By Dum-ale Tanee
MOSOP Coordinator, Kansas City Chapter
When President Umaru YarAdua disclosed in June last year that Shell should withdraw from Ogoni, it was in acknowledgement of the fact that Ogoni people do not have anything to do with the company again. This development was a welcomed one by Ogoni people and friends around the world. Although I did salute his courage for standing up for the truth, what past leaders did not do, I was very skeptical because I knew that he would be pressured by Shell to rescind his decision. Having said that, his statement was a show of leadership, sensitivity and responsiveness to the voices of the people he claimed to govern.
He did not only acknowledge the fact that Ogoni people do not want Shell again, but also saw the need for the company to pay compensation to the Ogonis on its way out.
Few months after he announced that there is a total loss of confidence between Shell Petroleum and the Ogoni people; another operator acceptable to the Ogoni people will take over and that agreements had already been reached for SPDC to pay compensation for environmental degradation to the Ogoni, The Punch: Thursday June 5, 2008, he has changed his mind. So, what had now happened for the president to change his mind so quick?
It is important to note that Shell lost its only chance of returning to Ogoni for oil activities on November 10, 1995, the very day Ken. Saro Wiwa and 8 other Ogonis were executed. Therefore, the notion that Shell shall return to Ogoni as a silent or noisy partner with the Nigeria National Petroleum Company Ltd as published by The Punch: Feb. 3, 2009 is ludicrous.
There are good oil companies out there that would like to operate differently from Shell. But first, the government must meet the demands of the Ogoni people as contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) before oil activities could start.
When you lose the ability to decide for yourself you lose your dignity, respect, become sub-human and eventually a prey. Therefore, at some point in life a people have to take control of their own destiny; India did, Black South Africans, African Americans, etc. and Ogoni people have done just that.
Since the Ogoni struggle started about nineteen years ago the Nigerian authority has not put anything on the table despite the non-violent and civilized manner it approached its demands. All that the Nigerian government has been doing is trying to silence the movement with the use of force and to force Shell on Ogoni. Such an approach has not only been unproductive but has also further exposed the intentions of the government/Shell and has led to increased in agitation in the Region.
In his inaugural address to American people and the rest of the world, President Barack Obama sounded these warnings; To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, know that your people will judge you on what you build, not what you destroy. We are all living witnesses to the legacies of the late Sani Abacha. He further added, To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history.
Our nation has been on the wrong side of history even before MOSOP came into being because of decrees and laws that are aimed at oppressing the people of Niger Delta. MOSOP came into existence to put an end to such dehumanizing laws and decrees, and it will continue despite all the odds until changes are made.
Looking forward, Ogoni people belief in dialogue and expect its fair demands to be the centerpiece of such dialogue. There are no conflicts that have been successfully resolved around the world without making the peoples demands part of the solution. Instead, our government has been working hard to go around our demands and pushing for the resumption of oil prospecting activities by Shell. That is not going to happen.
Before oil activities could start in Ogoni, the government must meet our demands as contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights. That would open the door for a peaceful oil exploration and exploitation.
The government should also consider the creation of an Ogoni state as a major first step towards resolving the crisis. An Ogoni state would not only help to create jobs for the thousands unemployed youths, it would empower the people and give them a sense of purpose, inclusion and recognition or respect. It would also help resolve most of the outstanding issues that informed our struggle, such as protecting our environment as well as providing basic amenities that would stand the test of time for our people.
Finally, to those who think that Ogoni should open the door for oil activities before government can fulfill its obligations to the people; be informed that Ogoni let its door open since 1958-1993 with nothing to show for it. If I may ask; where did all the money go? It will not happen again.
MOSOP Coordinator, Kansas City Chapter (816-582-0030)