FOR Ogoni people and Human Rights Activists in Nigeria, August 2015 has earned itself pride of place in Nigeria’s environmental dateline as a month of action. This is the month President Muhammadu Buhari approved several actions to fast-track the long delayed implementation of the United Nations Environmental Programme Report (UNEP) on the environmental restoration of Ogoniland. Revisiting the UNEP report has yet again put the suffering and struggle of Ogoni people on the front burner of public discourse, twenty years after the brutal hanging of Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro Wiwa (Ken Saro-Wiwa) and the “Ogoni 8” by the Sani Abacha military regime.
EVERY Nigerian loudly proclaims their hatred of corruption. Corruption has made majority of us poor and our country backward, with only a handful of super-rich folks, most of them crooks. We all want corrupt people brought out to the public square and lynched. But how many of us can cast the first stone? When this question was posed to a Biblical lynch mob, none of them had the nerve or conscience to do it.
he doctrine of Machiavelli is named after its creator, Niccolo Machiavelli, a statesman, historian and philosopher. Machiavelli was born in Florence in 1469. He believed that a politician should not be bound by Amaechiavellaany moral or minding his dirty hands.
The resolution of the Federal Government early this week to deal with oil pollution in the Niger Delta is laudable. President Muhammadu Buhari was reported to have on Wednesday announced a trust fund to pay for the clean-up of the Ogoniland region.
The anti -colonial movements that swept across Africa and Asia transformed world politics, creating a new Third World the emergent countries. At that time, a radical mind was vehemently critical of the colonial powers. In his book, The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon exposed the economic and psychological degradation of imperialism and pointed the way forward by violence that would ultimately lead to socialism. He recognized that colonial domination is total and tends to over- simplify, very soon manages to disrupt in spectacular fashion the cultural life of a conquered people. This cultural obliteration is made possible by negation of national reality by new legal relations introduced by the occupying power and banishment of the natives and their customs to the outlying districts by colonial society.
By appropriation and by the systematic enslaving of men and women, this thought provoking historical analysis of colonialism given by one of African revolutionary minds; gives us a peep into the chequered history of Africa. The plight of African continent can be traced down time line; the slave era. Although slavery was one of the admixtures of productive labour relations practised in many nations in Africa long before the adventure of Arabs slave merchants and subsequently their European counterparts. The lust for black skin by these two slave merchants race signalled the precursor of what became the Trans-Atlantic slave trade that lasted over four centuries. More than four centuries of dehumanizing any human race was enough to truncate and stagnant its natural evolution in all ramification. As slave trade came under scathing castigation by the capitalist in the early stage of industrial revolution, they used the church to propagate its moral burden on nations trading in slaves. The frontier of dehumanization was systematically extended to encompass acquisition of colonial territories outside the mother countries. This was another phase of domination by ruling the freed people in their own continent.
This phase saw the scramble for African continent by European nations. The unfair balance of economic, military and technology might was always in favour of the conquerors against the conquered people. As the conquering nations grow richer and more powerful due to their new mode of production, they seek foreign markets and also natural resources to feed their industries. The capitalist had to look no further than where their fore-bears looked (Africa) to get their needed resources. Their grandfathers came to buy or catch black skins; they too came to expropriate the riches in Africa’s soil. Pockets of resistance by angry, humiliated and dehumanized Africans were met by brute force made possible by the use of superior fire arms.
According to Frantz Fanon, the colony’s economy was organised in order to complement the economy of the different mother countries. Colonialism hardly ever exploits the whole of the country. It contents itself with bringing to light the natural resources, which it extracts and exports to meet the need of the mother country’s industries. There by allowing certain sectors of the colony to become relatively rich while the rest of the colony follows its path of underdevelopment and poverty or sink into it more deeply.
Immediately after independence, the people who live in the more prosperous regions realise their good luck and show a primary and profound reaction in refusing to feed the other people. African unity, that vague formula, yet one to which the man and woman of Africa were passionately attached and whose operative value serve to bring immense pressure to bear on colonialism takes off the mask and crumbles into regionalism inside the hollow shell of nationality itself. The national bourgeoisie, since it is strung up to defend its immediate interests and sees no farther than the end of its nose, reveals itself incapable of simply bringing national unity into being or of building up the nation on a stable and productive basis. The national front which has forced colonialism to withdraw cracks up and wastes the victory it has gained.
Not long ago Nazism transformed the whole of Europe into veritable colony. The government of the various European nations called for reparations and demanded the restitution in kind and money of the wealth which had been stolen from them. Cultural treasures, pictures, sculptures and stained glasses have been given back to their owners. There was only one slogan in the mouths of the Europeans on the eve of the 1945 V-day; Germany must pay.
