A NEW VISTA OF WAR AS ELEME BATTLE OGUN
Eleme in Rivers State generally believed to be Nigerian's unofficial headquarters for oil and gas. Strategically located both on land and its waterways. Eleme hosts numerous sensitive oil and gas and other important Federal Government installations. Nigeria's oldest refinery is in Eleme. The petrochemical, the National fertilizer Company (NAFCON) oil and gas free zone, the federal light terminal and the federal ocean terminal among others are all in Onne Eleme Soil. Indeed Onne alone houses over a hundred and fifty Companies.
With these huge number of Companies operating in Eleme, its easy to conclude that Eleme soil and people will be drenched with milk and honey. But the Eleme people said that nothing comes to them. Practically nothing' in spite of the monumental environmental hazards we suffer from the operations of these Companies. No forms of Compensations what so ever comes to us' they said.
They blamed their neighboring Ogoni people for their woes, saying that they have been short-changed and cheated black and blue by the Ogonis. According to them, the Rivers State and federal governments are jointly backing the Ogoni to frustrate them. They said that the Ogoni people perfected this cheating by telling the world that Eleme is Ogoni and therefore all the oil and gas and federal government installations in Eleme soil are in Ogoni. They said that the Ogoni has used this false hood to attract global sympathy and compensation that is made for them.
To fight this, a new pressure group named Asama Eleme movement has sprang up. In this Exclusive interview with Daily Sun, leader and project Coordinator of the group Evangelist Jonah chujor insists that there is a deliberate Conspiracy by Ogonis, the Rivers State and the federal government to subsume Eleme people under Ogonis.
Chujor a banking and finance graduate of University of Lagos now head of finance and accounts of the Port Harcourt City Education Authority stressed that the Ogonis and the government have carried such conspiracy against Eleme people over the years because Eleme are so peaceful a people.' But the peaceful disposition of the Eleme people has been taken for granted, but we can not remain docile forever Lamenting their loses over the years, he regretted that Eleme's Identity has diminished under Ogoni as a result of the conspiracy. Eleme people also face extinction as a result of poisonous gas emitting daily from the operation of the Companies 'life expectancy in Eleme land is now 55 to 60 years. It's that bad' he lamented. 'in spite of the huge sacrifice we made, benefits from the Companies still goes to Ogoni because the believe is that Eleme is Ogoni.
According to Chujor that is shocking because Eleme people and Ogoni are different ethnic groups without any cultural or historical links.
The Asama Eleme leader however recalled that Ogonis and Eleme people had met on how to pursue the struggle together during the time of ken saro wiwa. He said that the Eleme people insisted that the bill or right should reflect the distinctness of the two ethnic groups but said that ken saro wiwa refused and said the hell with Eleme and Eleme people opted out.
According to him after all that happened Ogoni conspired with the government and begin to claim that Eleme land is Ogoni. He stressed that Eleme people will now rise and fight for their right and survival. He demanded that all the accruing benefits that went to Ogoni as a result of such claims should be returned to Eleme people. He also warned that the Eleme land should be treated separately by the United Nations Environmental programmed. (UNEP) in their planned clean up Exercise of the area.' I can tell you the Eleme people are now prepared to lay down their lives for their right. The Asama represents a radical rediscovery and new consciousness of the plight of the Eleme people. Except.
Asama Eleme movement is a non violent pressure group formed, because of the activities that is happening on our land as it affects the ethnic Nationality of the Eleme people. We have as our most cardinal objective the protection and promotion of the ethnic nationality of Eleme people.
Asama represents the voice of the voiceless; the strength of the weak, the defense of the defenseless; it represents the power of the people. Asama represents Comfort for the down trodden people; it represents hope for the hopeless and the will of the people.
Opressed by the Ogonis.
