FEATURE ARTICLE

Wednesday, January 4, 2023
[email protected]
Atlanta, GA, USA
OGONI: THE STRUGGLE CONTINUES

“I have started a trend which will peacefully liberate many peoples in Africa and lead eventually to political and economic reform and social progress” - Ken Saro Wiwa (1941-1995)

n January 4, 1993, MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, under the charismatic leadership of Ken Saro Wiwa, mobilized an estimated 300,000 Ogonis to embark on the largest protest march in Africa. This came after the ultimatum given to Shell to pay up or ship out expired on December 31st 1992. On this occasion Shell was declared persona non grata in Ogoni land. Ken Saro Wiwa was so impressed by the turnout on that day that he was to later remark “If I were to die that day, I would have died a happy man”.

 

Although the protest march was so peaceful that not even a stone was thrown at anyone, the slick allies, Shell and the ruling military junta in Nigeria were not amused. Amazingly, Shell responded positively to the MOSOP quit order and vacated Ogoni land immediately. But the departure of Shell from Ogoni land meant a halt in oil production in the area. And there is a symbiotic relationship between the predatory oil extracting companies and a succession of corrupt and tyrannical regimes in Nigeria. The oil corporations drill the oil that oil the corruption pipelines that is the government in Nigeria. In turn, the government provides “security” protection for the oil companies.

 

However, Shell did not just leave Ogoni land in good faith. Their departure turned out to be a tactical retreat; to recoup and wage a proxy bloody war against the Ogoni people.

Before the full scale military offensive in Ogoni, Shell and the Nigeria government engaged in a campaign of intimidation against the Ogoni leader Ken Saro Wiwa .He was incessantly harassed by Nigerian security forces.

 

In two separate meetings in London and Amsterdam, in March 1993, Shell reportedly resolved to monitor the movements of Ken Saro Wiwa. In an interview with Africa Today magazine, Ken Saro Wiwa remarked “ On January 4, the alarm bells rang in the ears of Shell. I was to know no peace from then on. I became a regular guest of the security agencies. I was stopped and arrested at airports, seized from my office and questioned repeatedly".

 

Between February 1993 and April 1994, the Nigeria government and Shell conducted a proxy war against the Ogoni people, during which Ogoni territory was attacked on land and from the sea, seemingly by our surrounding neighbors. Then, an all -out military campaign, the pacification of Ogoni commenced in May 1994, immediately following the May 21st Giokoo massacres. Ogoni land became a killing field, as a military occupation force was stationed there. The Ogoni people were dehumanized, our women randomly raped and our population decimated. We were slaughtered at will. In sum, the Nigerian government and their slick ally, Shell oil, committed genocide in Ogoni; a crime against humanity.

Yet, the Ogoni people were simply protesting their pristine living condition in Nigeria, occasioned by environmental degradation, economic strangulation , political marginalization and slavery.

 

Rather than attending to the demands of the Ogoni people the Nigeria ruling cabal and shell decided to bloody their nose, just to send a message to similar deprived communities in the Niger delta. However, they failed. The Ogoni are bloodied but they are not bowed. Instead, the Ogoni (MOSOP) struggle ignited other communities in the Niger delta to pick up the gauntlet.

 

Fortuitously, the Ogoni, nay Niger delta case was argued for them by a strange fellow called Philip Asiodu, a one- time powerful Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Mines and Power. Mr. Asiodu argued our case in a public lecture he delivered in 1980, when he stated inter alia “ Like in many other areas of the world, the regions where oil is found in this country are very inhospitable. They are mainly in the swamps and creeks. They require massive injection of money if their conditions and standards of living are to compare with what attains elsewhere in the country where possibilities in Agriculture and diversified industry are much greater. There is a nudging acceptance of the special needs of oil areas in the latest proposals being discussed by the government but I believe there is a long way to go to meet the claims of the oil producing areas which see themselves losing non-replaceable and permanent resources of agriculture and industry are being developed elsewhere largely with oil revenue. Then Philip Asiodu dropped the bombshell ;” Given however, the small size and population of the oil producing areas, it is not cynical to observe that even if the resentments of the oil producing states continue, they cannot threaten the stability of the country “( ON A DARKLING PLAIN-Ken Saro Wiwa)

