When Edolor Bouepre, 26, came back from the Philippines in February, as one of the beneficiaries of the Student Scholarship Training programme of the Amnesty Implementation Committee, his dream was to start a new life as a responsible indigene of Bayelsa State.
Ironically, that dream was nearly snuffed out of him on Saturday, May 4, by a soldier attached to a presidential aide on Niger Delta Affairs and chairman of the Amnesty Implementation Committee.
It was gathered that the soldier, attached to Kingsley Kuku, in an attempt to thwart a perceived attack by some members of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC), shot Boupre in the stomach.
Among those present at the event where the incident occurred were past leaders of the IYC, including Alhaji Asari Dokubo and Chief Negi James. They had gathered to review the IYC constitution and set up an electoral committee to conduct a national delegate election for the body.
The meeting was, however, aborted over an alleged plan by some politicians to smuggle a controversial clause into the constitution of the IYC. The controversial clause, according to the aggrieved members of the group, is aimed at disqualifying anti-Jonathan persons from contesting some vital positions in the National Executive of the IYC, especially as the council is being positioned for the 2015 re-election plan for President Goodluck Jonathan.
According to a member of the IYC, Tony Ebiowe, the meeting became rowdy when politicians, including aides to President Jonathan, were accused of working on a script to exclude some individuals. “It was reported that Kuku bankrolled the meeting and was behind the alleged attempt to smuggle the controversial clause,” he said.
The protest by the youth, however, took a turn for the worse when the entrance of the Ijaw House was barricaded, thereby preventing those at the meeting venue, including Kingsley Kuku, from leaving. Following this development, the soldier reportedly fired a shot to scare away the aggrieved crowd. And the bullet hit one of the protesting youths.
Speaking from his sick bed at the home of the chairman of Basana clan of the IYC, Titus Abule, victim of the shooting, Edolor Bouepre said though he could not identify the soldier that shot him, the incident nearly snuffed life out of him in a matter of few seconds.
He recalled how he rejected the nomination to attend the event as a delegate from the Tarakiri clan of Toruo Rua community; but his friends prevailed on him to use the knowledge acquired in Peace and Conflict Management during his scholarship training to contribute to discussions. He said that after much persuasion, he accepted and attended the meeting, held at the Izon Ware Building, otherwise known as Ijaw House.
“I left the hall when the youth were getting angry and were not listening to the suggestions of IYC past leaders, such as Kingsley Kuku. As I sat outside, I received a call from one of my brothers, saying that he was bringing something for me but that he would not enter the hall. I gently waited for him. But the noise was becoming louder and I saw a large crowd of youths following the presidential aide.
“Unknown to me, the youth were begging him to exercise patience and not leave the venue of the meeting. It was at this point that I saw an armed soldier run outside and struggled with his riffle to shoot up into the air. He could not, or he changed his mind; I don’t know. But a shot was released when he brought the rifle down. I heard a loud sound, and I fell down immediately. When I fell I felt a sharp pain in my stomach.
“In a matter of seconds, the youth moved aside and the presidential aide left in his convoy. I held unto my stomach and felt my body going cold, my hands soaked by my own blood. And I fell down. It was then it dawned on many youths that I had been shot. My brothers rushed me into a van and took me to the Federal Medical Centre, where doctors said that if I had delayed by some minutes I would have died,” Bouepre recounted.
Unfortunately, he could not secure a bed space in the hospital for adequate treatment; hence, he opted to treat himself at home.