By Fegalo Nsuke
The battle for justice and freedom is never so easy. You must find a reason to commit yourself to it because there will always be challenges to distract you, some compelling situations that could force you to consider your efforts unworthy. But you will always have to find a reason to fight on for freedom is the ultimate essence of life.
For me, the love of T.N Paul Birabi for Ogoni, the destruction of the future of the Ogoni people through deprivations, discrimination, the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and over 4,000 others are reasons I should fight on.
Ogoni is a rich land, so naturally endowed, yet the people are the poorest and most deprived. Freedom for the Ogoni people whose dignity have been taken away by laws and practices that discriminate against them is always a reason to fight on.
We are never alone in the fight for justice for there is a God of justice who will never leave nor forsake us.
When you walk down the path to freedom, you get to the bridge that seems overtaken by a raging flood. Do not be afraid, move on for you are being watched and guided by a teacher whose wisdom and presence sustains you. You will not be overtaken.
True freedom is desirable for Ogoni, we have paid the price, We are humans and deserve to be treated fairly. Our basic demands for justice in Nigeria are justified by the torture, repression, discrimination and death we have suffered as a people.
No matter what transpired in the courts, we all have a duty to protect Ogoni and our collective dignity as a people. We have been severely battered by the combination of Shell’s environmental devastation and Nigeria’s repression but we certainly will not give up to the oppressors.
God gave us Ogoni and we have a duty to protect her just as we also have a role to play in making our country a home and lovely place for all, estranged from the greedy leadership which manifests in all circles and have brought our country to a humiliating phase.
Together we must stand for the freedom of our peoples for I am confident that it is worth the sacrifices.
We are not alone. God is with us, People with conscience all over the world are with us, watching and listening. The world is watching to see if Nigeria will once again display its inhumanity, tell the world it does not deserve a place among civilized nations by using its strength against a small but richly endowed Ogoni people whose wealth have made Nigeria what it is today and has given our country the pride of being called a regional power.
I see a greater Ogoni emanating from our pains, struggles, persecution, discrimination and the deaths we have suffered as a people. Over 4,000 persons have lost their lives in this struggle and as late Edward Kobani once said:
When life is lost in a struggle, then there is no turning back.
I believe freedom is near and I see Ken Saro-Wiwa predicting this freedom when he wrote:
“Dance your anger and your joys,
Dance the military guns to silence,
Dance oppression and injustice to death,
Dance my people,
For we have seen tomorrow
And there is an Ogoni star in the sky.”
We all have a duty to keep the oppressors away, to sustain the struggle, to free our conscience by not giving up to Shell, the Nigerian discrimination and repression. They put Ken Saro-Wiwa before the courts of the oppressors and killed him without a fair trial. Notwithstanding, we must take responsibility for our future. We must choose the path of honour by protecting our dignity as a people and stop the oppressors from prosecuting the genocidal war against us.
Our peaceful means have yielded results and we must continue to speak out against the Ogoni oppression. Like Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote in one of his well-known poems:
“Keep out of prison,
Don’t get arrested anymore
But while the land is ravaged
And our pure air poisoned
When streams choke with pollution
Silence would be treason
Punishable by a term in prison”
Our struggle has been a peaceful one anchored on a simple demand for justice. We have contributed over $200billion to the Nigerian economy since oil was discovered in our land in commercial quantities in 1958. We have the capacity for an estimated 400,000 barrels of oil per day and our gas reserves rank among the top 5 in the world.
Can a simple demand for fair treatment by the Ogoni people be too much? The Ogoni people are a distinct ethnic nationality in Nigeria whose contributions to the Nigerian economy far exceed those of twenty Nigerian states put together. Unfortunately, we have not been treated fairly in Nigeria.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) in a recent press release have provided a pathway to resolve the problem when it recommended the specific actions that should assuage the Ogoni people. MOSOP stated as follows:
“Based on recent resolutions of Ogoni congresses and the MOSOP Central Committee and consistent with demands in the Ogoni Bill of Rights which we have earlier submitted to the Nigerian Government, we demand that Shell and the Nigerian government should amongst other demands consent to the following to facilitate a speedy resolution of all issues surrounding the Ogoni problem:
1. The Exoneration of the nine innocent Ogonis murdered by the Nigerian state on November 10, 1995, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Baribor Bera, Nordu Eawo, Dr Barinem Kiobel, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate and Saturday Doobee.
2. That Nigeria should respect the political rights of the Ogoni people to self-determination by creating a state for the Ogoni people.
3. Nigeria should halt further military attacks on the Ogoni community and human rights campaigners particularly the unwarranted assaults on the leadership of MOSOP.
4. Shell and her joint venture partners should compensate the Ogoni people for massive environmental damages and the consequential livelihood losses due to their reckless business practices”
Attending to these demands is the way to go. Muscling MOSOP in any form and by any means will not help. The fundamental issue is to give justice to the Ogoni people.
Nigeria should not make the mistakes of the past on the Ogoni issue when it killed Saro-Wiwa with the presumption that getting Ken Saro-Wiwa out of the way will break the Ogoni resistance and pave the way to forcefully resume oil production in Ogoni. Today, I am sure Nigeria needs Ken Saro-Wiwa for if he were here, he definitely would have resolved the Ogoni problem as well as those of the larger Niger Delta region.
Targeting the leaders of MOSOP in any form using the instruments of state has never helped. The fact remains that the leaders of MOSOP did not chase Shell out of Ogoni. It was Shell’s conscience that got the company out of Ogoni following protests by local people. The local people, as we call them, are still there waiting for anything that will manifest in the form of Shell.
We can avoid these conflicts by coming to a negotiating table to discuss the Ogoni demands listed above. Those demands are the expectations of the local people and they deserve to be accepted and implemented for a community whose contributions to the Nigerian economy have been so enormous.
I perceive the time for Ogoni to be free is near but until then the struggle continues.