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allAfrica.com: Obasanjo’s Visit Divides Ogoniland

Ahamefula Ogbu, This Day (Nigeria)

Despite protestations by representatives of Ogoni people against the planned visit of President Olusegun Obasanjo for the ‘spiritual cleansing’ of Ogoniland as part of the peace process initiated by the Reverend Father Mathew Hassan Kukah Committee, the occasion is scheduled to hold today.

THISDAY learnt that at the weekend when some church leaders in Ogoniland called all the interests to a meeting on the matter, many people spoke against the cleansing, pointing out that two similar previous exercises had been held without any show of seriousness by the government to address their pressing needs.

The disagreement last week led to the President of Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr. Ledum Mittee being threatened while Kukah was almost attacked. Contacted, Mittee confirmed that he was threatened by an unnamed traditional ruler in the area who was in attendance but dispelled the rumour that he had been arrested.

He said the forum which was called by church leaders in Ogoniland to discuss the issue of the ‘spiritual cleansing’ service was not a MOSOP event and that they only protested Shell Petroleum Development Company coming into the service and bringing the issue of their exploratory activities in Ogoniland into the event.

“It is not a MOSOP event. If they want to have a church service, MOSOP is not against it provided it is not a matter of Shell and Ogoni because we cannot see the link between a church service and Shell”, he said.

On whether he was arrested, he replied, “arrested by who? I’ve not been arrested. I only went to see the police over these routine things they have to say about security over the President’s visit. “The truth of the matter is that the threat came from a traditional ruler and I have dropped a letter for him”.

Asked if it was true that Ogoni youths wanted to attack Kukah when he arrived at the venue of the meeting, he replied in the affirmative but remarked that such actions convey the feeling of the people about the issue, adding, “It shows how deep Ogoni people feel about Shell”.

Information available to THISDAY was that when in the forum called by the head of the churches in Ogoniland and attended by representatives of umbrella organisations and their representatives in government, the issue was put to vote, it was decided the event should not hold.

When the votes were counted, according to THISDAY checks, 43 people voted against the service while 13 voted for the event to hold. However, preparations are in top gear to host Obasanjo today at Bori as part of the reconciliation process. The decision to hold the occasion was finalised at the last meeting of Ogoni people with the United Nations team handling the remediation exercise in Ogoniland where some international personalities on peace and reconciliation were said to be on the card for attendance.

The event was to be part of the cleansing process to usher in peace into Ogoniland though MOSOP has been opposed to the method of carrying out the remediation which they allege were steeped in secrecy while they were not being invited to meetings aimed at finding peace in Ogoniland.

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (allafrica.com)

Published: May 14, 2007

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