We recommended a series of actions to facilitate development through the implementation of the Ogoni Development Authority in our development program for Ogoni, which we launched on September 27, 2020. It was a painstakingly crafted document that served as a practical component of the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). That document outlined a clear path to resolving the lingering and ostensibly complicated Ogoni issue. Last Thursday, the Central Committee reaffirmed its earlier position of pushing for the implementation of that document through discussions with relevant authorities on the best way to get this development program for Ogoni off the ground.
This initiative is a significant step forward in realizing Ken Saro-vision Wiwa’s for Ogoni, which he and his predecessors, such as Hon. T.N Paul Birabi, had for the region: that Ogoni’s resources should power development and provide a new horizon and future for the Ogoni people.
In this article, I explain why this new vision needs to be empowered to thrive in the face of a few individuals who have turned the people’s struggle into a tool for self-enrichment. While the Ogoni people jealously guard the struggle in the hopes of reaping its benefits, a few are profiting from it by trading it from one government house to the next and from one oil company to the next. Now is the time to put an end to all of that and support our popular development vision.
We launched a rescue campaign about 31 years ago and charged the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) with leading the fight to end the systemic injustices and inequitable practices that were killing thousands of our people. MOSOP eventually became the most effective machinery in our collective effort to affirm our ethnic identity and assert our rights to operate as a distinct ethnic nationality within Nigeria.
According to available information, Ogoni has the capacity to produce 500,000 barrels of oil per day. At $50 per barrel, this could generate an estimated $25,000,000 per day. The gas resources in Ogoni are unparalleled in Africa. Oil and gas resources in Ogoni far outnumber the revenue generation capacity of 20 Nigerian states combined, allowing the state to run the government and drive development in all parts of the country.
Shell and the government, on the other hand, plunder the Ogoni resources, leaving her lifeless. There are no schools, no electricity, no roads, no water and sewage management systems, no jobs for young people, and no active economy to support the population growth. The government and Shell were only concerned with resource extraction.
MOSOP gave the Ogoni pride and helped us galvanize our positions into a campaign that drew international sympathy. Unfortunately, MOSOP became embroiled in internal conflicts from its inception, which culminated in the Giokoo murders and the subsequent execution of nine others by the Nigerian government on November 10, 1995, including John Kpuinen, Nordu Eawo, Nubari Kiobel, Baribor Bera, Saturday Nuate, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and others. The ensuing state repression resulted in the deaths of an estimated 4,000 people.
The government and Shell had taken advantage of every opportunity to kill and had a number of plans in place. The events of May 21, 1994, and November 10, 1995, forever altered our narrative. The government had divided us and used that division to its advantage. Of course, we can’t expect a movement like this to be free of dissidents, especially one that aimed to end political and economic exploitation.
Accounts of our people’s tribulations abound, and most of those reading this article are likely familiar with them. It is worth noting, however, that the repression was severe, with summary executions, detention in torture chambers, rape, amputations, and other acts of unimaginable brutality.
Approximately 1,000 families were relocated to the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe as a result of external intervention. Others were relocated to South Africa, Ghana, and other parts of the world, while some remained in the neighboring Benin Republic until now out of fear that they would lose everything they had back home if they returned.
The oil-related conflict was exacerbated when a strong push was made to force Shell Nigeria, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell PLC, to resume mining operations in Ogoni. This was met with some opposition, which frequently resulted in military brutality and the deaths of local protestors.
By June 1993, MOSOP had established such a stronghold and control over the Ogoni landscape that, in defiance of the government’s orders, it called off national elections in Ogoni in protest of political and economic marginalization. Shell Nigeria was forced to scale back its operations in Ogoni and remove its workforce in the same year due to protests.
The government and Shell could see that the Ogoni people were fed up with their situation and determined to get a fair share of their oil resources.
The brigandry, which made a daily profit of $25,000,000 from Ogoni oil, was enraged because their plundering had been severely curtailed by Ogoni protestors. The crude therapeutics were designed by Shell, the government, and the military task force (led by Paul Okuntimo) to put down the Ogoni uprising by inciting dissent and inflicting violence on the people. Internal division was, of course, a powerful weapon in a nonviolent struggle to diffuse the strength of peaceful agitators.
Years of Extreme Repression
General Sani Abacha’s ascension did not help matters. Thousands of Ogoni people were killed as a result of Abacha’s massive military operations. Ogoni became a wasteland as a result of the desolation. Hundreds of children and pregnant mothers died as a result of a lack of transportation to a medical facility; many died as a result of snake bites, stray gunshots, and terror. Many people carry the trauma’s memory with them to this day. It is well documented that no single-family in Giokoo was spared the atrocities. Despite the dire situation, Ogonis continued to stand up to the authorities, demanding equity and political justice in resource allocation and ethnic identity.
