Ogoni-4: Time for Rivers State Government to Act

By Odimegwu Onwumere

The issue as many Nigerians know today is not only that their fathers popularly called the Ogoni-4 were murdered following the disorderliness that engulfed Ogoni-land in May, 1994 caused by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) and the Federal Government that pummeled many Ogoni sons and daughters to the soil but more worrisome is the clam and callousness displayed by SHELL in its bid to regain entry into Ogoni oil fields through an out of court settlement to the Heralded Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa family and others who in many quarters within and outside Ogoni have been fingered to be responsible for the gruesome and horrendous murders of the four patriotic gentlemen. This appears to be the contention of the son of one of the prominent and moderate Ogoni four – Mr. Suage Badey whose father Mr. Albert Badey suffered brutality and untimely death in the hands of an orchestrated and recalcitrant mob loyal to the heralded Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa. This he said has brought us back to the dark and painful era when reconciliation seemed impossible. He described the insensitivity of the oil giant as divisive aimed at polarizing the reconciliatory process that was ongoing which he also blamed on the lack of brotherly love and understanding on the part of the Ogonis who went to court with the aim of getting monetary compensation at the expense of life that can not be replaced and the unity of Ogonis that is most essential at the moment.

Mr. Suage condemned the move and described it as uncalled for. In his address, he said, "It is sad to note that Shell in coming to negotiation with the Ogoni 9, decided to bruise the long battered and injured souls of the families of the Ogoni-4 by paying compensation to the murderers of our fathers. We did not need a reminder of the ugly incident anymore having had some measure of reconciliation. I agree with Desmond Orage when he best described it aptly as a second blow below the belt".

From the news making the rounds since that settlement was made, the families of the four murdered Ogonis – Edward Kobani (Ken's onetime benefactor), Theophilus Orage and Sam Orage (Ken's brothers-in-law), had been wreathing in pains and are feeling humiliated and cheated and as Nigerians, this is the time the Rivers State Government under the able leadership of Rt. Hon. Chibuke Rotimi Amaechi should wield into the matter and settle this internal squabble once and for all to avoid again another experience of bloodletting in the state.

The ogoni 4 were said, paid for their discipline with their lives. One observer rightly puts it, "They were just as committed to their tribe's interests as Ken was, their only "crime" being their fear that Ken's radicalism would cause dangerous overheating at the grassroots level and their belief that Ogoniland's conflicts with Shell and its Governmental partners could be resolved via civilized dialogue".

While these chiefs were murdered and their bodies carried away by their killers, the SPDC has been making more money from the exploration of oil in Ogoni. Since immeasurable capital of petroleum were discovered in Nigeria in the 1950s, the different Nigerian governments from 1970 to1979 can not deny of making 219 million and 10.6 billion naira respectively in revenues from oil.

The state government can't play ignorance that the SPDC controls approximately 60 percent of the domestic oil market in Nigeria. And these operations are in the oil-rich

Niger Delta. It was as a result of these explorations of the crude oil in the region that the Ogonis, an ethnic group that predominate in the Niger Delta region, protested that the SPDC's oil production has not only maimed the lives of the people and degraded the environment, but abetted to the destruction of the economic viability of their local farmers and producers.

Well, it was the Nigerian Federal Government, that gave the SPDC the impetus to treat our environment the way it does because the Nigerian government has failed many times to put in place environmental protection against oil damage by the SPDC and other oil companies. As a result, the amiable statesmen called the Ogoni-4 and other Ogonis were harassed and met unjust end through the negative instrumentality of the Federal Government for organizing protests and threatening sabotage of oil facilities.

Odimegwu Onwumere is the Founder of Poet Against Child Abuse (PACA), and also a Media Consultant based in Rivers State. Email: [email protected]