By Odimegwu Onwumere
“We, the Ogoni people, do not want another military installation on our soil. Widespread mayhem, massacre, and scenes of carnage were all too common in Ogoniland. Our iconic leaders, including Ken Saro Wiwa, were judicially lynched by the State.”
That was the theme of a letter made public on February 19, 2010, sent to Governor Chibuike Amaechi of Rivers State then, and signed by Chief Stephen Kpea, Chairman, Movement for Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, USA Central Working Council; DumBari Tsaro Deezua, Secretary, MOSOP USA Central Working Council.
From local communities to youth organizations, student bodies, community leaders and women associations in Ogoni, Rivers State, there have been the expressions of ferocious anger in their look over the incessant killings and destructions of property in Ogoni-land that had today spanned close to three decades.
In some quarters, it’s said that it’s against this influence that Amaechi proposed relocating a military cantonment to Ogoni-land with the view that the spate of violence in the area could be brought to a barest minimum.
However, while many Ogoni sons and daughters vehemently rejected the proposal, there was suspicion that some of them at the corridors of power then, supported the administration of Amaechi with its proposal.
Apart from that, peace movements have been made to bring succour to the troubled Ogoni and they jammed the bricks-wall. After 6 years that Amaechi made the proposal to install a military base in Ogoni and the subsequent actions taken, the problems with and in Ogoni, persist.
Military takes over violence
The cry in Ogoni-land of Rivers State is still defeating the ears. It is no longer about the rejection or acceptance of the proposal made by Amaechi to install a military cantonment in Ogoni, but that the military men and women have taken to rascality in the area.
The traditional ruler of Mene Bua-Yeghe community in Ogoni-land, Chief Barinaada Gbaranee Ogoni was yet to recover from the shock he experienced in the military occupation of killings and destruction that started on February 22 2016, but escalated on February 25, in Ogoni-land.
By then, over 12 persons have lost their lives. Justifying the invasion of Ogoni, the Army, before the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges and Public Petitions and House of Representatives Committee on Army, on March 10 2016, opined that a cult group known as Island in the area buried its security informant in the state alive, hence the invasion.
“While the killings and destructions lasted, the house of a former Niger Delta militant, Mr. Solomon Ndigbara, his cars, buildings were touched, amongst others,” confirmed the traditional ruler.
Economic activities in Ogoni-land
Many Ogoni indigenes and others believed that the economic activities in Ogoni-land, especially in Bori town, were grounded during the menace.
This brings to fore the ruins the people have been passing through since the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) started operations in Ogoni land in 1958.
A people known for farming and fishing, the activities of oil and gas companies in the area have caused more environmental harm than good. For example, since the operations of the SPDC started in Ogoni, over 96 wells have been explored. Against this backdrop, a group known as the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) sprang up in 1990.
The objective of the group was to take a greater control of the natural resources in Ogoni-land which the Federal Government has been manning. There were agendas by the founding fathers of MOSOP with Ken Saro-Wiwa in the forefront to be allowed to take charge over oil and gas resources in Ogoni.
The aim for this was to enable the people develop economically, be autonomous over their affairs. ‘Ogoni Bill of Rights’ contained the MOSOP’s demands in its 1990 review. But instead of the authorities to pay Ogoni people the demand (US$6 billion in royalties from past oil production and US$4 billion for alleged environmental damage, and SPDC was given 30 days to accept or leave Ogoni land) made by MOSOP in November 1992, the SPDC stopped production in Ogoni land and withdrew from the area in 1993 and subsequently, four prominent Ogoni leaders were murdered in May 1994, by a dis-informed mob. Later, in 1995, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were accused of responsibility in the murders. They were tried by military tribunal in 1995, and were later executed upon international outcry against murdering them.
Betrayed hopes as Ledum Mitee takes over MOSOP
There was public sympathy for Barrister Ledum Mitee to take over the leadership of MOSOP having escaped death, as vice president of the MOSOP by 1995, whereas other henchmen that founded MOSOP were killed.
While Mitee served as MOSOP president, as according to Lemix Media, April 8 2010, “The people fear Mitee betrays Ken Saro-Wiwa in the trial that led to Ken’s execution including 8 others. The people feel Mitee’s refusal to seek justice for the nine and his inability to sustain the Ogoni cause is an indication the lawyer has failed the people.
“They are asking questions like what is Mitee doing in order to improve life in Ogoni? Why has he decided to stay on till date? Why has he been dodging the sensitive issues such as the exoneration of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the other 8, creation of Ogoni state, and the recent proposed military relocation to Ogoni by the Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi?”
Many Ogoni sons and daughters are still of the opinion that if Mitee had remained focused in line with the agendas of Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni-land would probably not have incessantly been in the news as a theatre of the absurd in the inglorious occupation of official killing of the indigenes. The question still persists why Mitee did not include the issue of military relocation to Ogoniland in his “January” Fourth (Ogoni Day speech).
