Today, we are gathered once again in what has become an annual ritual to remind ourselves that the agenda which our forbearers set for us and the struggle for the realization of this agenda and tasks continues undiminished. We are here again in celebration of our freedom and the liberty that we won on January 4th, 1993 when we took that leap of faith and marched over three hundred thousand of our people on a journey for the restoration of our dignity, for our rediscovery and for our national pride.
When the United Nations General Assembly in resolution 45/164 of 18 December, 1990 proclaimed 1993 as the International Year of the world’s Indigenous peoples, little did they know that they were responding to the yearnings of a far flung indigenous minority people located thousands of kilometres away from the hallowed halls of the United Nations in New York where the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA) took place and was setting the stage for the eventual take off of the journey of the liberation of the Ogoni people.
It was indeed within the context of that proclamation that our struggle drew inspiration and renewed dedication to our quest for inclusiveness, self-determination, justice , freedom and peace as our forebears gathered to launch Ogoni’s celebration of the International Year of the World's Indigenous Peoples on January 4th , 1993, one of the very first Indigenous nations to do so at the time. On January 4th, our unique identity was established. A new Ogoni was born. Each time we meet on 4th January in this gathering, we bear witness to the enduring strength and resilience of our people.
My brothers and sisters, in this period, the Ogoni Bill of Rights, the cornerstone of Ogoni Biblicism, with its enduring ideals and principles erected on the twin pillars of truth and non-violence had been our binding thread.
DIALOGUE ON THE OGONI QUESTION
In the preceding 27 years of our struggle for a just and inclusive Nigeria Society, the continuing refusal of the federal government to enter into broad and genuine discussion with the Ogoni People is a clear temptation to violence and anarchy, especially when others are already being rewarded with engagement following such behaviour. The Ogoni struggle was launched with the adoption of the Ogoni Bill of Rights on the 26th August, 1990. The bill was submitted to the federal government of Nigeria and it raised several questions on the place of the Ogoni people in the Nigeria project. The bill interrogated the current structure of the Nigeria state, its vampire resource allocation and economic systems, the very character of development intervention, the environmental ethic in the country, the cultural implosion, the language crisis, our national character and our national life.
The government of Nigeria had failed to dialogue with the Ogoni people on the issues raised in the Ogoni Bill of Rights. We call on the government of Nigeria to seize the opportunity of this famed clean-up process to open a renewed dialogue on the Ogoni question with the intent to addressing the key issues raised in the Ogoni Bill of Rights.
We are seeking:
• Local autonomy for the Ogoni people within a federal Nigeria
• A new economic structure that ensures the use of a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development
• Proper Environmental Management of Ogoni Natural Resources
The time for government to show it can engage with peaceful advocacy is now particularly with the raging temptation to violent agitations cutting across the country. A sincere government engagement with Ogoni can demonstrate it is possible to address injustice and engender a sense of national healing.
ENVIRONMENTAL TERRORISM, OGONILAND RESTORATION AND UNEP REPORT
We would recall that in my 2014 Ogoni Day Speech, I stressed that our ancestors taught us that water is life; they taught us that our forests with its collection of trees are the cathedrals of life; they taught us that we and our animals have a psychic relationship that we are caught up with in the same web of life. They taught us that the assault on our environment is an assault on our lives. The situation where millions of plant and animal lives continue to fall to the toxicity of oil pollution is environmental terrorism in which no blood is spilled, no bones are broken yet all one sees around is dead.
It is in this light that we appreciate the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration to address the environmental nightmare in Ogoniland.
However, the efforts are indeed too slow and is becoming too late to come if there is no urgent deliberateness to guarantee that critical steps are taken to ensure that the HYPREP delivers on its core mandate to remediate the polluted Ogoni environment and restore livelihoods.
Whilst appreciating the Hydrocarbon Pollution and Remediation Project (HYPREP) for the Ogoni Medical Outreach Programme which took place in the last week of December 2017 and saw to the offering of free medical services to over two thousand physically challenged Ogoni people, we want to see a clear and focused intervention programme in the area of the emergency measures which will see the take-off of the water intervention project, provide livelihood support training for women and carry out the health impact assessment in the first quarter of the year. This will be the fifth year we are calling for the speedy implementation of so-called emergency measures where their absence is leading to needless deaths and health crises.
