Posted by News Express | 20 May 2018 | 1,038 times
The Ogoni people have suffered tremendously in Nigeria. There is no form of oppression, terrorism and torture that the Federal Government has not conceivably committed against the Ogoni. On all indices of dehumanisation, Nigeria would score high when assessed: Ogoniland will be rated one of the high risk places to live on earth.
Sad, the Nigerian government continues to misrepresent the situation in Ogoniland. Just as we saw right from the days of Hon T N Paul Birabi (father of modern Ogoni), and 23 years after Ken SaroWiwa, the injustices continue. Nigeria remains sneaky even in its engagement with pro-government chiefs and elites: shrewdly attempting to use every opportunity to deceive the people into accepting the resumption of oil mining in Ogoniland.
Straddling along the lines of Shell Petroleum and some indigenous firms, notably Robo Michael and Belema Oil, the Federal Government has skewed the interests of the Ogoni people, deceitfully coercing some of those who claim to be Ogoni leaders into thinking that oil exploration – which has consumed the lives of a generation of Ogoni leaders and today kills over 200 persons every week in Ogoni – can be anything good for the Ogoni people within the framework of current Nigerian policies and legislation.
Nigeria’s has gone crazy about the idea that over $100 billion of oil has been lost in the past 25 years of Shell’s exit from Ogoniland. But the country does not consider it necessary to negotiate the people’s interest, seek their consent and consider their future in discussions relating to a business that strongly affect their lives, health and environment. All that Nigeria has been doing in Ogoni had been deceitful and an expression of the unfortunate side of our country’s leadership.
The government must keep in mind that between 1958 and 1993, Ogoni contributed over $81billion to the economy of our country. In the Ogoni Bill of Rights, the Ogoni people have only asked for what is already being enjoyed by other ethnic groups in Nigeria - principally, the political rights to self-determination. We have not asked for too much. We have only asked to function within Nigeria’s democracy as Ogoni people. I strongly doubt and do not expect a resolution of the crisis in Ogoni without the granting of this right, for I am too sure that all Ogonis – big, small, rich, poor, man, woman – recognise this right as God-given; and I am convinced that in a federation like ours, every ethnic group should be equal and treated fairly.
The current discrimination where the resources of the Ogoni people will be shared among Nigeria's unproductive states, while the Ogoni people only die from the effects of revenue generation and nothing comes to them should no longer be acceptable. We must be courageous to save ourselves and our country by putting an end to this shameful discrimination. We must stop leaders who by their conduct in environments like the Ogoni have destroyed the very basis of our federation, thereby jeopardising the future of our country.
The conduct of the government in Ogoniland should be strongly condemned as our country's leaders continue to undermine the future of our teaming population whose life have been made miserable by an unfair system; a system that thrives on discrimination, taking away the natural resources of the people to build cities all over Nigeria and what is left of Ogoni today is death, death from terminal diseases and the toxic environment in which Shell Petroleum have left us.
One of those government manipulations took place last week as Ogoni leaders met in Abuja. The meeting had been at the instance of the Minister of State for Petroleum, Dr Ibe Kachikwu, to discuss a protest letter written by the president of MOSOP, over threats the activities of Robo Michael and Belema Oil posed to his life and those of other activists and members of MOSOP. Kachikwu seemed to have invited all that he could possibly remember from within and outside Ogoniland. Due to poor flight schedule, I could not make it to the meeting,
The meeting turned out not discussing the threats to the life of the president of MOSOP, but a replication of a kind that Ken Saro-Wiwa walked out of in 1993: when a supposed peace-meeting between the Ogoni and our Andoni neighbours turned out to be asking the Ogoni to allow normal economic activities in the land.
At the end of last week’s meeting with Dr Kachikwu, Shell and Robo Michael, both expressed hopes that oil-mining will soon resume in Ogoniland. The principal reason for the meeting – the threat to the life of the MOSOP president posed by the activities of Robo Michael and Belema Oil - was no longer the subject of the meeting. The focus was how oil resumption could be expedited in an environment where even drinkable water cannot be found. Obviously, Ogoni lives mean nothing to them, otherwise they should be ashamed that after subjecting the people to such sub-human standards and denying them everything that can support a decent living, they are returning to further dehumanise them.
