MOSOP Report on the Training of SmallHolder Farmers on Non-Violence Struggles

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MOSOP Report on Ogoni Smallholder Farmers Leadership Training on Nonviolence Struggles: Promoting Grassroots Nonviolent Advocators in the Ogoni Communities

Introduction

As part of the ongoing project by the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) on “Ogoni Smallholders Farmers Leadership Training on Nonviolence Struggle: Promoting Grassroots Nonviolent Advocators in the Ogoni Communities”, a three day training workshop to train Smallholders Farmers on Nonviolence Struggle was held in the Peace and Freedom Centre, Bori in Rivers State, Nigeria from June 3rd - 6th 2014. The training was a strong fall out of MOSOP assessment of conflict situations that arises in Ogoni communities as a result of the Rivers State Government using some community Chiefs to grab the local farmers ancestral farm land for commercial banana plantation farm in Ogoni.

The Rivers State Government led by Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi use the Government soldiers in killing several communities’ youths that rose against the injustice perpetrated in Ogoni. MOSOP including other Civil Society Groups in Rivers and Nigeria was not left out in protesting and maintaining opposition to the commercial banana plantation farm, as the Smallholder farmers prefer to retain ownership of their ancestral farm land and their only source of livelihood. Thus, they have expressed their opposition to land grab plans through letters, which the government ignored. Community members have organized peaceful protests including one by women on the 26 October, 2011. Since then several protests have been organized by community members.

On the 13th January, 2012, hundreds of affected communities’ members protested on the street against the move of the Rivers State Government to acquire their land. The protesters converged at the various markets square in the most Ogoni communities to express their outrage over violence on the community members by soldiers working with government land surveyors. Other protest marches were organized in partnership with the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF) and the Ogoni Civil Society Platform (OCSP). In one of such protests on the 10 November, 2011, women, men and children marched on the streets of Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, to the Rivers State House of Assembly. The Ogoni protesters submitted a letter to the Speaker of the Assembly Rt. Hon. Otelemaba Amachree in which they called for the prosecution of the police officers that killed Ogoni youths.

As the crisis over government/corporate land grabs in Ogoni continued, the women from the affected communities sought the assistance of Nigerian civil society organizations to challenge government actions in a court of law. The women accused the Rivers State Government of violating their fundamental human rights by forcefully acquiring their lands and lease to the Mexican company; “Union De Initiativa De C.V” for a banana plantation project. The women filed a case in the Federal High Court 1, Port Harcourt, through the help and support of MOSOP and other civil society groups. But the case was thrown out by Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi for lack of jurisdiction over the matter. The farmers hope for justice and prevention of government from confiscating their only source of livelihood was lost at this point.

MOSOP, Justice Empowerment Initiative – Nigeria (JEI) Social Action and CEHRD who had worked tirelessly on this case finally engage the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to take on the issues that had been raised by this land grabbing incident.

Challenges

The first major challenge for this training was the timing and mobilization of the communities for this training. The period choose for the training is a farming season when the local farmers has to do a lot of farm weeding in preparation for September harvest, but with much effect and series of consultative meeting with community groups in the communities we were able to pull out participants for the training.

Arising from this, there was a dramatized sense of tension in the communities as build up to the training. As the training turned out in day 1, the participants informed other community members on the benefit they gain from the training and that led to increase in the number of participants at the training venue. The participant increases from the second day to the last day of our training.

The Training for Day 1

The Training workshop started at about 10: 20 am with an opening prayer by one of the participants. Thereafter, the training facilitator Mr. Aalo Anthony welcome the participants to the training, in his speech, he said that the MOSOP President was suppose to give the opening speech but was at the time of the training in the U S and Mexico for other international engagements. He stresses the need for peace and nonviolent activism in the various communities in Ogoni land. He reminds the participants of the basic of MOSOP struggle which is nonviolence and that nonviolence activism should be the watch word of every Ogoni person. He informed the participants about the benefits that they will derive from the training and urge them to be attentive to the trainers as each of them has a lot to offer during the training. He further introduced himself and encouraged the participants to follow suit in the introduction and what they hope to achieve at the end of the three day training, setting of workshop ground rules before introducing the trainer for the day.

Dr. Allen Fidelis, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria, begins with a well package presentation on conflict management, community peace building initiatives, nonviolence activism and international best practices. He further show a short video on Gandhi’s nonviolence activism thereafter, questions/answers before group discussions and plenary.

Day 2

The second day begins with the recap of the previous day activities; this was to refresh the memory of the participants and also to evaluate their understanding of the first module of the training. Emem J. Oken, the Executive Director of KEBETKACHE Women Development & Resource Centre started the training with the Fundamentals of Advocacy, she asked the participants what they understand by advocacy, each of them were able to make their contributions as to what they understand by advocacy. She takes the participants through the standard and widely accepted definitions of advocacy and at the end of the session it was done on the participants that they have all engage in one advocacy or the other. She explains the need to advocate and gave the basic steps in advocacy campaign, advocacy message, and elements of advocacy message. In addition she further discussed the characteristics of an effective advocator and the importance of mobilization in advocacy, she conclude the first part of her presentation by asking a rhetoric question “who is a mobilize?” she details the qualities and characteristics of a mobilizer that was understood by all participants.

