The Ogoninews publisher Mr. Fegalo Nsuke caught up with Mr. Ben Ikari who is a prominent Ogoni activist and the following questions drew his responses below.
OGN: What is your assessment of the gains of the Ogoni struggle since 1993?
Ikari: Thanks so very much for granting me the opportunity to further add my voice to the discussion on the struggle of the Ogoni people. The struggle is of course a just one. It's for environmental justice and protection. It's also for economic and political autonomy otherwise known as self-determination or self-rule. Such autonomy could as well be called self-governance that is common in Nigeria by way of ethnic-based states.
Consequently, the struggle and demand doesn't in any manner deprive anyone or group including the state and Federal government, even $hell Oil, etc. their natural or fundamental/constitutional rights. As the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) states: the demand of the Ogoni people will conduce to peace. This is true because the struggle is demanding equality and equity, justice without which there can be no peace.
On the question of what the gains of Ogoni struggle are since it began. Let me state without equivocation that Ogoni struggle hasn't achieved its aims and objectives as stipulated in the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). As cited earlier, the bill of rights clearly stipulate among other demands, political and economic autonomy, and environmental protection alongside justice.
And such political autonomy can be obtained through any arrangement, no matter the name called provided it will guarantee Ogonis the right to control their affairs in Nigeria as with current 36 states. More than 90% of these 36 states aren't viable. They mostly can't create budget so can't pay salaries without money forced from oil producing communities in Niger delta. And some of us, following the aim of Ogoni struggle have said this can't continue to be so. Allowing more than 20 states to depend solely on money from somewhere else and not able to create their source (s) of income isn't an economic theory or policy that will work. It's counterproductive and outright cheat; a recipe for conflict.
As obvious today, coupled with billions of public money in dollars stolen by politicians and their families, these nonviable states most created for the expansion of Hausa-Fulani, Yoruba and Igbo ethnic groups are causing the country huge moral, financial, social and development problems. Contrariwise, Ogoni State or whatever name it shall be called if created shall be one of the most viable states due to its natural mineral and human resources.This proposed state for Ogonis is long overdue.
Meanwhile, what I can also say is that Ogoni struggle has achieved certain things outside the core demand enshrined in the bill of rights. The struggle has been able to protect the evidence against the Nigerian government, $hell Oil and other oil firms and polluters. This is by striving to propagate the ideals and demands of the struggle. It’s a struggle that captures the exploitation and oppression, water and air, food pollution and degradation causing the loss of livelihood, untold hardship and preventable diseases, sicknesses and massive death in Ogoni. Ogoni today is highly exposed to benzene, a carcinogen that causes cancer and other dangerously poisonous chemicals.
Irrespective of the peaceful, nonviolent and concerted efforts of Ogoni people and their friends and supporters there hasn't been honest move on government and $hell or other actors' part to reconcile and resolve the issues raised by Ogonis. Notwithstanding, propagating the issues has made the world aware of the slave and colonial masters' mentality of the Nigerian rulers-the cabal and so-called politicians toward Ogoni and Niger delta communities.
Ogoni resistance that exposes the dirty genocidal plans of Nigerian government and $hell also tell the world about the greed and deadly nature of environmentally terrorist and racist, rogue European and American oil mining and other corporations exploiting Africa to its knees. Other than these secondary achievements the core demand of the struggle contained in the bill of rights hasn't been achieved or met by the Nigerian government and people. $hell and other polluters have also ignored Ogoni and haven't met its need.
I must add that granting political asylum to Ogonis by American and Canadian governments, especially, as requested in Ken Saro-Wiwa's ten-point course of action to the international community has made huge difference for the struggle. Ogonis in these countries and other European nations are taking advantage of certain opportunities therein to develop themselves and family, and also assisting in sustaining the struggle and Ogoni development in whatever small way possible despite the threat posed by partisan politics in Ogoni today. One secondary achievement of the struggle is that greater awareness created among Ogonis has kept the people on red alert. The influence on and inspiration to Niger delta communities and the world at large are aspects of the achievements made by the struggle, though nothing spectacular has been added since the hanging of Saro-Wiwa and others. And successive Nigerian governments with their dictatorial and repressive mentality under the guise of democracy have continued to disrespect and ignore Ogoni while directly and indirectly scheming and plotting to return to Ogoni oilfields for oil extraction.
OGN: The Ogoni appear to be caught between two organizations seeking to lay claim to the leadership KAGOTE and MOSOP. What’s your view on this?
