Ogoni has unquestionably been a victim of corporate irresponsibility. Brutalized, raped, tortured and killed in state-backed terrorism. It became really very painful for us to see our own government unleash brute force with soldiers authorized to kill the Ogoni people for daring to question pervasive human right abuses that have gone on for decades.
Last week, the NPDC had initiated another attempt to enter the Ogoni oilfields without any proper and genuine discussions with the Ogoni people. That was not only provocative but questioned the intentions of the NPDC to commit themselves to a sustainable resolution of the protracted conflict and human rights violations. For the NPDC, what counts is the exploitation of the oil and gas resources of the Ogoni people and the allocation of 3 percent of operating costs for oil spills remediation. For us, what counts is respect for human rights, community benefits, the free, prior and informed consent of the people to avert another state sponsored repression which can lead to the killing of Ogoni people.
The role the Nigerian government played in the repression and killings was indeed a very sad narrative. The very government who should have given us protection and prevented Shell from prosecuting the awful business operational standards in the communities became the government authorizing the killings, raping of women, and perpetrating unimaginable abuses in Ogoni. Expectedly, the degraded role of government became more obvious as neither Shell nor any soldier who was involved in the carnage were questioned or prosecuted for the Ogoni crimes. Paul Okuntimo who led government troops in the operations was promoted from the rank of an army major to a general.
Then on November 10, 1995, nine (9) Ogoni civil rights campaigners were murdered in cold blood on the orders of the federal government of Nigeria.. Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others had their lives sniffed out of them for seeking justice for the Ogoni people.
In this post I use Shell and the oil industry interchangeably for they represent the interest of the companies and institutions which operated and vitiated the Ogoni landscape and wanted their crimes concealed from the rest of the world. They represent the stench left in Ogoni and the coercive efforts to cloak the crimes of Shell and the Nigerian Government (owners of the NPDC) in Ogoni. And after years of several backdoor divide and conquer tactics, they are here again deploying a new strategy to return to the communities they sought to exterminate, raped, abused and deprived. They are the shame of the Nigerian state.
I commend Ogoni women for their extra-ordinary courage and determination. Some of them told me this morning they still bore the scars of military brutality and rapes. I commend the young men and youths who stood to prove to the world that Ogoni was indeed abused and that Nigeria was executing a genocidal campaign against our people. I encourage today”s young men and women who were children at the time and lost their parents in the struggle. Some of them did not find their parents for days and had no one to care for them because their parents had been captured by the Nigerian military or had escaped into some hideouts and could not reach out. You are all our pride. You stood not only for our forebearers, for Ken Saro-Wiwa, for Nubari Kiobel, Nordu Eawo, John Kpuinen and some 4,000 others who died during these repressive periods but you also stood for our tomorrow, our children and our children’s children.
Today, the same people who ordered the armies to murder our people, kill our leaders, rape our women have returned. They have never been responsible and 28 years on, they still do not have a change in character. They are obviously as rude and uncivilized and may be worse than they we know, they still act without conscience and have the guts to come to Ogoni to remind us of their past deeds.They are as treacherous and desperate as they have been and continue to slight and degrade or collective dignity.
In over 28 years, they have made no efforts at genuine reconciliation. Despite all the efforts we have made to move on, they only desire to have us stampeded into submission. They have impoverished us and turned our richly natural endowments into a curse. They have taken away our resources through unfair and discriminatory laws, they rely on lies and deceit and subject our people to the most terrible conditions with the hope that in our pain and indigence, we will submit and ask them to return. The people who killed Ken Saro-Wiwa, and some 4,000 others think we can so easily forget those scars they left on us. No! God forbid that we forget our history and delve into the future without a foundation.
I remember Lebe Nkpora, native of Sogho who was split into two by the bullets of Major Paul Okuntimo. I remember Uebari Nnah, native of Yeghe who was shot dead by soldiers attached to Shell in Korokoro where he lived at the time. I remember thousands of our people who lost their lives in efforts to win a good life for all of us. May their souls not rest until their deaths bring peace and prosperity to Ogoni.
The NPDC and Shell are just two sides of the same coin. Whatever name the Nigerian oil industry will present, their deception have become obvious but if they had any conscience, they won’t attempt further bruises added to the deep sores they already left on the Ogoni people. If they had conscience, then the divide to conquer tactics would have long ended and we should be facing the reality that there has to be some dialogue to fix all these complications. They should have been grateful to find MOSOP putting out a proposal and providing a pathway to resolve the conflicts, pain and to promote a recovery from the effects of their dirty wars against the Ogoni people.
I commend the Ogoni people for their courage and urge them to stand out strongly and non-violently to resist current and obvious plots pointing to a concealed military camp down. I will reemphasize that one thing is unmistakably certain, you led the struggle that touched the conscience of Shell and forced them out. You have given great support to our proposed roadmap to peace and we hope that all who are committed to a peaceful resolution of this conflicts will commit themselves to our proposals. You should not and will not fail.
I will not expect a submission to the NPDC or any of their sponsored agents no matter the inducements. Ogoni is the hope of many, not just within the Niger Delta of Nigeria but several indigenous communities around the world. Like Prof. Claude Ake would say, if we succeed, they succeed, if we fail they all die.
Fegalo Nsuke is President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.