In the same way, we may say that the imperialist state would make a great mistake and commit an unspeakable injustice if they contented themselves with withdrawing from our soil the military cohorts, the administrative and managerial services whose function it was to discover the wealth of the country, to export it and sent it off to the mother countries. We are not blinded by the moral reparation of national independence, nor are we fed by it. The wealth of the imperial countries is our wealth too. Europe has stuffed herself inordinately with the gold and raw materials of the colonial countries. Latin America, China and Africa from all these continents under whose eyes Europe today raise up her tower of opulence, there has flowed out for centuries towards that same Europe. Europe is literally the creation of the third world, the wealth which smothers her is that which was stolen from the underdeveloped peoples. The ports of Holland and docks of Bordeaux and Liverpool were specialised in Negro slave trade and owe their renown to millions of deported slaves. So when we hear the head of a European state declare with his hands on his chest that he must come to the help of the poor underdeveloped peoples, we do not tremble with gratitude. Quite the contrary; we say to ourselves; it is our just reparation which will be paid to us. Nor will we acquiesce in the help for underdeveloped countries being a programme of sisters of charity. This help should be the ratification of a double racialization. The realization by colonized peoples that it is their due, and the realization by the capitalist powers that in fact they must pay for it through lack of intelligence the capitalist countries refuse to pay, then the relentless dialectic of their own system will smother them. It is a fact that young nations do not attract much private capital. There are many reasons which explain and render legitimate this reserve on the part of the monopoly.
As soon as the capitalists know that their government is getting ready to decolonize, they hasten to withdraw all their capital from the colony in question. The spectacular flight of capital is one of the most constant phenomena of decolonization.
This distillation of Fanon’s narrative and the historical trajectory of western capitalist exploit in underdeveloped nations of the world in general and Africa in particular gives an insight into what obtains today. From the epoch of conquest and slave trade to colonial domination and imperialism, they keep perfecting their art of domination and control. Great African leaders like; Kwame Nkrumah, Nelson Mandela, Thomas Sankara, Patrick Lumumba, Amilcar Calbra, Samora Machel, Julius Nyerere, and others would be shuddering in their graves if they were to witness the plunder that has ripped Africa to bits, thanks to the convenience of leaders whom transnational corporations, ventures philanthropists and international financial advisers have led by the nose. Sankara illustrated the African spirit needed to realign the continent away from economic and political poverty and towards liberating ideas and people’s sovereignty. According to award winning activist Nnimmo Bassey in his book; ‘To cook a continent’ ‘some people think Sankara was an idealist and thus left his flank open to deadly bullets from guns wielded by friends.’
The western powers in their Machiavellian control of world economy are adept in the use of blackmail, deception, intimidation, agent provocateur, conflict and crisis instigation and wars to maintain stranglehold on underdeveloped nations of the world. Today, carbon trading has crept into the socio-economic relations in international politics. As usual, African continent has been targeted to bear the burden of climate changed caused by industrial nations of Europe.
This among other forms of control and domination is what we in the progressive left term second slavery era. We must align with present day activists and others spread across underdeveloped countries of the world to resist any form of neo-liberalism which is new era of imperialism. The imperialists have carted away uncountable able bodied black Africans. They came back for her rich soil resources and plundered it. Now, they are back to uproot Africans through wars and terrorism. Their corporations despoiled and degraded our rich eco system through oil and mineral explorations. They are buying our forest now in their bid to grab our lands in the name of a phoney carbon trading deals. Just like in the days of slavery, our greedy self-centred and unpatriotic leaders always connive with them as accomplice in all the dehumanizing trade relations. Renowned revolutionary writers like; Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon, and Afro beat legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti have pointed the way forward. It is left for us in this generation to fulfil their patriotic aspirations and rescue Africa from being a sleeping giant.
Ameh is the Founder of Generation for Change in Africa and Organising Secretary, Socialist Workers League Abuja branch.
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When the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in its statement on the federal government’s recently proposed and announced fast-track actions for the implementation of the UNEP Report on the clean-up of Ogoniland warned that “it is important that we (ogoni people) avoid, even if tempted, tendencies capable of jeopardizing the process and making us (the ogonis) laughing stock,” the organisation knew what it was advising against. Whether anybody wants to hear this, the major problem in that part of the Niger Delta is the ogoni people themselves.
The Ogoni people are in shadow of the negative impact of crude oil explorations by multinational oil companies in their land. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Plc (SPDC) is at the centre of the environmental degradations that Ogoni is suffering till date. The company operates in Ogoni without any development or implementation of environmental assessment methodologies. It does not take into account the economic, socio-cultural and conservation values of the environment in Ogoni.
Looking at the level of devastation and environmental degradation caused by Shell activities in their over 35 years of oil exploitation in Ogoni, there will be no need to resume oil production if the Ogoni people will survive as an ethnic group and an indigenous people on the surface of the earth.
