Ogoni: The change we can be proud of and believe in.

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Great Ogoni People,
A warm greeting to you all in the name of God and the spirits of Ogoni! It gives me great pleasure to write this hour to encourage or inspire and motivate us for the struggle ahead. I will do this in the most honest and humble manner. We've no doubt come of age. And there is hope; and this hope is that which keeps life going despite hardship, suffering, sicknesses, exploitation and even death in the society.

Insofar as Ogonis the world over don't stop working hard and staying just and fair the hope our fore parents had shall not stop manifesting into practical success and happiness. Of course, hope without work, like faith without work is death. And as it's been said over and over again, life is what we make of it. If we work for change, success, we will triumph. If we strive for failure, the ride will be obvious to our satisfaction or call it dissatisfaction. If we fail to plan then we've prepared to fail.

Because we've no option but open up for the change sweeping across the earth, and will not stop being just we must overcome! We must overcome because we will not stop calling a spade a spade not minding who is involved. Ogoni (even though few of us, but we encourage more if not all to join) will not stop doing good, supporting great causes around the globe, so victory shall be ours. Because we will not cease to call for stricter rules for the protection of the global environment and improve it, we must succeed.

We must overcome for not ceasing to join others around the globe in causes that saves lives. Our approach to the rights and protection of the children; investment in the people and commitment to civil rights (freedom and responsibility) and self-determination for others who are oppressed will brighten our way to victory. Because we must continue with the aforementioned common good no harassment, intimidation threats, imprisonment, denial of services/development by the Nigeria government and people, or death can stop our ultimate victory to self-determination! We must be our brother's keepers. That is, stay truthful to ourselves and exercise compassion toward one another, yet expose evils when they show their ugly heads.

Any society which covers evil is helping to encourage and legitimize it. Such society shall not prosper as such cover-ups shall also cover the prosperity that should have come when a fierce battle is fought against evil and their doers. This is evident in Nigeria today considering how vicious the evils of injustice, corruption and insecurity to mention but few have been imprinted and institutionalized. Silence can't be golden in struggles such as ours. It doesn't protect the victims of oppression; of cruel and unusual punishment, but boost the ego and strength of the perpetrators of these crimes. For us to succeed and claim our rightful place, the dream of an Ogoni person ruling himself, we must commit to not being part of this silence and cover-ups.

More importantly, Ken Saro-Wiwa, the lion in the tribes of the oppressed; he who exposed the evils and cover-ups of Nigeria, $hell Oil and their international collaborators and rocked the consciousness that will be Africa tomorrow lives. He who helped change environmental matters in the world lives ad infinitum. He lives in you, me and everyone who love freedom, justice and peace. Yes, he live in every good thinking Ogoni who love our Motherland and the equality of all. Thus, Nigeria, which exposes itself to external influence, ridicules and a high probability for dissolution due to its dumb action of hanging Saro-Wiwa and 8 others on Nov. 10, 1995, shivers knowing he lives.

By Saro-Wiwa's intellectual fiat $hell Oil has met its bitter days that will know no end. By his gut, boldness and commitment to public good the Federal government of Nigeria has also met its bitter days that shall as well know no bound. Our detractors will live the testimony which is "You can kill the messenger but can not kill the message" because it's in us!

Dear brethren, the hour is now for us to wake up to the challenges of the time and practice what we preach. Ogoni under the true MOSOP most of us belong preaches socioeconomic, political, cultural freedom. We preach environmental justice, and that no justice no peace, but with a nonviolent strategy, except otherwise. We preach true and fiscal federalism, good governance, responsible and responsive government and accountability. We also preach democracy, free and fair elections which allows for and guarantees the people's government and not the shame prevalent in Nigeria and most African nations, etc.

We preach that representatives in government at all levels have to be freely elected by the people so that in their conscious and sub consciousness they will know that all that matters is the people they're representing and not themselves and family or special interest groups such as the oil companies. That any elective public official accused of corruption (the embezzlement of public fund) and other unethical behaviors capable of undermining performance would have to resign and face the allegations or charges preferred against such. If taken through the due process of law and found not guilty he/she may take back whatever office held.