Furthermore, Emem, extensively discussed Advocacy Strategies. She said that advocacy strategy is using a set of strategies to gain power and increase awareness on a set of issues to create social change, she break it down to cooperation, Education, litigation and persuasion strategy. It was well understood by all. She also discussed confrontation, she explain that it has to do with protests, peaceful and nonviolent demonstrations to draw attention to negative policy impacts and community concerns and can be used to bring about pressure for change. Given the instance of the Liberian Women sit-in to advocate for peace and ceasefire in 2003 in Liberia and the venue of the Liberian Peace talks in Ghana and the women in black movement that began in 1987 by the Jewish women to oppose the Israelis occupation of Palestine.

Other national and local examples given by her was the Healing our Tragedy with Dignity orgnised by the Nigerian women after the 2007 elections using the black band to campaign and protest letters were read in front of INEC offices in the 6 geo-political zones in Nigeria, Mothers for Peace Rallies organized by Kebetkache with the Tere-ama, Emohua and Ogoni women in 2007 against the violence of militancy in the Niger Delta communities and the Ugborodo and Ijaw women Occupation of Chevron Oil tank farm in Escravos stopping work for about 11 days in Delta State.

Emem also went further to introduce Building Alliance for Advocacy. She talks about importance of alliance building, advocacy and alliance building, advantages of alliance building/rules and benefits of coalition/alliance auilding. She took time to explain all the types of Coalition and alliance building with examples. She concludes that “The creation of coalitions among communities or civil society organizations is one of the most important strategies for carrying out advocacy campaigns. The challenge is to find ways to make them work better and achieve more positive results”.

It was a well package session and all the participants were overwhelmed by her presentations. The participants were engage in experience sharing thereafter, group exercise were given to the participants

Day 3

The third day of the training workshop experiences a greater participation of people, but we were able to accommodate them. The third day was the turn of Mrs. Chinedum Adebomi to take the training participants through negotiation, after the recap of the previous day activities Mrs. Adobomi begin the day with a question “what is negotiation” the question was a way of accessing the level of participants understanding of the word “negotiation”. She gave a general discussion on the subject matter and an accepted definition of negotiation, at this point the participants understood that they have been engage in negotiation in one way or the other. She discussed the purpose or role of the negotiator and dwell more on negotiation planning, foundation of negotiation, negotiating element and task of the negotiator.

Chinedum made it clear about the five things that make a good Negotiator should know, they are: 1) knowing that both sides are under pressure so you do not feel intimidated, 2) Wanting to learn negotiating skills, 3) Understanding negotiating skills, 4) Be willing to practice, 5) Wanting to create “win/win” situations. She further talks about understanding negotiation facts, pre negotiating procedure, negotiation process and conflict management in the negotiating process she said Major types of conflict reduction strategies include: 1) Reducing tension and hostility, 2) Controlling the number and size of issues at stake, 3) Enhancing communication and feedback, 4) Establishing common ground for agreement and 5) Enhancing the desirability of the options and alternatives provided.

She unveil the successful negotiating checklist with about 17 points to look out for during negotiation as: 1) Learn your opponents needs, 2) Learn your opponents’ objectives, 3) Plan your negotiations, 4) Have a clear pre-established deadline or resistance point beyond which you will not go, 5) Know what time deadlines/pressures can do, etc.

Chinedum went further to discussed the six different Sources or Bases of Power, (advantages and disadvantages) and gave three stages of every negotiation as

• Learning your opponent’s stated goals and stating what you want

• Gathering information on your opponent and their needs

• Reaching for comprise

She discussed women in negotiation, negotiation communication, the negotiation process opening and stress on complications on your end in negotiation as:

• Overconfidence

• Under confidence

• Lack of preparation

• Irrational expectations

She talks about the biggest mistakes women make, when is negotiation a bad idea and what does gender equality mean: she said Gender equality does not simply or necessarily mean equal numbers of men and women or boys and girls in all activities, nor does it necessarily mean treating men and women or boys and girls exactly the same. It signifies an aspiration to work towards a society in which neither women nor men suffer from poverty in its many forms, and in which women and men are able to live equally fulfilling lives. It means recognizing that men and women often have different needs and priorities, face different constraints, have different aspirations and contribute to development in different ways. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are inextricably linked. Women will only win equality when they are able to act on their own behalf, with a strong voice to ensure their views are heard and taken into account. This means recognizing the right of women to define the objectives of development for themselves. It was a well package day and the participants were all abreast with the topic of the day.

At the end of the 3-days training workshop on nonviolence struggle the participants representing various communities in Ogoni came up with an action plan to guide the struggle for justice in Ogoni. The three points action plan came as a result of need identification and prioritization out of the ten needs identified during the training. The participants also setup a 7 man advocacy committee.

Conclusion

Overall, this training exercise has kicked start another level of consciousness in the life of the Ogoni farmers and it is a success. No one expected a perfect and complete orientation of the entire Ogoni people to emerged from just barely three days of workshop; however the enthusiasm with which the participants actively debated and embrace the training give hope even some members of the participants feel that the training should be replicated in all communities.

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