With the recent passage of the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill into law by the National Assembly, which also aims at criminalising barbaric act of female genital mutilation, there may be light at the end of the tunnel for many who continue to live in fear across the country.
With the wide spread commendation received across the country by the National Assembly for passing the Violence Against Persons Prohibition Bill into law, which includes the law criminalising female genital mutilation (FGM) in the country, it is believed that Nigerians are beginning to accept the fact that cultural and religious beliefs must be subject to universal human rights practices.
Despite the optimism that the law will nonetheless save the over 40 million Nigerian women and girls from the numerous health implications occasioned by the savagely cruel practice, what is worrisome is whether this law will be enforced across the country and offenders punished for inflicting bodily harm, psychological trauma and promoting health hazards among Nigerian women in the name of circumcision and other long-aged traditional and cultural practices that are harmful to health.
Of particular concern is the fact that this law is not new to many states in the country which have hitherto signed the law criminalising FGM several years ago, yet the cruelty is still practiced openly, with the supposed enforcers of such law and even the officials of the various state governments looking the other way, because they shouldn't be caught dabbling into cultural and religious practices which are regarded as sensitive at the expense of human dignity.
Since Edo State outlawed the practice in1999, other states including Rivers, Ogun, Osun, Cross River and Bayelsa, among others have also done the same thing, while persons convicted under the law are supposed to be imprisoned for six months or fined a meager sum of N1,000. But available information suggests that enforcing these laws in the various states has been a tall order while the practises continue to gain increased acceptance.
Medical experts as well as advocates of the law criminalising FGM have suggested that the best ways to halt this practice in the country is for government to first of all embark on massive awareness on the health implications of FGM across the country, especially in remote areas, as well as stress the fact that there is a law criminalising offenders, and secondly, that offenders should be punished, while such punishments should be publicized as a deterrent, so that other offenders or intending offenders will know that it is no longer business as usual.
According to the Medical Director, Faith Alive Hospital, Lagos, Dr. Mike Lebimoyo, the cruel practice of cutting the clitoris or in some cases the clitoris plus the labia minora of young females should be discouraged by all and sundry, especially among locals in the communities who are known to be closer to the people.
He said the passing of the bill criminalising the practice in the country by the National Assembly was only the first step in the sequence of strategies in reducing the scourge.
He said: "I learnt the bill has been with the National Assembly for several years, but has now finally been passed. Government should embark on awareness campaigns using community leaders, religious bodies, the mass media, especially television to inform the citizens that the practice has serious health implications."
He said just as priority was being given to malaria and HIV campaigns in the country, that the government, corporate organisations, health bodies and well meaning Nigerians should also give priority to the campaign against FGM as it affects about one quarter of the 170 million Nigerians.
He suggested that various community leaders, religious bodies, local government officials and even street heads be trained on why the practice must be discouraged. He believes this would help in reaching the community members more, rather than fighting from the top.
"One major problem with the Nigerian system is that most of our laws are not enforced. You don't expect someone who is already used to a particular lifestyle or life pattern to just quit, that is why enforcement of laws are necessary. So while carrying out campaigns on the reasons why people should stop offending practices, measures should also be put on ground to punish defaulters.
"That was how the law prohibiting public smoking in Lagos was enacted, but every day we see people smoking in public places. The laws are just there on paper because defaulters are not been punished," he explained.
While stressing the need for government to enforce the law since it's now a criminal offence to mutilate young women in the name of circumcision, Lebimoyo, warned that enforcement sparingly done will not achieve the aim of reducing the scourge in the country.
He said the practice which is rampant in the various geopolitical zones of the country must be vigorously fought by any legal and moral means necessary.
He, therefore recommend that parents or family members who were caught mutilating their children should be paraded just the way armed robbers are paraded, so that others can see.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), 25 per cent of the 140 million girls and women living with FGM worldwide are in Nigeria and this portends great danger for the future of the Nigerian girl child.
A study carried out by WHO also showed that of the 101 million girls of 10 years old and above estimated to have FGM in Africa, about 40.5 million are in Nigeria, marking a 41 per cent prevalence rate in the country alone. Nigeria is also topping the chat as the country with the highest prevalence rate of the practise globally - A 'fit' not worthy of edifying human existence, especially for Nigeria that prides itself as the giant of Africa.
It was also the same for the Research Director, Better Life Africa, Dr. Grace Adanri, who called on the government to enforce the laws prohibiting violence against persons for a better future for the Nigerian girl child.
According to her, "Most people are involved in the practice to attenuate sexual desire in the female, maintain chastity and virginity before marriage and fidelity during marriage, and in some quarters, they believe when a woman is circumcised, it increase her male partner's sexual pleasure when she eventually starts having sex.