Eleme is gradually going into extinction. Eleme is facing the threat of extinction. And we can not sit and fold our hands and allow our land to be taken away. For instance you can see the activities of Rivers State government these days, most of the time you hear government give announcement on four L.G.A of Ogoni Land, for Instance, the activities of UNEP on our land in terms of the clean up. They are referring to the clean up and remediation exercise as the clean up of the four LGA of Ogoni land.
And the question is where does these four LGA of Ogoni land start and where does it end. We are already facing these threats because we feel that what they are doing is a gradual attempt to erase Eleme from the sand of time and from the map of Nigeria.
But I want to quickly let you know that Eleme is one of the 250 ethnic Nationalities that make up Nigeria in the 1953 and 1963 National Census of Nigeria. Eleme was recognized as one of the languages that make up Nigeria by the colonial masters. Every Rivers man knows that Eleme is a different people. We May not be as large as the Ikwere people, or as large of the Hausa people or the Igbo people but we are a Nationality of our own.
So what we are seeing is a gradual attempt by the Ogonis and the government to subsume Eleme under Ogoni and this is not correct because we have the history of the people and of course the Ogoni bill of Rights cleared these things where Ogoni starts and ends. The paragraph 1 page 14 of the Ogoni bill of Rights rightly States and I quote.
'we the people of Ogoni 'Babe, Gokana, Kanka yo Khana and Tai numbering about five hundred thousand been a separate and distinct ethnic nationality within the federal government of Nigeria wish to draw the attention of the government and people of Nigeria to the under mentioned facts''
Now this is a clear demarcation of where Ogoni starts and ends and the bill of Rights of the Ogoni was, written by MOSOP during the time of late ken Saro Wiwa and other senior sons of Ogoni who can not make a mistake of where Ogoni starts and where Ogoni ends.
Now for the federal government and the state government to turn around to begin to name the four LGAs of Ogoni without Eleme, and still call Eleme Ogoni we see it as a deliberate attempt to silence the people of Eleme and oppress us. Because if you look at the whole state we fall among the unrepresented people of the world. The language of Eleme people is the only language that is not been spoken on the Rivers State television and Radio.
But if you check historically Eleme has contributed so vastly to the development of Nigeria. Right from the time of the inception and completion of the first refinery in 1962 up to date. Eleme has been contributing to the development of Nigeria and there is nothing significant we have to hold on to.
Right from 1999 till date there is nothing significant Eleme could hold on to in terms of dividends of democracy. Besides the few health centers and the primary schools that were built all over the State, there are no new roads been constructed within Eleme because they feel that we are Ogoni, so when new roads are constructed in parts of Ogoni they feel its the same with Eleme.
Now let me ask this question very quickly. The Ogonis said that Eleme and Ogonis are one. Of all the benefits that accrued to MOSOP from the sufferings they claimed that they were suffering?
What has come to Eleme?
Scholarships are being award to the sons of Ogoni, the presence of international community is in Ogoni. What have we seen in Eleme.
For instance, let's merge the Ogoni Bill of Rights with the Ogoni Calendar of 2009.
Which they captioned the pains and gains of Ogoni struggle, showing the past and present leaders of Ogoni. Including Ledum Mitee. In that calendar they numbered the important things to note about Ogoni. Point number eight said that Ogoni is the unofficial headquarters of Oil and gas industries in Nigeria as the host companies, such as petrochemical, NNPC, Federal Ocean terminal the best in Africa, and federal light terminal and the National Fertilizer Company.
Now what do we say to this. These Installations on Eleme soil are they in Babe, Gokana, Kenkhana or in Tai are they in Tai as was written in the Ogoni bill of Rights.
These that Ogonis has published to the world using it to claim sympathy and benefits from the international community where are they situated. I am still asking are they in Gokana, Yokana Babe or in Tai.
Ogoni-Eleme link never worked
This is a more recent thing. This thing of Eleme been one of the L.G.A of Ogoni is a more recent thing. Because when this Bill or right thing started. The Ogonis and the Eleme people sat together and Eleme people made a proposal and the memorandum of the Eleme people were totally rejected. One of the cardinal points of the memorandum was that the Bill of rights must State Ogoni slash/Eleme bill of right or Eleme /Ogoni bill of right. Ken saro wiwa said that that can not happen and to hell with the Eleme people.