During his over 14yrs reign as MOSOP president, as according to a source, “This act, the people believe, runs contrary to MOSOP constitution, MOSOP philosophy, and principles. As it was later learned, during his over 14-years of ruler ship, Ledum Mitee actually altered MOSOP constitution to the benefit of his personal will. The people see this act, as an aberration from the original will – The people’s Will.
“At this time, there are clear indications that Mitee has not acted right and probably he might have betrayed Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni cause. His mindset about the struggle and his whole demeanor to it tell me something. I cannot believe Mitee didn’t say anything about military relocation in his Ogoni Day speech. My farm land is among the land earmarked for the proposed project and I think Mitee has not come clean.”
Problems of Ogoni, with Ogoni
During the MOSOP struggle, many Ogoni sons and daughters left the land for safer places, especially to overseas. Many of them are still fighting for the Ogoni-struggle from overseers, while those who could not make it to overseas, are doing so as refugees in the bush and forests, due to weighty presence of the military personnel that have not stopped to patrol in armoured vehicles with sophisticated weapons in Ogoni.
Cultism is also on the rise and many have been fingering some politicians as the cause of the bleeding blood the Ogoni experience no matter the remedies that had been put in place to arrest the situation. Recently, a traditional ruler in the area while making an appeal to senators, said, “The continued exposure of vulnerable men, women and children, certainly is beginning to cause hunger, sicknesses and diseases, the resultant effect is sudden death.”
From all walks of life, reports abound that the Ogoni elites have not really stood up with an unbiased socio-eco-pol voice to seeing the end of the despoils that have visited Ogoni, for example, on the issue of UNEP recommendations to clean up Ogoni, which has been the epicentre of the struggles in the area.
A national paper in its 14 February 2016 edition, wrote, “While many in the environmentally battered Ogoni communities anxiously await the commencement of the cleanup of their polluted land, the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amini Ibrahim, recently blamed lingering internal issues among the Ogoni elites for the seeming procrastination in actualizing President Muhammadu Buhari’s directive for the fast-tracking of the exercise.”
Continuing, the paper added, “Last December, two factional presidents of MOSOP emerged, namely; Mr. Legborsi Saro Pyagbara and Mr. Mike Lube-Nwidobie. The two factions subsequently submitted different list of nominees to the Federal Government to be appointed into a board that will oversee the implementation of the UNEP report. This untoward development created confusion that also impeded government’s determination to resolve the prolonged remediation.”
Suggestions: Ogoni problems to be resolved by Ogoni people
Playing politics with the lives and property of Ogoni people and in Ogoni-land shall be the preserve of the people to resolve. The problems with and in Ogoni are beyond the views of the political parties – be it the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) or the All Progressives Congress (APC) – that have been trading blame against each other over the recent killings of which the Rivers State Governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike has been in the forefront of the blame game.
A source reported, “Rivers State Governor, Mr. Nyesom Wike, has blamed Sen. Magnus Abe, and All Progressives Congress (APC) for the recent killings in Ogoni, noting that it was due to the desperation for power that Abe and the APC invited soldiers to raid some communities in Ogoni.
“He said that it was unlawful for soldiers to be unleashed on innocent and unarmed civilians in a situations that could be handled by the police, just as he said that real political leaders don’t need soldiers to move around and canvass for votes among their people.”
Ogoni people should therefore retrospect on a statement made by Ledum Mitee, then MOSOP president to mark Ogoni day on January 4th 2010 at BMGS, Bori, Ogoni, “When on this hallowed ground we and our forebears gathered on the 4th of January 1993, at the very first Ogoni Day, to give a dramatic expression to our struggle against injustice represented by political marginalization, economic strangulation and environmental terrorism, few realized that the tinny ripples of hope we were sending would assume the huge currents of transformation across the Niger delta and beyond.”
Ogoni people should also look into the statement made by Mitee who’s one of the conveners in a committee set up to resolve the leadership crisis that has been with the leadership of MOSOP since December 30 2015.
It said the committee is “directed to meet with all sides, including traditional rulers and other leaders from the area, with a view to resolving the crisis and reposition the Movement appropriately in order to meet its avowed objectives.”
“The meeting appealed to all sides to the present crisis to cooperate with the Resolution Committee and to refrain from actions or public statements capable of undermining the current peace process,” Mitee, who handed over to Pyagbara, also stated.
Conversely, the people should recollect a verse in the letter sent to Amaechi in 2010, “May this appeal to the consciences of our Governor and our politicians be heeded in the interest of peace and development in our great Rivers State. Your Excellency, No military camp in Ogoni. We just cannot let that be!”
Odimegwu Onwumere is a Rivers State based Poet, Writer, Media Consultant and Winner Digital Category, Nordica Media Merit Awards 2016. Tel: +2348057778358. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Odimegwu Onwumere