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Ogoni and the Unforgettable History of State Brutality, By Fegalo Nsuke

Ogoni and the Unforgettable History of State Brutality, By Fegalo Nsuke

21 August 2020

The Ogoni is daily in the news with reports of extra judicial killings, persecution, police repression, military torture and all sorts of human rights abuses. The conflict rages as the Nigerian oil industry seeks to adopt unsavoury measures to forcefully resume oil production in the area without the people’s consent.

The Ogoni people have become very familiar with the insincerity of the Nigerian oil industry, forcing a growing cynicism that continually creates distrust and conflict each time the Ogoni issue is mentioned.

But the reality is that the Nigerian government and the Shell Petroleum Development Company, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell Plc have not been fair with the Ogoni people. Shell’s conduct in Ogoniland is a major dent on our country’s claim to modern civilisation. It exposes the inhumanity behind Nigeria’s greatness, as it tells the true story of a country basking in false positives, celebrating a greatness which emerged from the repression of its own people, while not wanting the oppressed to raise an eyebrow. It is like beating a child and not allowing the child to cry.

But we do hope that in the present dispensation, we could tell a new story away from the national shame which Shell’s irresponsible business conduct has placed on us. We regret that our country places little value on human lives and how we have allowed injustice and human rights abuses to thrive in our domain. More painful is the fact that Shell gets away with all its atrocities without a reprimand.

In the cause of fighting for justice, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were hung by the Nigerian government. Yes, they are gone and cannot be brought back but we will continue to stand for the cause for which they died. Twenty five years after the executions, we expect the government to take advantage of the coming anniversary on November 10 to exonerate the nine murdered activists and move us into an era of healing and reconciliation.

As chairman of the central committee of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and one who has risen through the ranks, I can say that the exoneration of the nine executed activists murdered on November 10, 1995 is the gateway to resolving the Ogoni problem. It is the one action required to win the hearts of the Ogonis and this 25th anniversary offers a golden opportunity for this. And I would like President Buhari to say, “Let us take this opportunity.”

It is important that government makes some pragmatic moves to bring the parties to this conflict to the dialogue table. The Ogoni people need help, having been exploited for so long without any benefit to them from their huge natural endowments. Ogoni’s resources have been exploited since 1958, without the people anything to show for the huge revenues derived from their land. While the rest of Nigeria makes huge budgets from the revenue derived from Ogoni’s resources, the Ogoni people live in penury, are left with the painful consequences of oil exploitation and are being treated like sub-humans in their own country.

It took a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report for Shell to admit its irresponsibility in Ogoniland and for the government to commission a cleanup project. Prior to the release of the UNEP report, Shell described the pollution in Ogoni as mere incidences.

Nigeria’s conduct in Ogoniland is quite an embarrassment to our country. We must all move away from that painful past and address the real issues placed before the Nigerian people in the Ogoni Bill of Rights. Our country cannot continue to encourage the injustice done to the Ogoni – that a people who live in a naturally endowed environment will be exploited to death and when they rise to question the injustice, the government will frame them up and get them killed.

The Ogoni people expect that just as our president, Muhammadu Buhari, made a strong promise on the cleanup and commenced the implementation process, though it has been ridden by poor management and corruption, our president should, for the first time, move strongly towards address this crucial issue, which has been a stumbling block to every progress that could be achieved on the Ogoni problem.

As chairman of the central committee of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) and one who has risen through the ranks, I can say that the exoneration of the nine executed activists murdered on November 10, 1995 is the gateway to resolving the Ogoni problem. It is the one action required to win the hearts of the Ogonis and this 25th anniversary offers a golden opportunity for this. And I would like President Buhari to say, “Let us take this opportunity.”

It is important that government makes some pragmatic moves to bring the parties to this conflict to the dialogue table. The Ogoni people need help, having been exploited for so long without any benefit to them from their huge natural endowments. Ogoni’s resources have been exploited since 1958, without the people anything to show for the huge revenues derived from their land. While the rest of Nigeria makes huge budgets from the revenue derived from Ogoni’s resources, the Ogoni people live in penury, are left with the painful consequences of oil exploitation and are being treated like sub-humans in their own country.

It took a United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report for Shell to admit its irresponsibility in Ogoniland and for the government to commission a cleanup project. Prior to the release of the UNEP report, Shell described the pollution in Ogoni as mere incidences.

Nigeria’s conduct in Ogoniland is quite an embarrassment to our country. We must all move away from that painful past and address the real issues placed before the Nigerian people in the Ogoni Bill of Rights. Our country cannot continue to encourage the injustice done to the Ogoni – that a people who live in a naturally endowed environment will be exploited to death and when they rise to question the injustice, the government will frame them up and get them killed.

The Nigerian people must encourage reforms and migrate from a system that thinks the only way to address a simple demand for justice, like the Ogoni demands, is to repress those speaking against these injustices.

Ogoni today has no school, our hospitals have been turned into dispensaries, we do not have roads, no electricity and there is no future for our youths, as there are no jobs for them.

The resources of the Ogoni people have transformed Nigeria into a great country, while the Ogoni from where the revenue is derived is dead.

How will Nigeria continue to suppress the Ogoni people and expect the world to be silent over this injustice? No! We have come to learn about the cheat and understand our place in the Nigerian economy. Thanks to Ken Saro-Wiwa, his death will not and has not been in vain.

Ogoni certainly deserves better treatment and a better place in Nigeria. As a major contributor to national income, the Ogoni people want to function as a distinct ethnic nationality within the Nigerian state and it is a fundamental right to which we should not be denied.

Nigeria should let the Ogoni people breathe freedom in their own country. It is a basic right! This is our demand and it is justifiable, having suffered so much and made so much contributions to the economy of Nigeria. Moreover, other ethnic nationalities in Nigeria enjoy the rights demanded by the Ogoni people, and they are enjoying the revenue derived from Ogoni resources, while the Ogoni die in neglect.

Unfortunately, in response to our peaceful and justifiable demands, Nigeria only unleashed its military might against us, killing our leaders and subjecting the advocates of our rights to the most cruel treatment – death.

On this 25th anniversary of the executions, MOSOP calls for the exoneration of the nine Ogoni activists murdered by the Nigerian state on November 10, 1995. We are confident that the exoneration will move us towards a resolution of the conflicts and bring benefits to all parties.

Fegalo Nsuke is president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). He wrote from Lagos, Nigeria.

SOURCE

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