Eleme people then said that since the distinctness of the two ethnic nationalities can not be spotlighted on the bill of right then it means that Eleme people can not be part of it. And we opted out. The Eleme also demanded that any place where Installation is situated should be clearly stated on the bill or right and when the Ogonis say no Eleme opted out.
And let me equally say this. The Ogon had been claiming that they have been suffering gas flaring. Gas flairing does not come from oil well. Eleme people have oil well spread all over Eleme but that doesn't give us flaring. But we have been suffering gas flaring for over five decades now ever since the refinery was constructed Eleme people has been exposed to gas flaring. Now you don't suffer gas flaring from oil well, you suffer gas flaring from carbon and chemical companies.
NAFCON when it was in operation you cannot breath in any clean air. The same thing from the refinery, the same thing from the petrochemical company all in Eleme soil. Eleme people has been suffering, the average aged expectancy in Eleme now is between 55 and 60 years. There are no old people in Eleme now because they have been exposed to gastro and poisonous air.
And for a government that know really well that Eleme and Ogoni are not one to turn around to subsume and suppress Eleme people we are saying no and we are crying out that the world should come to our aid. Civil rights organizations should come to the aid of the Eleme people because we are suffering the threat of Extinction.
Eleme should be seen as the unrepresented people of the world and we are calling on the international community to come on the spot investigation or where Eleme starts and where Eleme ends.Eleme is not Ogoni.
No common language or historical link.
For you to call a people one, they must share a similar or a common language I cannot flow in any language or in any tongue with an Ogoni except English. An Ogoni man cannot understand when I speak and of course, you can not call a dialect a language. Eleme has four dialects that make up its llanguage. There is the dialect that is spoken by the one people there is a dialect spoken by the other part of Odido and the dialect spoken by the ba ogoi people. But the correct pronunciation is Oba lo goi. Those people are an off shoot of Eleme but they have been eaten up by Tai local government but as I talk with you the people know that they are Eleme people. They have been over an.
There is nothing you can call historical or traditional link what5soever. Our faming instruments are different, our culture is different, our musical instruments are difference, and our music is different. But the major factor is that our languages are difference. What the Ogoni people speak we don't hear. The major issue that would, have probably brought about the link is language buy we don't share a common language.
Meger by colcnial masters
No historical link between the Eleme people and the Ogoni people. I want to state here clearly that the only link that has brought the Eleme people and the Ogoni people together is western politics but sir you can see that between 1908 and 1946, Eleme and Ogonis were in different division. In 1908 Eleme was in Ahoda division under Owerri province by the British political demarcation. Ogoni was in Opobo division in Calabar province. Neither the Ogonis nor the Eleme people protested that there kits and kins were divided that they want to form a synergy so that they can play good politics where ever they are, they stayed in this arrangement comfortably well.
Now for the purpose of distance, Eleme people were removed from Ahoada division and brought to Degema division it was expected that if they were now talking about distance they would have just been brought from there and sent to Opobo division where the Ogonis were but they were taken from Ahoada to Dgema division. And they were kept in that Degema division from 1936 to 1946 when the Rivers province was created.
At the time the Rivers province was created in 1946 the Ogonis and the Eleme people came into the same division which was named as the Ogoni division. For administrative convenience of the colonial masters. The Eleme people began an agitation that they are not the same people with the Ogoni and that they needed to have their own separate county council.
In 1959 the Eleme people were given a county council different from the Ogoni people. And the Ogoni county council was named as Khana county council, the Khana county council I' am refereeing to is this present Khana local government, Gokana and Tai local government. When this separation was done the Ogoni did not even protest neither did the Eleme people protest that they are separated or balkanized. So Eleme was named Eleme country council and Ogoni was name Khana Country Council.