Ikari: There is no need for such leadership struggle. What MOSOP and KAGOTE need is understanding and cooperation, collaboration if Ogoni must move forward. Both politicians and non-politicians, MOSOP and other civil society organizations in Ogoni need themselves. Having said the above, let me say the leadership struggle between MOSOP and KAGOTE, though unfortunate, isn't a surprise to me given that the latter is the oldest and a political platform which has no grassroots status, but wielded so much influence before MOSOP emerged. KAGOTE is restricted to mainly educated, professional and willing successful Ogoni men and women. MOSOP in its early year (1993) overshadowed KAGOTE, and it's as a departure from the privileged few mentality.
While KAGOTE was framed to serve the privileged few, MOSOP was founded by Saro-Wiwa who was abreast of KAGOTE's inner work, to pursue and achieve the collective aspirations and dreams of all Ogoni people. KAGOTE being a political pressure group may have done some good and could still be doing some good. Its good such as political appointments and contracts, etc. secured from the state and Federal governments mostly spread between members. MOSOP, in contrast is a mass movement even though certain leaders of recent years see it as a means to creating personal wealth and contacts to the detriment of all Ogonis.
As a mass movement MOSOP focus and approach is the grassroots. It's designed to be nonpartisan though seeking reforms that demands political action. Implying the organization wasn't supposed to attach itself to any political party, rather stay neutral. It's meant to mobilize and organize the people in pressing Ogoni demands. This means working silently and neutrally with Ogoni politicians while also selling its proposition to other politicians and leaders across the country as it press for reforms in favor of Ogoni and other oppress peoples.
Unfortunately the state and corporate hanging of Saro-Wiwa, others changed the trend in MOSOP. The organization became deeply partisan under Mr. Ledum Mitee. He turned the highly respected and valued organization into political football and an avenue to amass personal and family wealth against the collective struggle and will of the people. Mitee ignored the organization's constitution clause on conflict of interest when he accepted political appointments from the Rivers State and Federal government while MOSOP president in contravention of the constitution.
The clause says executive members of MOSOP who are given political appointment are free to transition into that position, but must resign from MOSOP executive team to avoid conflict of interest. Under this clause Ogonis who are politicians including former executive members of the movement are still members of MOSOP, attending general meetings and rallies, if they choose, and by keeping their registration active- maintaining financial commitment in form of dues, etc.
Mitee also ignored the constitutional provision on tenure that permits only 2 years of two terms equaling 4 years. He stayed in office as president for nearly 16 years; a term more than any military dictator in Nigeria. The idea for short-term in office was/is to prevent abuse of power including corruption. MOSOP's partisanship, departure from original foundation and detachment from the community or grassroots during Mitee's reign paved way for the unprecedented political involvement of Ogonis today and attendant partisan violence consuming Ogoni lives.
Although MOSOP, in many quarters is still considered that community, grassroots-based movement that is championing the nonviolent and peaceful enlightenment and action for honest and radical change campaign that's influencing many groups in Nigeria, Africa and the rest of the world. Politics and political violence alongside other communal issues cum clashes seems to have taken over Ogoni from MOSOP because of lack of effective leadership unlike the organization's early year.
OGN: It's been 21 years of Ogoni without Saro-Wiwa, how will you assess the struggle without Saro-Wiwa?
Ikari: The struggle without Saro-Wiwa brought about huge setback. I've read some write-ups claiming Saro-Wiwa was a co-founder of MOSOP yet such writers couldn't say who he co-founded the organization with. Evidently, he nursed the movement alone and singlehandedly wrote the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR). He also said this a couple of times while alive. Of course, in some of his writings he talked about how he started writing about the issues of injustice and marginalization, oppression against Ogoni and the pollution of Ogoni environment while a 17-year-old lad. He presented MOSOP ideology and OBR to Ogoni elders who approved it with their signature. MOSOP dream was his, his brainchild. That is he midwifed the movement, yet not without other Ogonis he told or brought in to make it a community organization or mass movement instead of a One-Man-Show.
There is no way to match the importance of such personality not to mention what his absence has caused. The slow pace in achieving the demand of the OBR is caused by his absence. I truly wish Saro-Wiwa and others killed in the struggle were alive to guide and strengthen the struggle to actualizing its core demand that is fair and just. Irrespective of this painful loss and absence, hope isn’t lost. There is need for a leadership that's honest and open to the people. There's need for knowledgeable leaders on the OBR and how the world works. Ogoni needs competent, visionary leaders who shall stay consistent, are selfless and have no political ambition; leaders who are passionate and have deep respect for MOSOP Constitution and can disengage MOSOP from partisan status.