If guilty such positions will be forfeited and whatever penalty recommended or written by a competent court which tried such case shall be applied to the later. Hard work and giant strides or feats shall be rewarded to serve as incentives for positive competition, a multiplication of such achievements and growth healthy for our society.

Honesty, openness, public-spirited servants not rulers or "lords" and public disclosure of public-based information and activities are some of the traditions we must imbibe and value. Freedom of thoughts or ideas, of speech, or of expression, of the press, and speech accountability shall be some of the foundations on which our society will thrive. Our seasoned leaders of the most blessed memory, Paul Birabi, Suana Nwika, Saro-Wiwa and few others knew the values of having these guides and good of society. They didn't deviate from advocating those that applied in their times and had served the people selflessly. It's always about the people, therefore any Ogoni leader today or tomorrow who wish to succeed must think the people at all times and pull the good that was thought about into practical work to uplift society.

Ogoni, has from time immemorial value and respect public officials who put Ogoni first. This is also true of any other group of people on earth. We've always valued and respected leadership that sought our opinion on things that affect us; a leadership that is accountable to us. We cherish feed backs from leadership like any people who are seeking happiness through a people-based government. Saro-Wiwa, who was the modern day leader of Ogoni and also shaped the ideology of leadership, struggle and nationhood in Niger Delta, Nigeria and Africa by extension, had the above traits.

Therefore, Ogonis, hates secrecy on things that matters. It hates unsavory scheming by a leadership which claims to represent us. A government or leadership that collaborates or supports the masses with social policies will garner cohesion (unity) and strength. In effect, any national or state government whose representatives are open, allows for grassroots participation, and is empathetic, caring and shows genuine understanding or sensitivity to the plight of the people who freely choice them based on merit must always survive the thickest storms.

The above are amongst the numerous benchmarks on which our successes depend. We must not deviate from making these social or public-oriented policies our custom or culture if we must succeed. If we must succeed as a people we must desist from being selfish; the leaders especially must cease walking in darkness and chose the path of light. They must desist from nursing and practicing corruption and nepotism. The peasants like leaders must not be greedy or support corrupt and other unscrupulous activities the leaders are locked in, but work hard to bring home the elephant meat our people says can't be carried by one person or family.

That which is Ogoni, must serve the interest of all that we will all have access to share instead of a privileged few. Our just struggle must not be a contradiction. The struggle had this privileged few syndrome as one of its target. We must fight the few achievers' syndrome both at the local, state and national levels and spread opportunities to all and sundry. It's the dream of Saro-Wiwa (MOSOP) that Ogoni eradicate poverty by working hard, encouraging education and using our economic and human resources to the fullest-our advantage. It's also his dream and indeed an injunction that we do everything humanly possible to protect our environment.

The philosophies or ideas of honesty and public good seem not to have sung into a great deal of us. We still wallow in the old ways instead of imbibing these beautiful ideologies. They're such that if properly attended and executed will double the uniqueness and special status nature holds for us and our land even in the face of imperfection. We must know that preaching these moral good cum public policies is one thing, and practicing as we preach is another and the most pertinent of the philosophies of our struggle.

Our struggle is about social change, and change has come to Ogoni not minding what the enemies thinks and says. All we need is to keep pushing. Consistency and honesty, integrity and not mediocrity will take us to the promise land. Change is no doubt in Ogoni though will take some time for our people and especially those who have set up harsh ladders for the less privileged to climb while protecting the status quo, to adjust or adapt. This change, when properly accepted and consolidated will affect every facets of our society. We must set positive and enviable precedents whether as a kingdom of four local government, Bori or Ogoni State or nation that will demonstrate the impacts of cultural and institutional change. Being the antitheses of what the original MOSOP stands for will set us back.