Should we, therefore, say the meeting was overtly useless? No! At least, it further revealed the deceitful nature and intents of the Nigerian government and the recklessness with which the government take the future and security of the people. You may recall that in June 2016, the President Muhammadu Buhari, represented by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, had launched an elaborate flag-off programme for the clean-up of polluted Ogoniland. It has taken nearly two years since that noise was made and nothing is yet to be seen. In an emergency, where people are dying by the day, should it take two years to implement a safety and rescue program?
Shortly after the flag-off, the then Environment Minister Amina Mohammed, launched another bogus programme: the ground-breaking for the construction of the Integrated Soil Management Centre as recommended by UNEP. What had been hidden from all of us is that at the time Mrs Amina Mohammed was breaking the ground in Wiiyaakara, near Bori, for the construction of the Integrated Soil Management Centre, the Rivers State Government has not approved the space for the project. Mrs Mohammed only wanted to make the Ogoni people feel something was being done, whereas nothing was actually being done.
I feel it’s all a very crooked process and the real intention of the government and Shell is to tap the Ogoni oil without negotiating Ogoni interest.
Another very laughable episode took place in April when the Vice-President presided over what they called the signing of an agreement for the creation of an escrow account for the Ogoni Trust Fund. Imagine that such a very senior government official is being celebrated for presiding over the creation of an account. Let’s ask ourselves some basic questions: How many escrow accounts does Nigeria have? How many of these accounts had been a media issue? What is so special about an escrow account?
I think the noise was to get the world feel Nigeria is doing something for the Ogoni. But it should also interest the world that not a cent has been approved anywhere to be put into the much celebrated account. What can we call this kind of public relations? I think it is a shame that in our own country, those who should take decisions that affect our lives have so incautiously misrepresented things about our survival. While the Ogoni are dying, Nigeria is celebrating something as trivial as account creation.
The craze for Ogoni oil has exposed our country’s inhuman side. But it can be very difficult when dealing with people who cover their shame and continue in their indecency. Imagine that in our country, Shell and Robo Michael lay claim to one oil block – the Ogoni oil block. To the best of my knowledge, Shell has operated the Ogoni fields and ended up messing up the place with spills and endangering the lives of people. Shell’s licence expires in 2019 and then one Robo Michael throws up a letter and called it an interim approval for the oil-fields. Sounds crazy, isn’t it. That is, one government allegedly making two approvals on one oilfield. Someone is certainly deceitful and, unfortunately, this is typical of Nigeria when it wants to be crooked. That is the situation the Ogoni people face. People are given the opportunity to sponsor attacks against us, just to see how much our resistance can be broken. In December 2017, Robo Michael showed its Nigerian-ness, when it invited soldiers to force its way into our office in Bori. It is, indeed, unfortunate that all these have to happen to us in our own country under the watch and sponsorship of our own government. But we must not let them continue. We must arouse the dead conscience of our government and people. We must let them know that it is not only about our oil, but also about us and our future.
In fighting for our rights, we must continue to uphold the principle of non-violence. Though Federal Government has rewarded and continue to show a strong tendency to reward violence, we must reject every temptation to turn violent. Between 1993 and 1999, over 4,000 Ogoni were killed by Nigerian soldiers who were sponsored by Shell. When called against peaceful and civil protests in Ogoni, security forces have shown extraordinary dexterity to kill. We must not be tempted to confront them with the weapons they cherish most and specialise in.
To Nigeria and its leaders, I will repeat that they must not forget that in just 30 years, Ogoni land contributed over $81 billion worth of oil. That is the resources with which we built our strong country with its mighty military and built big cities all over the country. Ogoni has only asked for basic rights and the repression, discrimination, sponsored division, official deceit and massive deaths which our people are currently confronted with are certainly not the way to go. There has to be a dialogue to resolve all these issues.
To my Ogoni people, I call on you all to stand up for justice. We all have a duty to save the Ogoni from death. Our basic right to self-determination should never be compromised. And to the international community, I urge you to put more pressure on Nigeria to let the Ogoni people enjoy freedom in a democratic Nigeria.
•Fegalo Nsuke, Publicity Secretary of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, wrote from Bori, Ogoniland.
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