Also needed is a strong, committed and enlightened followership that is curious or quizzical and critical, and can't be mislead or led by the nose. Serious work on Ogoni unity, peace and leadership competence and ability, public enlightenment and willingness to carry everyone along without compromising the core values, principles and demand of the struggle is necessary if the old glory of MOSOP shall be regained and core demands achieved.
OGN: President Buhari had promised to implement the Ogoni cleanup and has constituted the governing structures but nothing seem to be happening. What’s your take on government commitment to the cleanup of Ogoniland?
Ikari: The Buhari-led government showed some commitment and seriousness from the start. The implementation of UNEP report and recommendations for Ogoni cleanup was a campaign promise. Reality shows, however, that said seriousness and commitment looks like mere political strategy to maneuver Ogoni and by extension Niger delta communities until this administration leaves office in few years. A government which disobeys court orders like in a military dictatorship without formal appeals is on the business of power abuse. Such government can't be serious about Ogoni cleanup, especially where Buhari is himself a former military dictator.
This trait and dishonesty, the heartlessness hence history of the Hausa-Fulani and Islamic oligarchy, which Buhari is part worries me greatly. What Buhari and his team have said publicly concerning Ogoni cleanup and what they have done practically can't be matched. Obviously, insincerity dances over every steps the government has taken. The Federal government itself is one of the polluters and major beneficiary of proceeds from the reckless oil exploitation that caused the pollution and degradation 50 years ago.
Common sense suggests that a polluter or criminal can't be judge in his or her own case. This is indeed a unique situation since the government can't be changed from a polluter and partner in crime. The government should've, however, demonstrated high degree of honesty and commitment with convincing action. Also, the government can't be changed from the mobilizer or coordinator of the cleanup project whether it's actually implemented or not.
This awkward Joint Venture operator's or partner in crime's position the government finds itself makes it difficult for her to command respect from $hell and other polluters. The unseriousness and dishonesty exhibited by $hell comes as a result of government's entanglement compared to if it were a neutral executor. The neutral executor example which brought quick and better result despite the ongoing recovery efforts and some complaints is the American government-BP relationship in the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
The international norm bearing the Polluter pays principle is also clear when it comes to the relationship between responsibility , accountability and pollution. It says, the polluters' responsibility is to pay for the pollution. That is $hell and others should provide the funds and every other things needed to implement cleanup, remediation and restoration of the land and people. These oil companies could have set up their restoration plans as we saw in BP case in America, with the support of government and Ogoni people to implement the UNEP report and recommendations.
But for more than 50 years that most of the pollution took place they've been playing hide and seek games, both with Ogoni pollution and degradation and the polluted communities in Niger delta. They currently lack credibility and respect so can't be trusted to cleanup and restore Ogoni land and the people. As a result these companies will have to work with the government. Of course the government is also a polluter as said inter alia, though state actor on whose legs the project can be implemented, but not without huge challenges arising from Joint Venture issues and conflict of interest, which can be seen in addition to factors such as incompetence and lack of will, political, ethnic and regional interests obstructing the project.
The biggest issue with the polluter pays norm is when the polluter is a state actor who also has the responsibility of holding to account others. The entanglement of the Nigerian government makes things complex and implementation of this project difficult, but not impossible where there is conscience and humane heart to help intervene honestly and save Ogoni people and environment. It remains to be seen how the Nigerian government will be able to hold to account other polluters following business agreements and the letters of the polluter pays norm to produce a positive and sustainable outcome.
A polluter or criminal can't hold to account or judge another polluter or criminal, yet Ogoni and Niger delta communities have no option but deal with the government which shall set the rules with the influence and support of $hell and other foreign oil corporations. I believe strongly that it's possible irrespective of mountainous challenges. What it will take is guts. If the government and oil companies can display honesty and commitment things might change for good. To show one sign of dishonesty and unseriousness, since the military left power in 1999 and civilian administrations emerged, all civilian presidents and National Assemblies except few lawmakers have defended and upheld the illegal and unjust, barbaric hanging with no attempt to apologize to the Ogoni people and exonerate Saro-Wiwa and 8 others who were innocent yet tried wrongfully before a military tribunal.