As a people of shared values we must not fail to apply ourselves; the education so acquired at any given opportunity. We must not fail to demonstrate intellectual arguments in relation to our struggle; and also use our knowledge and information available to bring Nigeria and $hell to justice. They're our oppressors-enemies who must be brought before international governmental and nongovernmental groups for the redress of all wrongs committed against us.

We must encourage the young ones and adults to embrace conventional knowledge by acquiring sound education. The need to visit our local preschools, elementary, secondary or high schools and colleges to motivate and inspire our little ones, teenagers and youths needs not be overemphasized. They deserve to know there is hope for a better tomorrow, and that they must work hard to be successful. The above demography must know they've our support.

The Ogoni Children's Cultural and Fundamental Rights Council (OCAFAC-USA) is committed to training people in motivational speaking and taking up the enunciated responsibilities at every opportunity it gets or can create. OCAFAC is aware of the fact that properly trained children and youths breeds good members of the family, society and turns great leaders. It's therefore working hard to put together resources that will educate, inspire and motivate the young ones in Ogoni and anywhere its services are necessary around the world. We would partner with other groups in Ogoni and abroad to inspire hope in our local schools and beyond.

Ogonis have been through a lot and I hope that the difficult times we've had, the challenges, pains, disappointments, deaths; the lessons and newly found knowledge will sharpen our thoughts that we will guide against the mistakes of the past to shape the future. The time has come for us to start joining hands to train ourselves in all endeavors relevant to our survival. We must do certain things without waiting for government's unfulfilled promises, but divide and conquer. We must also always acknowledge that the past remains in the now, like the future, which isn't far from the present. It will not be fair for us, the children of Ogoni to beg food or water in the midst of plenty. Ogoni is rich in both human and natural resources. All we need is harness them for our common good.

We must now restrategize, regroup; and rethink a formidable leadership we will trust, respect and support for our representation. We must desist from thinking 15 years is too little to be stagnant in our struggle for change. We must be prepared to convoke a leadership we can approach, reason with, advice, dissolve or its executive members recalled when their interest runs contrary to the common good and every attempt at redirection falls on deaf ears.

And we must also have a team of committed leaders or ad hoc team of individuals who will be bold to represent us and let the Federal government of Nigeria understand other angles of our plight. The government must be told that so long as we're part of the country we've a right to enjoy the national cake (as they call it) without tampering with our oil or gas deposit. It's a truism that about 90 percent of states created in Nigeria are nonviable and have benefited from the proceeds of our oil for more than 35 years. There is no reason Ogoni should be denied the developments, opportunities and benefits others who have contributed nothing are benefiting.

If we don't put it straight to the powers that be (gunning for legal action if it takes that) and demand our share of the bounties we shall be bamboozled with ideas that we can't grow as a people without tapping into our oil and gas reserves. Or that we will have no development because we've stopped our oil from flowing to fatten the rest of the nonviable states while we wash our hands with saliva and not our blessings. We must understand that it's only when the conditions are right and we deem necessary and safe for the environment that we'd explore the possibility of oil extraction.

Now, should it be strange that America has huge reserves of oil and gas but has refused to tap most of them due to environmental issues-such as the BP oil spill incident in the Gulf of Mexico? America has for the most part obtain its oil or energy supply from places such as Ogoni/Niger Delta (Nigeria) and has helped to create our exploitation problems and environmental degradation. Britain, America, China, Japan, Canada and the rest nations, which depend on foreign oil and gas are indirect partners (with the Nigerian government and their country's oil companies such as $hell, Chevron, and so forth) in our oppression.

They constitute the environmental racists (and polluters) and so have permitted the challenges of climate changes or global warming to persist. As Ogonis, we must not act as if we don't know what is going on, or what to do considering what we know today. What's good for the goose must not be bad for the gander. It's an open secret that there are fears of environmental catastrophe in the production of fossil fuel in America and other nations of Europe and Asia which depend on oil. These fears must not be trivialized or disregarded in Ogoni/Niger Delta and other parts of Nigeria or Africa in general.

