FEATURE ARTICLE

Leburah GanagoWednesday, January 5, 2005
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Glequinox@msn.com
Atlanta, GA, USA

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OGONI DAY: RAISING THE BANNER OF NON-VIOLENT STRUGGLE



y joy is that I have successfully made it known to the Ogoni and others that an ethnic minority group can fight non-violently for its rights. The eyes of the people are open. They will never more be blind. Terrorism, vandalism, state violence, murder, cannot destroy the seed that has been planted. Komo, his superiors and subordinates labour in vain. Truth and time are not on their side – Ken Saro Wiwa (The News, August 8, 1994).

On January 4, 1993, world’s indigenous peoples day, the Ogoni emboldened by the justness of their cause, marched on their two most vicious enemies – Shell and the Nigerian ruling cabal. It was a mass action (sounds scary?), the first of its type in Africa. And to underscore the unanimity of this mass action among the Ogoni people, no one stayed at home on that “Pentecost” day. Both old and young, male and female all came out to give practical expression to their vow to prosecute their survival struggle till justice is served. However, a decade and two years later, justice remains elusive for the Ogoni and the rest of the Niger Delta peoples. So the march goes on.

It was the Ogoni Liberation day, according to Ken Saro Wiwa, “the moment when my people (Ogoni) crossed the threshold of fear”, even as he noted that that day marked the most significant escalation of an ecological war that had seen no bones broken and no blood split. Yet, men, women and children were dying slowly, the air and streams were polluted and finally, the land itself dies”.

The evil alliance between the Nigerian ruling cabal and transnational oil corporations in visiting violence on oil bearing communities in the Niger Delta is legendary. Before the Ogoni pacification, there was the Umuechem massacre of 1990.

The people of Umuechem in Etche Local government area of Rivers would not forget the month of November 1990 in a hurry. In a scene reminiscent of the Korokoro episode of August 1993, the Nigeria government at the behest of Shell, dispatched troops of the Mobile Police force, alias “ kill and go” to invade the oil town of Umuechem, as the transnational oil company raised a sinister alarm to the effect that its facilities and men in the community were being attacked. In that war -like attack, military tanks and sub-machineguns were freely used to kill and maim the inhabitants of the community while ,as usual, buildings were destroyed.

However, the January 4, 1993 march heralded another phase of the Ogoni struggle- a phase which crossed the line of ecological warfare to that of physical violence-the spilling of blood; a phase which began to see bones broken and men dying, not just from environmental pollution but from bullets .

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The logic is: if the Ogoni people has shown their resolve to take on these dreaded enemies, the slick allies were determined to teach them a hard and bloody lesson. There went the full scale implementation of the pacification agenda. The first signal that the slick allies –Shell and the Nigerian ruling cabal were out to teach the Ogoni a lesson in violent suppression came on April 30, 1993, when armed soldiers operating as a shield to Wilbros, a contracting firm laying oil pipe lines for Shell, opened fire on Ogoni villagers protesting the bulldozing of their crops to make way for the oil pipeline. Several villagers were killed while others were maimed. Thereafter the border wars by proxy- a well-hatched scheme which smacked of blackmail commenced. The Ogoni were supposed to be seen as pugnacious, perpetually at war with their neighbours. To justify this position, the Nigerian ruling military junta masked these invasions as “Communal clashes”. The Nigerian military started invading Ogoni villages systematically, from border communities. These well organized and sophisticated attacks took off from the Andoni axis in July 1993. A boat loaded with Ogoni villagers on their way back from fishing expedition in Cameroun was ambushed and its entire content of people saved a pregnant woman, massacred on the high sea. Subsequently, Ogoni villages, one after the other, were raided with sophisticated weapons. In these attacks, all living creatures –human beings, livestock and crops were killed while buildings were dynamited and others set ablaze. It was operation wipe out-total destruction.

In December of the same year( 1993) the battle front has shifted to Port Harcourt waterfronts, where Ogoni people residing there were massacred and their houses and property destroyed.

By April of 1994 the campaign to bloody the nose of the Ogoni has been taken to the Afam axis. While the rest of the Christian world observed the solemn celebration of the resurrection of the Christ on Easter Sunday of April 3, 1994, Shell and the Nigerian military junta decided it was a day to kill and maim the Ogoni people. Ogoni villages around Afam were invaded and their inhabitants massacred.

Foreign ballistic experts called in by MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, to investigate the attack have through evidence collected from the scene determined that mortar bombs and NATO bullets were among weapons used in the destruction of the coastal Ogoni town of Kaa.

And the Commander of the Ogoni pacification force, the so-called Rivers State Internal Security Task, Lt. Col. Paul Okuntimo, confirmed MOSOP’s allegation of government involvement in the attack on Ogoni villages in an interview with Vanguard newspaper, when he boasted: “our operations in Afam completed the encirclement of Ogoins preventing them from excesses here and there” (Vanguard, January 26, 1995).

The May 21, 1994 Giokoo killing of four Ogoni leaders soon after a controversial Government House secret memo, detailing an all- out pacification agenda for the Ogoni people provided the much sought after ploy for total military occupation of Ogoni an operation which has been aptly described by the Nigerian press variously as the “conquest,’ the “Rwanda “ of Nigeria”, the Golgotha”, in bringing home the genocide committed by Shell and the Nigerian military against the Ogoni people. The full detail of that sad episode of Nigerian history has been well documented and it is a common story around the would.

Like we pointed out to the British diplomat in Port Harcourt that night of 1997, the mere return of democracy to Nigeria is no solution to the Ogoni nay Niger Delta problem. After all, in Nigeria nothing changes. Not even the government. You may only see different wings of the same ruling cabal. In fact, faces no longer change. For instance, the same people who were perpetuating corruption and human rights violations with Generals Babangida and Abacha are the same evil men who are now helping Obasanjo to plunder the Niger Delta oil wealth and murdering the people. Democracy? Not ready in Nigeria. Worse still in the Niger Delta. The ruling cabal would do anything to foist their stooges on the people. Even if there were to be a semblance of election in other parts of the country it can never happen in Ogoni and other parts of the Niger Delta. The looters of our oil wealth will not allow us to elect leaders and representatives we can trust and who would speak for us and question the expropriation of our resources.

True to Ken Saro Wiwa’s prediction the seed (of MOSOP) which has been planted has continued to endure all trials and tribulations; it has continued to survive official terrorism, vandalism, state violence and all forms of blackmail. What is more, as also predicted, it has spread to other parts of Nigeria. And the oppressors are panicking.

We are told that the Nigerian government of General Olusegun Obasanjo has indicated interest in initiating or brokering a dialogue between Shell and the Ogoni people. shell has continue to display its foolish pride-unrepentant, instigating violence in Ogoni, continuing its crude tactic of bribery and divide and rule. A leopard, they say, never changes its spot. Chances are that the Ogoni people are going to be skeptical to this initiative as they see the Nigerian government as an interested party in the Ogoni cum Niger Delta crisis. The Ogoni people has got a lot of unresolved issues with the Nigerian government relating to the Shell problem. He who comes to equity, the law says, must come with clean hands. Then, President Obasanjo’s records in attending to issues like this do not inspire confidence. With what the man has done with the Oputa panel, I am afraid, groups like the Ogoni and other Niger Delta communities seeking justice may need to look beyond the shores of Nigeria, at least for now.