The construction of the Integrated Contaminated Soil and Water Management Centre must advance significantly within this first quarter if there is to be any significant cleanup within the lifetime of this administration. It is wrong for government to say that the cleanup in Ogoni is progressing adequately when these things are yet to start.
Additionally, we would like the government commence the process of the declaration of the Ogoni wetlands as a Ramsaar Site. Globally wetlands are being appreciated as crucial environments for fending off climate change – both in reducing CO2 and in protecting our land from inevitable sea level rises. We also call on government to commence the process of converting the proposed Centre for Environmental Excellence to a full- fledged University of Environmental Science.
Any further delay on the part of the government in the restorations of our land will be seen as an act of genocide being committed against the Ogoni people.
On our part, we assure that the Ogoni community is ready to give all the necessary support for the implementation of the report so long as the walls around the current delay are brought down.
POLITICAL EMPOWERMENT AND JUSTICE
In 2015, we raised certain issues in our campaigns that bothered on political justice. On our part, our struggle for political representation is not over. In fact, that struggle is still alive and is on. It is on this note that I am reiterating our call on Ogoni sons and daughters who have not done the voter registration to do so now and get their PVCs. It is our power, it is our future!
According to the revered Greek Philosopher, Plato, ‘‘One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors’’. Come the next election period, it will be time to use our votes to rewrite our history and our story.
I am charging all of us including our politicians and political activists that the time for preparation is now. We particularly call on our people to reject the violence that has been repeatedly visited on our kingdoms in recent elections. It is our right to be able to protect our youths and families from assault and coercion and we should be able to peacefully make our choices. We must all come together and begin to set the agenda for political justice.
YOUTHS, CRIMINALITY AND COMMUNAL CONFLICTS
On occasions like this, we also want to express our appreciation to some of our youth for heeding to our calls to end the cycles of communal violence and deaths in our communities due to conflict, criminality and cultism.
However, I want to emphasize that the increasing involvement of Ogoni youths in criminal activities such as robbery, kidnapping and cult violence in our communities is on the upward swing and must be confronted by us all.
While I regret the state of unemployment in the country, I hasten to add that this cannot be a reason why any nubile young Ogoni son or daughter will turn our communities into conflict zones and engage in armed robbery, kidnapping and cultism.
Our forebears who launched us on this struggle and laid down their lives for our dignity did not envisage that our young men and women will turn themselves into criminals. I am pleading with every Ogoni youth who believes in the struggle to desist from these activities. Engaging in these acts means the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other martyrs for the second time.
Our message today to every Ogoni youth here is that you must make a new vow to stand with us as we fight against criminality and conflicts in our communities. MOSOP is ready to engage with all the youths to ensure that we have a crime free Ogoni and I am inviting all Ogoni Youths to join us in this campaign.
HEALTH CRISIS IN OGONILAND
The UNEP report had raised serious health concerns in relation to the health implications of the pollution footprints in the area and called amongst others the emplacement of a health registry and impact assessment. Two reports released recently had raised the frightening dimension of the health crisis in Ogoniland. The first is the report from Amnesty International that raises concerns about the link between infant mortality in the Niger Delta particularly Ogoni and oil pollution in the region.
The second is the report I received from the field by the Ogoni Medical Doctors Forum who were engaged in the recent HYPREP Medical Outreach Programme. The Forum had informed us about the high incidence of surgical cases amongst Ogoni patients some of which had lasted for almost a decade because of no funds with the patient to pay for such surgical operations to be carried out.
This reinforces our call on the Nigeria government to establish a specialist medical facility in Ogoniland. The current situation where there is no specialist facility to address health matters in Ogoniland is unacceptable.
RESUMPTION OF OIL PRODUCTION IN OGONILAND
To mitigate poverty, unemployment and conflict in Ogoniland, MOSOP hereby re-echoes its support for economic investments in Ogoniland. In this regard, MOSOP will help foster the enabling environment that will make such investment to be human rights friendly and also thrive. Ogoni is blessed with abundant human and natural resources that need to be harnessed for the benefit of the people and investors. Consequently we warmly welcome genuine investors who will add value to the lives of the people while making honest profit on their investment.