The same standards must apply if we let them know we aren't dumping grounds, but we also have rights to our environment, health and safety, etc. like any other group on earth. The need also arise that we be vigilant about $hell and its relationship with any new company we may accept for hydrocarbon extraction when we believe the environment is conducive and our demands as enshrined in the Ogoni Bill of Rights have been met to our satisfaction. This vigilance is of utmost importance when putting into perspective the declaration of the Federal government under the late President Musa Yar'Adua, regarding the status of $hell in Ogoni. Yar'Adua had announced that $hell will no longer operate in our oilfields because we don't want her.

And this was only a confirmation of the persona non grata status imposed on the rogue company by Ogoni, under the leadership of Saro-Wiwa. The company has repeatedly said it will not return to Ogoni unless with the consent of the people.We also read reports about the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which runs a Joint-Venture with $hell and other oil majors, and its affiliates�likelihood of taking over from $hell. We aren't oblivious of the fact that NNPC hasn't the capacity, training or technology to extract oil. Other foreign oil prospecting firms were also mentioned as possible $hell's replacement.

$hell may still influence these firms even though it's systematically losing ground in Niger Delta oilfields misnamed Nigeria's. Irrespective of the Federal government's pronouncement on the company, which happened outside Nigeria, the said position wasn't made law via the National Assembly. Therefore, caution must be taken. We must not loose sight of the fact that we're committed to taking a leave of absent from Nigeria if it imposes anything on us, or indulge in any act capable of despoiling our environment. As Saro-Wiwa rightly said, the environment is man's first right. Without a safe environment no one can claim any other right be they economic, political or social.

Meanwhile, change is a process and most times a difficult process because those who are eating from where they don't sow will fight with the last drop of their blood to protect the status quo ante. Yet, the only thing that doesn't change is change itself-it's an inevitable end! It nevertheless takes a people with zeal, will-power, focus and feasible destination to effect the change necessary for their growth and happiness. Every real societal change begins with a people's acknowledgment of their shared destiny.

It's a determination to accept a people's common challenges, failures, successes and a will to set up a workable electoral process that will avail them the right (opportunity) to choose a responsible leadership which will represent them and protect their interest in all facets. Ogoni has, however, not been able to achieve this feat thus has continued like a sheep without Sheppard. This is a development that isn't healthy for our today and tomorrow. But, there is hope!

We can stop this "si don look" or inactive and passive attitudes if we know the truth, marry and apply it. We can stop the single man or few traditional elites control or lordship over our destiny if we understand the dreams of our fore parents for us and the generations yet unborn.

If we know where we're, where we find ourselves presently and where we're meant to be settled we will not hesitate to effect the most needed change Ogonis can believe in and be proud of. I therefore charge us to stand up and take the baton of honesty, freedom and equality; the breast-plate or barge of hard work, justice, success, peace, love and stability. No one will do this for us. Yet we will find things difficult if we continue to be adamant and celebrate nepotism, worship ignorance, demagogues, or protect the greedy and killers of our great struggle.

If we don't redirect our attitude of unfairness to ourselves, strangers would reap from what we sow while we watch and complain like beggars-drawers of water and hewers of wood. Although this isn't our destiny it's evident today. We can change this by polishing, committing to, and protecting the visions and dreams of our fore parents, which is to be self-determined. And doing so, means we must be open, honest, set up a trustworthy leadership that will pilot our affairs; be committed to our struggle for social change; be fair to all and stay consistent.

May the God of Ogoni, our country-home, the spirit of our fore parents forbid our sweat and successes going somewhere else anymore. We must do our part, seize this as our time and bring home victory in full panoply. It's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who said the time is always right to doing what's right. We must therefore do right by our society. We must commit ourselves to integrity, hard work, that we will be able to be victorious and maintain the successes our struggle holds for us. The name of Ogoni shall not perish or vanish! But we must work, work and work hard and not allow ourselves and the world to cheat Ogoni anymore, as emphasized in our liberation song. The struggle continues!

Thank you.

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Articles by Ben Ikari