and Nigeria the occupying force sponsored by neo colonial imperialist oil companies, according to the agitators.
Militants who branded themselves freedom fighters had shut down the region, no barge, oil tanker or oil pipeline was off limit. Kidnapping was no longer a menace, it became a nuisance; neighbours were kidnapping one another, making quick easy money. It was a miracle Nigeria was still pumping crude oil.
Before the elections in 2007, production had dipped to 680,000 barrels per day, from 2.2 million barrels, just over 25% of its original output. President Obsanjo, a civilian President, a relic of Nigeria’s military dictatorships wanted peace but hated the word diplomacy. I had this ‘they will see me’ attitude.
But Yar’Adua was different, he was desperate for peace but had no road map. But he had heard of a certain Robinson Crusoe/Rambo type man, a man who was virtually living in the creeks, in no man’s land.
This man was living in the war torn mangrove swamps, a weird nutter who was friends with the soldiers, the militants and the oil companies. He was making a living being the only mediator in the creeks. The militants would only listen to him and no other.
He was the one who convinced the militants and told them Amnesty did not mean Surrender but Development That man’s name was Allen Onyema, a lawyer. He had this crazy idea that PEACE was possible.
It is not clear when Mr Allen Onyema started the Foundation of Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN). But FEHN’s tremendous growth was as result of his unusual patriotism. Barr. Allen Ifechukwu Onyema was a lawyer who had graduated from the law school in 1989. He had a stint at law practice for a few years but was strangely drawn to conflict resolution, he was passionate about Peace.
He is one of the few Africans and perhaps the only Nigerian who has been given the prestigious much coveted Martin Luther King Award.
He facilitated Peace and Reconciliation during the Idiaraba Ethnic violence in Lagos 2003. During the same period he brought Peace between the warring Yorubas and Hausas over the Lagos abattoir.
In 2004, he sponsored a project called Nigeria Forever Project in the 36 states between 2004 and 2005 to promote a broad based Nationalism as against Ethnic Nationalism, it was a huge success.
These early forays on various peace projects prepared him for the Niger Delta bloody imbroglio. He waded in when there was a red line between battle hardened Nigerian soldiers and amulet wearing militants who believed their skins had been transformed to steel by black magic.
Onyema used his own funds to sponsor youths to the nonviolence training and transformational programmes long before the oil companies, federal government and international community began to partner with him and invest in his training programmes.
The impact of success which FEHN had with the transformation of restive youths drew the attention of Shell. Prior to their encounter with FEHN, they had constantly experienced shutdowns of their operations due to the violent activities of restive youths.
These endless disruptions came to an end when FEHN trained and transformed several youths, soon other Oil Companies like Chevron, Afren Oil, etc, joined in the sponsorship of youths to the FEHN training. Onyema’s method had stopped a complete shutdown of the oil industry and the oil companies were happy to pay him for his services.
Onyema’s methods caught the attention of not just the international communities, but President Yar’Adua; Onyema was the nexus of peace and diplomacy the federal government had been looking for. Chief Timi Alaibe with the NDDC, got Barrister Allen Onyema and his organisation – The Foundation for Ethnic Harmony in Nigeria (FEHN), to train and transform over 600 youths of the Niger Delta.
It was the success of this program that finally convinced the Yar’Adua to declare the Presidential Amnesty which was granted to Niger Delta Militants. Mr Allen Onyema’s hard work had finally paid off- he landed the biggest contract in Nigeria – FEHN was given the sole responsibility to rehabilitate, train and transform over 30,000 ex-militants.
He oversaw the disarmament and demobilisation of over 30,000 ex-agitators and he superintended in the skilling and reintegration of these youths into the civil society in an on-going reintegration programme. Thousands of militants were flown abroad for various kinds of training in non-violent Conflict Resolution, Aviation and Deep Sea Welding.
Here was a remark by an article at the time, “A seemingly insurmountable task which posed impossible for several years finally generated positive results at the intervention of FEHN. This incredibly remarkable achievement is one of the most laudable landmarks of FEHN for not only the Niger Delta but also the Nation in its entirety.
The achievement of this feat helped to rebrand the face of the Nigerian Nation before the entire world. FEHN successfully trained the Ex-militant leaders on the Kingian Nonviolence Philosophy. This laudable occurrence could not have come at a better time, as the leaders are not just embracing the Peace culture, but are already training others.
Barrister Allen Onyema, National Chairman of FEHN achieved this feat against all odds, at a time when it seemed impossible. It was so rewarding to see the commitment and enthusiasm which the leaders displayed as they began to chart the noble cause. Among the Ex militant leaders present at the training are Farah Dagogo, Boy loaf, Sele etc”.
When Jonathan took over in 2011, he appointed Kingsley Kuku as SA, Niger Delta and Chairman of the Amnesty Programme in January 2011. He spent billions to stop the violence and fund FEHN. The NSA budget in 2011 for the Amnesty programme was – feeding allowance (N48 billion), operations cost (N20.796 billion), reintegration of transformed Niger Delta ex-militants, 2010 arrears (N4.174 billion) and reintegration of Niger Delta ex-militants (N925 million.
In 2012, Kuku’s Amnesty Programme controlled a N60 billion budget about $350 million USD). President Jonathan was determined to rescue the dwindling oil revenue – he spared no cash and this time FEHN was given the sole responsibility to rescue the nation and save Jonathan’s government from siege in the creeks.
Onyema was successful. He did a job and got well paid for it. People who may wonder why his outfit was the only Social enterprise contracted to oversee the entire multi billion naira programme can take that question up with the former President, it has nothing to do with Mr Allen Onyema. He was a man doing a job and got paid for it.
By January 2012 Allen Onyema had made a tidy pile for himself; he paid tens of thousands of dollars to the Obama campaign support.
In January 2013, he was invited for an Obama victory party and was honoured with an exclusive photo-shoot with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and their wives.
That same year, he laid out plans to invest his fortune and Air Peace was established – a symbol of his years of non-violent Peace projects in Nigeria.