General Sanni Abacha’s death provided some relief and paved the way for General Abdulsalami Abubakar’s more accommodating regime. The process of restoring civilian rule in the country began, and MOSOP leaders began returning home. MOSOP appeared to have regained its full strength at this point, and its role as the Ogoni people’s mouthpiece was re-established.
Battles with Oil Companies
Shell, on the other hand, was working feverishly to restore full operations in Ogoni. As is customary, this sparked conflict, and local resistance remained formidable in the face of the assassins. The Nigerian government, led by President Yar’Adua, was forced to consider a change in operatorship due to Shell’s inability to fully operate the oilfields.
Various businesses tested the waters, but the usual local resistance remained. At this time, available information indicates that the Ogoni oilfields have been handed over to the Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, NPDC, which is owned by the federal government.
MOSOP vs. MOSOP vs. MOSOP vs. MOS
The Ogoni people launched a campaign in 2014 to elect an Ogoni as governor of Rivers State. This campaign was led by MOSOP and is thought to have been funded by political interests. MOSOP was elected to the Hydro-Carbon Pollution Remediation Project’s Governing Council in 2016. (HYPREP). The corruption at HYPREP did not help matters, and the leadership of MOSOP became very appealing as a result. With pressure from major oil multinationals seeking MOSOP’s approval for the resumption of oil mining operations in Ogoni, the political pressure on MOSOP to control what it does and says became intense.
There were a plethora of mushroom groups all over Ogoni by January 2019. After the elections in December 2018, MOSOP had become embroiled in a new round of conflict.
Several attempts were made to depose the elected leadership. Our credibility as human rights advocate was severely damaged. As we fought internally in desperation to be on the board of HYPREP or have our interests protected in the HYPREP looting spree, our values deteriorated. I warned that a society that does not uphold justice will never be able to experience peace.
The Ogoni Struggle’s Political Economy
Visiting the NNPC Towers in Abuja, government houses, and aligning with oil firms had become the order of the day in the midst of all of this. We lost sight of our goal and turned our struggle into a business. Any attempts to refocus the struggle to benefit the people only fueled the opposition to the leadership.
What Happened to Us After All of This?
Clearly, as it became more of an economic opportunity than a social movement for change, the hope of the locals who have maintained the resistance and kept the predators at bay became some massive economy for others. People were left with no hope for a better and more decent life, a healthy environment, good schools for children, good health facilities, security, or improved infrastructure. Political and oil sector infiltration had dampened our common aspiration, which had motivated us to make any sacrifice.
After 31 years, a visit to Ogoni still leaves you breathless from the stench of poverty and deprivation, and there is little hope for change. The race for leadership had been motivated by financial gain rather than a genuine desire to improve our people’s living conditions.
The Way Forward – It’s Time to Say Goodbye to Oil
Clearly, oil has been a curse, and it has sparked a war of enormous proportions. Our fight to free our people from slavery has become increasingly materialistic. A potentially dangerous dimension is the belief that being president of MOSOP entitles one to preside over the future of Ogoni oil. Everyone in Ogoni now wants to be the president of MOSOP. When it does not arrive, there is no peace. Isn’t that terrifying?
In the current situation, a viable solution is to take advantage of our previously articulated positions and engage properly with relevant government agencies in order to gain benefits and mitigate the severe threats that oil now poses. We have been fortunate in developing positions such as the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) and the Ogoni Development Authority (ODA), which is the OBR’s actionable format. To win a future for the Ogoni people, we need to move forward with these instruments.
There is only one task before us at this time, and that task is to consider and act in the best interests of the Ogoni people. The race for oil has cost us sleep, lives, and values, and it has pitted us against one another. It’s past time to let go of whatever has been robbing us of our peace. This necessitates a shift in our people’s mindset, allowing us to be ready for whatever benefits we can negotiate and returning Ogoni to a path of development,
security, and peace.
“My lord, the Ogoni people have suffered tremendously in this country,” Ken Saro-Wiwa said before the tribunal that sentenced him to death in 1995. The Niger Delta is in trouble on its own. I only have one request. That they be given whatever assistance they require”
It’s time to seek that assistance, talk to the appropriate agencies about the benefits we can gain in practice, and let it go before this oil kills us all. Edward Kobani, Albert Badey, the Orages, Nubari Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Ken Saro-Wiwa, Uebari Nnah, Agbarator Otu, Lebe Nkporah, and over 300,000 Ogonis have died as a result of oil pollution-related illnesses in the last 60 years.
Isn’t it past time to let go of the oil? Central Committee is correct, in my opinion. It’s past time to let go of the oil.