Imprison That Prison Project By Ledum Mitee.
1. Confronted with threats to our very existence by decades of environmental degradation, economic strangulation and political marginalisation, the Ogoni people under the aegis of MOSOP protested non violently for justice. The federal government of Nigeria and Shell responded with one of the worst cases of repression in the nation’s history that saw not less than 1,200 Ogonis killed including a whole generation of our leadership, 10 communities completely destroyed, 10,000 people rendered homeless whilst several others were maimed and imprisoned. Indeed the whole of Ogoniland was almost literally turned to a prison and cemetery. The world was shocked and screamed and Nigeria was almost turned to a pariah state.
2. Years after, the rational thinking was that a democratic Nigeria would take steps to redress these ills of the recent past. The publication of the report by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) on the environmental restoration of Ogoniland provided some such source of hope.
3. Regrettably after the show event of the ‘flag off’ of the implementation of the UNEP Report, nothing concrete has been done towards the implementation of the said report. And indeed very little of the publicly stated initiatives by the government towards the implementation of the report bears any relationship with the actual recommendations by UNEP.
4. Whilst our people are still battling with the non implementation of the UNEP report, we are now being confronted with plots by the federal government to resume oil exploitation in Ogoni through some companies of doubtful pedigree and credibility without the needed painstaking engagement with the long suffering Ogoni people. In a wholly condemnable replay of the events of our very sad past, divisive and other unwholesome tactics are being deployed.
5. In the face of these threats to Ogoni survival and development, my firm view as an Ogoni, is that the mere thought of resumption of oil activities without, at least, the confidence building measure of credible implementation of the UNEP Report savours of profound insensitivity to the plight of our people.
6. In a step reminiscent of our profoundly painful past, the federal government’s response is reported to be a plan to build a prison and a cemetery in Ogoniland. This must indeed be a listening government! A government that listens and thus responds to the consequences of its actions and inactions! That must explain why it responds to the threats posed to our lives by an uncleaned and poisoned Ogoni environment by proposing a cemetery for our eventual deaths and prison for would-be survivors. Otherwise Why must it be that when we cried for justice in the past, the government responded by turning our land into a virtual prison and cemetery, and as we cry today for justice, government’s response appears to be to also give us, this time, a concrete prison and cemetery? The snag, however, is that we the Ogonis don’t bury our dead in cemeteries.
7. Any person familiar with the Ogoni experiences in the recent past, would know that the prison and cemetery have come to represent symbols of our people’s suffering for daring to non violently protest against injustice. That is why we view the recent reported plan to build a prison and cemetery in (or is it for?) Ogoni as most callous and insensitive. Our call therefore is that this time, the government should imprison the prison project, not we the Ogonis!
Former MOSOP President
21st March, 2018
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