Ogoni: Our Local Problems!
BY TOATE GANAGO
First, I want to give a shout-out to Ms. Ankio Briggs, for standing up for the Ogoni People during the national conference. Despite having some handful of Ogonis at the national conference, my prophecy was right on the money. I knew that the Ogoni people there were there were there for their own personal ambitions and not to defend the Ogoni people. Sad to say but it's true.
I think that every Ogoni person owes this Niger Delta Amazon at least an appreciation. I had wanted to call Mosop Nigeria to ask them to recognize her efforts on behalf of the Ogoni people and I hope by this write-up they can catch up on that. It was recalled that Ms. Kio spoke about none implementation of the UNEP report and other vital issues affecting Ogoni and the entire Niger Delta.
The Ogoni march of January 4 th 1993, organized by ken Saro Wiwa under the umbrella of Mosop was historic in many respects; first, it was the largest march ever in the history of the world. The Tiananmen Square march in Beijing in 1989, was attended by some 50,000 to 100,000 people, the “I have a dream” speech on the Washington mall in 1963, was attended by some 250,000 social activists, when Mosop was attended by some 300,000 people old and young alike. What also made the Ogoni case so unique was the fact that most of the people were not educated but could feel the pang of marginalization in their bones. The march was about changing the status quo.
The Ogoni march was against any shade of discrimination and marginalization from within and without. Shell and the Nigerian Government are not the only fetters that we have. Our local Governments have bound us with in-house shackles as well. In the past, Ogoni people have always been interested in who became the Local Government chairman and not in what the people could get from the local Governments. Ogoni have people who are in dire need and every penny that gets into it should count: the war that Shell and the Federal Government waged against Ogoni people left many of us vulnerable and traumatized with mental health issues and these are the people we ought to be protecting the most. And I feel that there is a war of attrition against the Dreams that Ken Saro Wiwa wove, by the Ogoni elites. My three years old BaBari, asked for ice scream after her dinner one day and I went and gave it to her and as we sat down on the couch, there was a wave of quilt that flushed over me, because there are not that many kids that indulge in that luxury. Maybe it was my survival quilt and I am prepared to do what I can to help my people.
While I can't claim to know how much that flows into Ogoni every month through the three Local Governments, I know that the three Local Governments receive a fair amount of money every month and the question is: what happens to these funds? If we can't weigh in on our own and we are asking for a state, are we sure that we are ready for Prime time? Ogoni people have let themselves being lorded by some nefarious politicians amongst us. If Prof. Claud Ake were to be alive today I bet he would have swallowed his assessment of Ogoni struggle. Prof. Ake thought that Ogoni struggle was going to be the model for all of Nigeria but we have denigrated to where we are now tenants to some corrupt Ogoni politicians. When would enough be enough?
I had thought that the Ogoni People would dictate to every politician in Ogoni and write the marching order and let whoever wants to be our leader that it's not going to be “business as usual but business as normal.”
As they say it's better late than never. I hope the Ogoni people would awake from slumber and set the tone and change the trajectory of politics in Ogoni for the good of the Ogoni people. If we wait until shell and the Nigeria government decide to listen to us it might be too late, a bird at hand is worth more than two in the jungle. It's high time we tackled our local problems to let the world know that we have come of age.
This is not in any way an exoneration of shell and the Government from the carnages committed against the Ogoni people. I was one of those that was waiting for the Supreme court (Shell vs Kiobel) case to fall in favor of the Ogoni people so we could put shell on the chopping block and take our pound of flesh and when that did not happen I was jolted like most people.
Mosop was all about ideas and Ken Saro Wiwa was a man of Ideas and he vouched that his ideas would live on. If Ogoni people cannot protect and defend the legacy (the survival of Ogoni People) of Ken Saro Wiwa, then he would have died in vain. As I write Ogoni people had been terminated from part of their own land in the areas of Tumbee, Gbake, Lekova and many of such places yet no Ogoni leader has ever deemed it necessary to want to get this piece of real estate back. Geo-Politics is very vital to any people but the Ogoni people. So, it means that we have ceded some part of Ogoni to some lucky occupants and the possibility of reclaiming this real estate is closed to nil if ever any Ogoni person decides that we want to make a case to reclaim it.
Some Ogoni villages have been decimated by some political-wolves in our mist and we know who these people are and we can't seem to question them for any crime committed against the People. Some people are homeless in their own communities and this is not what Mosop was all about. Mosop was about protecting every Ogoni person… poor or rich and not just the rich. K-Dere, my home town is half decimated and we know who this person is and have been dinning and wining with him at every turn. And this person wants to be the Governor of Rivers state? Ok! Let's take a look under his hood, now that he is not yet a Governor he has instigated wars in most part of Ogoni, like Deke, K-Dere, Biara, B-Dere and many others. When he is given the full fledge State Power what shall become our fate? Not saying this out of spite but out of a grave concern for my people.
While we wait for the bigger price it would be better if we make every penny count and help the people who are in need the most. We can expand access to education, pay stipend to widows and orphans amongst us, instead of letting our politician harvest us with sickles. We can write their marching order and even say how much they would be paid as local Government Chairmen and let it be about the people.
If someone takes a walk through the city of Port Harcourt, one would find that most of the people on the streets hawking are Ogonis who should be in school but due to poverty they are not. The Nigerian Ports Authority in Port Harcourt has a maze of makeshift restaurants (mama put) and almost all the servers there are Ogonis. Any of these kids could have been me and deserve to be on our agenda. We can't seem to be rigging the deck for the rich and the well connected against the poor, and that is what our actions suggest.
Few years ago a young man was killed in the course of protesting against a forceful land grab by the Rivers States Government. Nobody seemed to notice that but as soon as an Ogoni politician was teargased, the entire Ogoni elites came out to demonstrate and condemned it. I don't want to be part of an Ogoni that would cherry pick who to defend and who not to defend: that is a stench in my nostril. Every sons and daughters of Ogoni should be treated equally. It's time to hold our politicians accountable for any penny that comes into Ogoni and it should start now.
Toate Ganago is an Ogoni and can be reached at: [email protected]
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