Ben Ikari’s Perspectives on the Way Forward for the Ogoni People

My response to Ogonis who rose from the Ogoni forum titled: “Special Congress” and the assertion for proper monitoring of Ogoni cleanup attributed to the group, which includes Dr. Ben Naanen’s-led MOSOP committee, politicians and chiefs, etc. and reported in the media on September 17, 2012. The group tried to debunk the fact that the presentation by Ogoni visitors to Abuja recently wasn’t a sell-out.

To the participants of the aforementioned forum or “special congress” and all, I don’t believe those who went to Abuja completely sold-out. Rather, they presented Ogoni issues, but chickened-out on the core issue of Ogoni Political Autonomy (OPA) or the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). Yes, in addition to cleanup and Bori State they mentioned justice, rights and the fact that Ogonis are interested in what goes on or happens in their area. This isn’t the unmistakable, fearless and honest-just and fair assertion of the OBR. To the Abuja August visitors, could it be that you guys were (are) scared of Pres. Jonathan or the truth?
On partial sell-out, you guys requested that government replace $hell with a new company (as promised) for business to start. This issue of oil resumption is one that shouldn’t have come up at this time from any Ogoni who respect him/herself and believes Ogoni deserves justice, not minding which group one belongs. The environmental ruins that is Ogoni and the shabby manner in which government has treated Ogonis, abandoning Ogonis to suffer after one year of UNEP devastating report should have spoken to the conscience of any true Ogoni worried of being called a sell-out if involved in certain acts inimical to the yearnings and aspirations of the people.

Meanwhile, Pres. Goodluck Jonathan was even smarter when you visitors mentioned oil company replacement. He was reported to have said, there will be no oil exploitation in Ogoni without consultation and at the appropriate time. The National Network News of Sept. 12 also reported Jonathan’s position. Here Jonathan seems to understand the Ogoni issues than Ogonis who visited him. Why not if the visitors seemed scared or worried about their positions and interests or not even sure of what Ogoni wants?

Indeed Jonathan is an Ijaw; an ethnic group, which faces similar environmental ruins and human rights violations at the hands of successive Nigerian government and $hell. Maybe the president’s response would teach Ogoni politicians, chiefs and those who claim to be leading MOSOP some lessons. The fact that this replacement issue isn’t mentioned in the report below (or was mentioned and not announced or reactions skipped) as one of the topics at the forum shows it’s a miscalculation, hence partial sell-out.

In addition the OBR wasn’t mentioned to our knowledge before Pres. Jonathan. Is it that these visitors don’t believe in the provisions set forth or fears Ogoni can’t achieve these demands, even though other Nigerians have achieved same and will continue to do so? Funny enough, Chief Suanu Baridam mentioned the OBR in the “special congress” as he’s quoted below. Why only at such Ogoni forum and not before the president in Abuja or at other fora?

Well, for feature reference, when a group which claims to represent a people or government completely and repeatedly ignore the yearnings and aspirations of an oppressed people such as Ogonis and doing so-called leaders’ bid, it’s in no mistakable terms SELL-OUT OR BETRAYAL. Ogonis will be right to declare those, especially leaders who keeps calling for oil exploitation in Ogoni now, sell-outs or betrayals. Some youths of Ogoni without mincing words called this oil exploitation call in my review on my Facebook page (Ogoni-University Og-edu and Mckary Ben), vulturism; a term I demanded they stop using immediately and it stopped.

In short, what kind of evidence or conviction would you Ogoni leaders get to know that the environmental degradation of our land is serious, thus warrants no oil exploitation until further notice or when the cleanup has started and moves into the middle then there are indications that it’s safe to exploit oil? The UNEP report also states that oil exploitation and other debilitating activities surrounding it will or must have to stop for any real and sustained benefit to be achieved from the cleanup. The actualization or consolidation of Ogoni Political Autonomy (added to the cleanup exercise) or any arrangement which shall guarantee Ogonis direct and adequate control of their political, economic and environmental affairs looks promising, therefore the best bet for hydrocarbon exploitation.

Per calls for Bori State. Though not a bad thing if obtained, I repeat, MOSOP isn’t seeking Bori State. Nowhere in the OBR states that Ogonis are demanding Bori State, which will include the Opobo, Andoni and other peoples. This should by now sound louder and clearer to all MOSOPIANS, especially those who claim to be leading the supposed to be grassroots movement. What it demands as contained in the OBR is Political Autonomy, which will guarantee Ogonis (not fused with others as with Rivers State, though non-Ogonis shall live and work in such arrangement) in their state or whatever name given to an arrangement that will deliver our right to control our affairs-self-rule or government in Nigeria like other ethnic groups.

With due respect, it’s gross dishonesty, disservice and insulting for those who claim to be representing MOSOP to keep talking about Bori State the way they do. I mean MOSOPIANS can support clamor for Bori State, but distinction must be made as to what the group and by extension Ogoni demands and clearly stated in the OBR, and the recent Bori State, which NUOS started in America and was originally known as Ogoni State, and the new name accepted for strategic reasons. The evidence is there that NUOS mobilized those at home to the extent that the Nigerian government, which wasn’t thinking state creation then began contemplation due to the pressure so made. Making such claims common to Dr. Naanen and his group makes me believe these people don’t understand the needs and demands of the organization they claim to be involved or heading.

This seeming ignorance or deliberate avoidance of the OBR speaks also to the fact the Dr. Naanen’s-led group supported Amaechi’s insult and the misinformation peddled by the Nigerian media that Ogoni Political Autonomy declared on August 2 means secession from Nigeria, thus “unachievable.” True MOSOP leadership will pursue aggressively the actualization of Political Autonomy for Ogoni as contained in the OBR.

Finally, the idea and spirit of the aforementioned forum is a welcome one, since it allowed some explanation and discussion. Verily, verily, there is need for one unified front to help Ogoni move ahead and get what the people want. As I have repeatedly enunciated, only honesty and focus, boldness and unity of purpose, encouragement and support laced in seasoned and warranted criticism for reassessment can move Ogoni or any group forward.

Those who criticize or call for openness, consistent and effective communication, due process, accountability and respect for Ogoni and MOSOP aren’t enemies. Rather, they (WE) are equal stakeholders helping to prime, tool and retool the ideas and actions directed at the affairs of Ogoni Nation for needed success. We’re brothers,sisters and friends committed to Ogoni and humanity struggles,not enemies.

At least, this forum and explanation, reassertion, which would do some good is caused by some sharp criticism or the reasoning of those who differs and against the manner in which Ogoni leadership/politicians are supporting and handling the impending cleanup/giving blank check to HYPREP, which has no record or reputation, and on the issue of how the Ogoni-Abuja visitors presented themselves before Pres. Jonathan. Even at this, leaders, followers and critics who are great dreamers and builders must not rest, rather listen to each other having discussed or read from each other, disagree to agree and collaborate to getting the best for Ogoni.

Thank you.

Ben Ikari

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