Instead they've nominated or appointed both military members of the tribunal and judiciary into high government positions. The Immediate past president, Mr. Goodluck Jonathan, an Ijaw and Niger deltan who should known better but sat on the UNEP report and did nothing than ignore the recommendations for Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority (OERA) and created the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP), approved the appointment of Justice Ibrahim Auta to become the Chief Justice of the Federal High Court of Nigeria. Mr. Auta who was bribed to head the military tribunal that hanged the Ogoni Nine is currently accused of gross judicial misconduct and implicated in a $1.3 million bribery scandal. This is a man if Nigeria understands democracy and was serious about integrity or credibility, should be rusting in jail for accepting to condemn Saro-Wiwa, others to death without free and fair trial. Before his promotion another bad and paid actor in the Nov. 10th, 1995 hanging in the person of the Chief prosecutor, Mr. Joseph Daudu from Kogi State was made the President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA).
Col. Hammed Ibrahim Ali, born in Katsina, Hausa (Fulani) territory like those mentioned above was a military representative on the tribunal procured to kill the Ogoni nine. In 2015, Buhari made him the Comptroller General of the Nigerian Customs Services . Buhari was himself in charge of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under Sanni Abacha when the hanging took place. Since 2015 to current, Mr. Ali is seizing the Bus Memorial of Saro-Wiwa and others donated by Platform, a London-based civil society group that sent it to Nigeria as its 20th hanging anniversary gift to Ogoni.
Buhari is aware of this seizure and have said nothing against it hence in support. Recalled that Buhari was also a military dictator (1983 to 1985) and also implemented Hausa (Fulani) plan to size Ogoni and Niger delta communities’ oil, and to kill whoever attempted to stop the oil from flowing. You can see here that even under a so-called civilian regime those who played prominent roles in the 1995 hanging are esteemed in the society and granted exalted positions of power, which they've reportedly abused to show historical pattern. Once a thief, we say remains a thief!
So the Nigerian government largely controlled by the Hausa-Fulanis and Yorubas know what it's doing. Buhari and his team in particular know what they're doing and will continue to protect what they've done as they claim to be right in their actions including the unwarranted hanging, oppression and pollution of Ogoni and Niger delta communities' environment.
Those of us who know, understand the malice of the Nigerian cabal mostly of Hausa-Fulani, northern sects against Ogoni, which stopped the flow of oil to Nigeria and the oil companies then exposed their criminal and genocidal acts to the world. Consequently, these actions inconsistent with civilian government shows Nigeria isn't honest and not ready to sincerely reconcile with Ogonis.
As such doubt is constantly cast on any effort ( because they aren't genuine ones) the government makes dealing with Ogoni including talks about the implementation of the UNEP report and recommendations for Ogoni. The Nigerian Minister of Environment, Mrs. Amina Mohammed, despite presumed commitment and honesty many believe she exhibited in an attempt to implement UNEP recommendations for Ogoni, has moved to a new assignment with the United Nations. She will be starting work on January 1st. 2017 as the Deputy Secretary General, assisting Mr. Antonio Guterres, the new Secretary General.
If a person of her profile and international reputation can't get the Ogoni project started after taking office more than a year then such project is in real trouble as I suspected given Nigeria and $hell's insincerity and constant attempt to return for oil production in Ogoni ignoring the criminal acts of oppression, economic strangulation, pollution, degradation and unlawful killings. Such inglorious act also contravene the provision of the UNEP report and recommendations, which among many warned against the resumption of oil extraction while cleanup and restoration is in progress.
Worst still, Mrs. Mohammed played along with Nigeria/Buhari and $hell Oil, others. She pretended as if all was well, but can't get the project started more than one year she took office and she didn't complain or reveal her frustration, obstacles to the public. She therefore failed in the Ogoni project irrespective of her profile and a recent statement credited to her that everything needed to commence Ogoni cleanup including funding is ready.
This is another ploy to mislead and deceive the public. They gave the world same impression when the flag-off was done on June 2, 2016, and when HYPREP Governing Council and Board of Trustees were created and inaugurated in August 2016 without funds and other necessities to commence work smoothly.
The same period she made above statement of hope through the Director General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA), Mr. Peter Idabo (See Vanguard of Nov. 25, 2016), a member of HYPREP management team told Vanguard (Nov. 23) that the Governing Council hasn't been able to hold any meeting since its inaugural meeting. He also said $hell isn't willing to sponsor the project therefore, by the first few months of 2017, there shall be no money to do any work. This member concluded that the struggle over appointing or hiring a project manager is threatening the project. The problem in this case is that politicians are trying to impose a party member with no required expertise on the management.
