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For the sake of Nigeria!
LET me first apologise to our brothers and sisters from Ogoni land, the land that lays the golden eggs that Nigeria has been enjoying for this while without giving much back to justify the level of despoliation currently going on there. My apology is premised on two grounds. One, I have only recently read the Ogoni Bill of Rights which many people have referred to, cited and discussed. I did not read it because it did not, in the actual sense, mean so much to me until now that I had to read it.
I know that there are several Nigerians who do not know more than their immediate community and much about Nigeria, our dear country. Two, we—the rest of Nigeria—have taken so much from the area with very little to show for that in terms of the provision of infrastructural facilities. I am a little familiar with the opulence of Abuja, the level of infrastructural development, the uncountable opportunities to make things happen, the network of roads and the enticing school complexes that litter everywhere.
This is understandable because Abuja is the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria, it is a city that is expected to show case the best that we can be proud of. But there is no basis to compare the level of development in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Kaduna, Kano, Sokoto, Jos, Ibadan and many others with the level of deprivation that stares one in the face when one is in Ogoni land. It is inconceivable to believe that crude oil, which gives Nigeria close to 90% of its financial resources comes from there. I was shocked in 2008 when I visited the land of Ogoni and saw what challenges the people were struggling to live with on daily basis. I came home with the brazen fact that Nigeria and all of us have not been fair to the people of Ogoni land. I am not sure that the situation has changed in any significant way.
2008 was eighteen years after the 1990 Ogoni Bill of Rights was formally presented to the Federal Government of Nigeria and the situation on ground then did not suggest that the government had read through the bill. At best, it showed that, even though the government had read through the bill, it did not know what to do and in what areas to positively intervene to redress the level of deprivation, degradation and neglect.
As a quick reminder, the Bill contains declarations, laying claim as a people to their independence which had been violated, calling for political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people, controlling and using of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development, being directly and adequately represented as of right for Ogoni people in all Nigerian national institutions and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and economy from further degradation. There is a section in the Bill which contains a statement like their rights ‘have not only been usurped, they have been misused and abused, turning Nigeria into a hell on earth for the Ogoni and similar ethnic minorities. Consequent upon the foregoing, the Ogoni Bill of Rights further contains a clause which indicates that they ‘reject once and for all this … and take full responsibility for its own affairs in order to promote peaceful co-existence, cooperation and national progress.’
In spite of this clear and unambiguous declaration of willingness to work very hard to improve the quality of life of Ogoni people, their complaint of no pipe borne water, no electricity, no social or economic project of the Federal Government of Nigeria, no representation whatsoever in all tertiary institutions and no job opportunities for the citizens of the area, is still being heard loud and clear. I have watched on television, with utter dismay, the poor state of the major road that links the area with the rest of civilisation as if they are not part of Nigeria.
I have seen the endless gas flaring in the area and I have also been informed that several pipes that carry crude and other combustible liquid still criss-cross the entire landscape with reckless abandon and continue to pose a major threat to the people, their occupation and environment. Very recently, we heard a case of oil spillage, a repetition of a major misfortune that has visited the area and left a tale of devastation on its trail without anything being done to immediately address it. Yet, when a similar occurrence took place in the United States of America last year, the company involved was made to pay a huge sum of money in form of compensation.
The event of Tuesday, July 31 and Thursday, August 2, 2012 in which one Goodluck Diigbo led a faction of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People to declare their autonomy from the rest of the country has introduced another major wahala for the Federal Government of Nigeria. Some national newspapers have reported that the people working with the splinter group were young men armed with automatic and dangerous weapons who had had a clash with law enforcement agencies in the area in their bid to enforce the stay-at- home order on the people in the area.
I was distressed when I read the news and have been worried because of the consequence of the development now that the security situation in the country is in its worst state. I also wonder why we seem to be moving very fast to the doom’s day as prophesied by some people who claimed that Nigeria would be no more in 2015. This is 2012 and we are contending with too many uprisings at the same time. We are daily inundated with the problems of Boko Haram, kidnapping, armed robbery, corruption of monumental proportion, ethno-religious uprising on the Plateau and many more.
My concern therefore, in this piece, is to appeal to the powers that be in the presidency to immediately take steps to curtail the agitation of the splinter group from MOSOP now before it is too late. The problem of Boko Haram which has today become a national and international embarrassment and worry and has claimed the lives of close to 1000 Nigerians and security personnel started just like a child’s place.
It has festered and it is today threatening the very fabric of our existence as a country. Twice, two emirs have escaped their attacks and nobody knows how far they want to go. Since it is usually very difficult for us to curb the excesses of these groups of people once they come full circle, it will not be out of place to take steps now to nip their activities in the bud.Share