     

 

       
 

It is remarkable to note that Mr. Philip Asiodu earnestly acknowledged the injustice being done to the peoples of the Niger delta; admitting that they live in a difficult terrain for economic and infrastructural development, that would require a massive injection of ( the oil resources of the Niger delta) to develop the area. Again, Mr. Asiodu acknowledged that the peoples of the Niger delta are aggrieved, seeing the oil resources of their land being expropriated for the development of other areas of the country, while they are left in the cold. However, Mr. Asiodu seem to assure the oppressors that no matter how aggrieved the peoples of the Niger delta may be, they would not be able to threaten the stability of the country nor affect its continued economic development. Nothing to worry about!

 

So the Ogoni and indeed, Niger delta crisis as Mr. Asiodu reminded us, devolves into the Minority question in Nigeria. If crude oil, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy, was found in any of the majority areas of the country the story would have been different. In fact, there would have been no debate about Resource Control. It would have been a given, just as it was the case with groundnut and cocoa. By the way, Ken Saro Wiwa would have been spared the hangman's noose if he were to hail from any of the majority tribes.

 

Yet, historians and scholars have since warned of dire consequences of the Niger delta crisis to the economic and security situation of the country. But the Nigeria ruling cabal and their collaborators chose to ignore the warnings, believing like Philip Asiodu, that those who inhabit the difficult terrains of the Niger delta are too hapless and helpless to pose a threat to their stranglehold on the country.

So the contemptuous treatment and abject neglect the peoples of the Niger delta have had to endure in Nigeria derive from the fact of their minority status. And in the case of the Ogoni, the fact that they are an extreme minority even within the Niger delta minorities means that they have to suffer double jeopardy.

However, Ken Saro Wiwa responded this way: “we cannot sit idly by while we as a people, dehumanized and slowly exterminated and driven to extinction, even as our rich resources are siphoned off to the exclusive comfort and improvement of other Nigerian communities and the shareholders of shell”.

 

In regard to the high crime of genocide committed by the Nigeria ruling cabal and Shell in Ogoni, both the Ogoni people and the international community have longed demanded accountability. Of course, those pleas have fallen on deaf eyes. But like I noted in my last piece, when it comes to prosecuting crimes against humanity there is no statute of limitation. However, as a motivation for the Ogoni people, a 97 year old German woman Irmgrad Furchner, who served as stenographer for the Nazis between 1943 and 1945, was convicted and handed a two year suspended sentence at the tail end of 2022.

 

 All those who committed high crimes in Ogoni must be made to pay for their crimes; no matter how long it takes. The Ogoni have in various fora demanded justice in the form of restitution and retribution. The United Nations established a Fact-finding mission that visited Nigeria and toured Ogoni land in 1996, to assess the atrocities the slick allies - the Abacha led military junta and Shell oil have committed in Ogoni and the damage they have done to the fabric of the Nigeria state. The UN Fact-finding mission made a lot of recommendations to the Nigeria government and shell but the slick allies have largely ignored those recommendations. These include payment of compensation to the families of the Ogoni Nine and the thousands of other Ogonis who were killed by Majors Paul Okuntimo and Obi Umahi’s led troops of the Rivers State Internal security Task Force; remediation ( clean-up) of the Ogoni environment .

 

As for those two monsters, Paul Okuntimo and Obi Umahi, they would someday appear before the international court of justice at the Hague, where they would face trial for crimes against humanity. Remember Charles Taylor, the tyrant of Liberia?

 

Now, the Ogoni struggle must continue because like the late sage, Nelson Mandela, would say:” it is the struggle for the right to live” The Ogoni people have come of age in their struggle for justice in Nigeria. They can no longer be intimidated, blackmailed or cowed into submission. Our resolve to stop our oil from being exploited until our demands are fully met is irrevocable. There is no going back!

 

However, so long as the Nigeria ruling cabal continues to ignore us, in the words of Martin Luther King Jr, “The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges”.

     

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