Following these inconsistencies I'm not surprised knowing that Nigeria and $hell are partners in crime and their false attempt to cleanup and restore Ogoni as a way of taking responsibility for their dangerous acts of pollution. I'm not surprised and will never be surprised at the happenings, even though I still hope that one day the cabal and destroyers/environmental terrorists will come to their senses to do right by Ogoni, others.
Right now I don't think the position of the Hausa-Fulani/northern cabal is to clean and restore Ogoni land and people, including others whose lands are polluted in Niger delta. And despite Buhari's recent meeting with Niger delta leaders, he's also not honest about resolving the Niger delta conflict which demands are resource ownership, control and payment of taxes to the central government-call it fiscal federalism. The government/Buhari made that move because the Ijaw militants also called Niger delta Avengers blew up oil installations and reduce*d the production capacity in the country.
This, coupled with fallen oil prices and massive theft of money from the national coffers by PDP politicians for 16 years of misrule plunged the country into recession and the government is finding ways out. It's therefore safe to say neither the government/Buhari nor oil companies, especially $hell and NNPC are willing to honestly implement the UNEP report and recommendations for Ogoni that comes with capacity building and sustainable development.
OGN: It appears you have not been in good terms with the leadership of MOSOP. What is your quarrel with MOSOP?
Ikari: With regard to whether I've quarrel with MOSOP leadership, I don't have problems that are personal with MOSOP leadership. My concerns and criticism are simple. According to Mr. Akpobari Celestine, MOSOP president, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara and himself, Mr. Akpobari who is the Coordinator of Ogoni Solidarity Forum (OSF), others accepted HYPREP which they already declared to be against Ogoni interest and in contravention of UNEP report and recommendations. They did this without discussing the decision with Ogonis in a congress or meeting. This was after they told Ogonis in previous meetings or congresses that UNEP recommendations that favors Ogoni will remain the position on which Ogoni will stand.
If not that I wrote an article with the title: Buhari isn't implementing UNEP report by adopting Jonathan's HYPREP and allowing $hell and NNPC to be Part of the management team, by now I will still be in the dark. My article forced Mr. Akpobari to reply when someone posted it to NUOS Intl. USA listserv. I and most Ogonis and the world became aware these Ogoni representatives opted for HYPREP against UNEP recommendations and not Buhari, though it wasn't without political and otherwise influence as I suspect.
Why did they do this? Based on Mr. Akpobari's email of August 26 addressed to me as reply to the article: "Buhari did not adopt HYPREP. I was part of the negotiation team led by MOSOP President, Legborsi Pyagbara when Buhari took over and we were invited," Akpobari said.
"We were given an option of accepting HYPREP as it is or we go through the National Assembly to get the recommended Ogoni Environmental Restoration Authority," he continued.
He went on to say, "That day, we went on break about 3 times before we accepted that option which was forwarded to Buhari as our decision. Our reason was very clear. HYPREP has been gazetted at the time and it would have taken years for us to get that done like the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that has been there for over 8 years even though it was an Executive Bill."
Mr. Akpobari also declared, "whether the government or oil companies likes it or not the recommended $1 billion must come to Ogoni; that is why the HYPREP Board of Trustees was formed to make sure money meant for Ogoni is used mainly for Ogoni project."
You can see therefore, that they're unnecessary scared so believe it will take long to secure the Ogoni specific recommendations by UNEP through the National Assembly. This seemingly foolish thought drove me insane when considering that they didn't discuss such acceptance with Ogoni people after promising HYPREP will not be accepted because it's against Ogoni interest. All they needed instead of the hasty and nonsensical judgement was asking Buhari team to give them a short time to return home, discuss with Ogonis and tell them the decision of the people. This could have been in one week period.
They didn't. Rather they became maneuvered due to the partisanship of today’s MOSOP which favors APC over PDP and Akpobari's political office interest having been reportedly lured by the former governor of Rivers State, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, to drop a land grabbing case, etc. Akpobari reportedly accepted Amaechi's overture and was compensated with about 4 months' position of Caretaker Chairman of Khana Local Government Council. He's removed less than a month by Mr. Nyesom WIke, current PDP governor of the state.
