Posted by News Express | 23 April 2018 | 1,675 times
At the inception of this administration, I had anticipated some relief for the Ogoni people; not only because the new President had during his campaign pledged to implement the clean-up of Ogoniland, but I had expected that the clean-up will open discussions on crucial issues affecting the people, especially the issue of the political rights to self-determination.
I had hopes that President Muhammadu’s Buhari’s integrity, based on what I had heard about him and his uprightness, will not be compromised and was actually optimistic of a renewed commitment to resolve the Ogoni problem. I was sure that President Buhari understood that in over 30 years of oil exploration in Ogoniland, an estimated $81 billion dollars had been generated from the area, excluding the huge gas potentials of the area, the revenue from the two seaports, two refineries, a petro-chemical complex and two power stations in the area.
I was equally sure that the President new that the Ogoni area from where the revenue that has built his own Katsina State, the Abuja where he lives, and the beautiful places that make us proud of our country, had no water, electricity, roads, and the dominant councils in the Ogoni area only budgeted about $15 million annually, just about what is generated from Ogoni in two days. Revenue from the rest of the remaining 363 days in the year were shared among Nigeria’s 36 states and administered by their governors, as they wish.
The lessons from Ogoni clearly show how much injustice is pervasive in our country. The shame is that rather than address these injustices, our country and our government has attempted to deceive the world about the true situation in Ogoniland.
Today, in my Ogoniland, some villages bury as much as 13 persons in a week. When you relate this to some parts of our country, Imo State for instance, where you do not hear of deaths in one year, except for very old people, you will appreciate the reality of the danger faced by the Ogoni people. Nigeria seemingly does not care about this, but still furiously going after the Ogoni oil.
Our country seem not bothered about its reputation as one expected to provide leadership in the sub-region. As I speak, Nigeria still acts like one who does not use his conscience, contemplating the resumption of oil production in an Ogoniland full of working corpses called humans. Nigeria's primary interest is the Ogoni oil and not the safety and future of the people.
It is unfortunate that despite the outrage of the 1995 hangings and the controversial death of four chiefs in 1994, Nigeria is still not committed to doing the right thing in Ogoniland.
In their usual manner, characterising a fantastically discriminatory society, the government speak of oil resumption and not the freedom from discrimination which Ogoni seek. The government focuses on lobbying chiefs and politicians who are on its payroll, and not the future of the Ogoni people. While the Ogoni people are calling for respect for political rights, which will allow Ogoni function within Nigeria as a distinct ethnic group, which it is, the government canvasses the people to accept its current slave status, where its resources are being used to build cities, and nothing comes back to Ogoniland.
The Ogoni people have become slaves in their own country, a realisation that has prompted what has become known as the “Ogoni Struggle”: led by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). Wittingly, the Ogoni people had presented a shopping list to the Federal Government of Nigeria, noting that the Ogoni people want to control their own affairs.
The government’s response had been brutal, a deliberate neglect of the Ogoni region to force poverty on the people, and hoping to compel the call for oil resumption in the land. That had been the attitude of a Nigeria where human rights mean little or nothing. Unfortunately, the government only shows strength against a peaceful and legitimate demand for fairness, whereas it looks for negotiators to intervene in cases of people who take up arms against the state, such as Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants. While the Nigerian government has appeared helpless in dealing with terrorists whom it has nicknamed herders, the armed forces display unusual dexterity of a strong army each time it is deployed against peaceful and non-violent Ogoni.
If Nigeria could be so skillful in dealing with Boko Haram the same way it has done against civilian protestors in Ogoni, Nigeria would long have overcome its security challenges. It is, indeed, a shame that our country’s strength can only be seen against an oil-producing community, whom it has unfairly exploited to death, and in demanding for social justice has peacefully, non-violently protested this exploitation.
What Nigeria has done to the Ogoni shows that it has become a country that has lost its humanity. If Nigeria will succeed and return to the path of prosperity, it must end the discrimination and unfair exploitation of its own people. Our country must be built on social justice. In this regard, Ogoni must be respected and treated as Nigerians, with equal rights with the rest of Nigeria. The answer lies in the words of Ken Saro-Wiwa: An Ogoni state is not negotiable. An Ogoni state will, indeed, deliver social equality and justice for the Ogoni people, allowing the oil-producing region the right to participate in Nigeria's democracy as Ogoni people and allowing the Ogoni set their own priorities and developmental needs. Nigeria and its government must realise that a distressed child will not stop crying because of a heavy use of the cane; he or she will stop crying when you show love and address his/her demands.
Ogoni will not surrender to an oppressive Nigeria: we will remain defiant, courageously confronting Nigeria’s discriminatory policies, laws and practices, until justice is delivered.
•Nsuke, Publicity Secretary of MOSOP, wrote from Port Harcourt.
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