However, regarding the resumption of oil production specifically, MOSOP reiterates its position that following the central role of oil in the Ogoni crisis, all outstanding legacy issues must be addressed and the consent of the people obtained before this can take place. It would be recalled that apart from the issue of environmental devastation that attended Shell’s operations in Ogoniland, the Ogoni people raised serious concerns about the total lack of participation of the people in the entire value chain of the oil industry, including employment; and the absence of a clear and focused Community Benefit Sharing Agreements (CBAs) and sustainable development process that recognize the rights of the people to Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in accordance with global best practice.
MOSOP wants to state unequivocally that the Ogoni issue involved three main parties namely, the Federal Government of Nigeria, the oil industry led by Shell, and the Ogoni people. Any attempt to deal with any aspect of the issue must necessarily involve the three principal actors as stakeholders in a joint project of finding a lasting solution to the Ogoni crisis. In this regard, therefore, MOSOP will resist the present attempt by the Federal Government and Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria to arbitrarily award the Ogoni fields in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 11 without consultation with the Ogoni community. It is on this note that MOSOP wants to state unambiguously that it has not certified any oil company to take over oil operations in Ogoniland as this is a process that requires the necessary consultation with all stakeholders in Ogoni.
Resumption of oil production must follow the doctrine of free, prior and informed consent through good faith consultation with the people. It has to be an open and transparent process that will allow a level playing field for any company that is interested in Ogoni oil. In this regard, the Ogoni people at the behest of MOSOP has set up a strategic committee representing the various interests in Ogoni and headed by Professor Ben Naanen, a notable economic historian and resource governance expert, to develop a template that will harmonize existing positions and guide the Ogoni people in any engagement with the Federal Government and the oil industry regarding oil production in Ogoniland. Once the template is adopted by the Ogoni people very soon, Ogoniland will be ready for engagement and consultation on this matter.
It is also in regard to industry best practice that MOSOP condemns the current ongoing laying of pipeline by Shell. Whether it is a pipeline replacement or a new pipeline, the conduct of an Environmental, Social and Human Rights Impact Assessment is absolutely necessary. Beyond that, the UNEP report had clearly stated that for any future discussion about resuming oil production in Ogoniland, there would be need for the conduct of an Environmental Impact Assessment which must include socio-economic and health considerations. This has not been done.
RENEWABLE ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE
In order to promote alternative sustainable energy sources and as a key climate change response solutions, MOSOP is partnering with some investors to bring in a-10mw solar powered energy to the city of Bori. Renewable energy is one of the most effective tools we have in the fight against climate change and the move from fossil fuel dependence.
In Nigeria, renewable energy offers us an alternative to decades of unstable power supply and an end to reliance on gas and oil. Emphasis has been placed on northern Nigeria for solar power but it is such a rich resource in our region that it is viable in all parts of the country. Besides issue of job creation, the renewable energy sector has been found to have positive impact on health.
My dear brothers and sisters, as it has indeed pleased God to enable us enter 2018, I would stress that we cannot build better communities with peaceful, just and inclusiveness if we are not working together. No single Ogoni person can turn around our destiny. We must do things together, now, more than ever before, because we are one nation of one people with one common destiny. We must therefore reconcile with ourselves and forgive one another where wrong has been made. According to Rev. Martin Luther King Jnr, the Black American Civil Rights hero, he who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. I seize this opportunity to appeal to all of us once again to forgive ourselves and move forward in the spirit of reconciliation to save our nationality.
My fellow compatriots, we have gotten thus far in this struggle because of the enormous support that we have garnered both locally and internationally from conscientious neighbours, friends and sympathisers. To all of them, we owe a debt of gratitude for the support and assure that MOSOP on behalf of the Ogoni people will continue to reach out and build strong alliances with them. This is necessary to enable us take our crusade for justice to every corner of the world, to every valley of oppression and to every prison of hopelessness.
In conclusion, co-pilgrims in the Ogoni struggle, as a people, we have been tested by several trials that steeled our resolve and proved our resilience. In the days ahead, let us continue to exhibit that resilience for which we are well known. Let us therefore hold fast to that message of hope and renew our commitment to the cause of justice and human dignity committed to our hands by our forebears when they marched on January 4th 1993. It is only in doing so, that we can join hands to sing, this is our moment of justice, this is our moment of honor!
I wish you a happy Ogoni Day 2018
Long live Ogoni People, Long live Ogoni Nation.