This political entanglement has trapped MOSOP and Akpobari who currently have sealed lips and just being hopeful that government will suddenly commence work. They find it difficult to directly complain or criticize the government or $hell for the non-implementation of the UNEP report. Same Akpobari who was reportedly upset when MOSOP planned a protest march for the non-implementation of the UNEP report is now in good terms with the government resulting from this political interest. Such entanglement made Akpobari and others trust and believe so much in the Minister of Environment, Mrs. Mohammed. Today the minister has abandoned the project for a higher office.
I recently read Mr. Akpobari claim in Nigerian Guardian published December 18, that the Mrs. Mohammed he knows must have made arrangement for the smooth execution of the project before leaving. The arrangement could be such that no one can abandon the project, he said. Just reading this makes me feel he's out of touch with the country (Nigeria) he's living in and trying to work with or for.
Before I forget, note that Mr. Akpobari also said in his email that, "there is no way $hell and others will pay money for this project and not be part of a management team to know where their money is going." He and others who were talked into believing this bullshit aren't told the conflict of interest version, though they should've been aware of it being Ogoni. The corrupt and deadly history of $hell and the Nigerian government, which Buhari has been part in different capacities shouldn't have been new to them hence should've acted cautiously. They should've maintained the position of Ogoni people, stick to OERA which also has the Ogoni Environmental Restoration Fund (OERF) and not fall for HYPREP at any cost.
Akpobari revealed that the argument they've for accepting HYPREP, which means the inclusion of other Niger delta communities is that there also is no way Ogoni will stay clean while these communities stay uncleaned. But the question wasn't whether Ogoni should be cleaned and restored while others stay uncleaned. Simply put, these Niger delta communities which include Jonathan's are yet to be assessed environmentally to determine the level of pollution and fashion out intervention package like UNEP report and recommendations does in Ogoni. It will be unfair to them if Ogoni report and recommendations are used to work on their pollution. This will be like using someone else diagnoses and prescription to treat another. Consequently, Ogoni shouldn't be punished to wait for these communities with HYPREP. Jonathan abdicated his responsibilities/duties as the first president from the region. His duties included the ordering of environmental assessment of all Niger delta communities which include his community polluted with hydrocarbon. Not only did he refuse to attend to the economic and environmental crisis of Niger delta, he also focused on obstructing the Ogoni project by creating HYPREP to cover all Niger delta communities without considering their assessment. So Ogoni must not be victimized twice for his lapses. Therefore UNEP recommendations for OERA and OERF should stand while HYPREP is re-positioned to coordinate the assessment of these communities with UNEP and subsequent cleanup.
My point is that no matter what influence, what they’re made to believe, they’d have known few things. That no one is claiming securing UNEP recommended OERA and OERF will be achieved in a week or six months, yet not impossible. It took about six months for the senate to pass a bill establishing the North-east Development Commission (NEDC) pending House of Reps review and consent before Buhari will approve and sign it into law.
This is a project created after Niger delta Development Commission (NDDC) to grant facelift to the North-east and also remedy Boko Haram's deliberate destruction that stem in part from the claim that successive Nigerian governments, many of which were headed by their Hausa-Fulani people didn't develop the area. Before this bill the National Assembly already approved budgetary allocation to the tune of about three billion four hundred thousand Naira to assist in rehabilitating Boko Haram's created Internally Displaced People of the region . Without this scenario Ogonis with a just struggle shouldn't have been the ones to demand in fear.
If those deliberately terrorized and killed, displaced by their own people can be getting better attention and result there's no reason MOSOP should have accepted self-defeat. Patience was key as always in every struggle, especially when positive result seems to be knocking, and assuming Nigerian government and $hell were honest and serious.
Ogoni pollution was created deliberately and recklessness by successive Nigerian government, which were nearly 100% headed by Hausa-Fulanis including Buhari. The lack of development aspect of alleged reasons why Boko Haram struck is a failure of Hausa-Fulani-led (Northern) government. Again, Buhari was part of these administrations in different capacities. He's also accused during Goodluck Jonathan's regime of sponsoring the Islamic militant group-Boko Haram. This was because he reportedly declared he will make the country ungovernable for Jonathan should he not win the 2011 presidential election, which Jonathan won and he lost, after which Boko Haram struck.
Meanwhile, Akpobari and others should have known the truism that a polluter like a criminal can’t be judge in his or her own case. So accepting $hell and other oil companies in HYPREP management team is wrong. They'd have known these companies will work to scuttle the project or work and largely favor themselves to the detriment of the project. I wonder what country they live in that they don't understand how $hell operate in Nigeria and how the Joint Venture government is involved entangles every administration including Buhari's and makes holding the company accountable difficult if not impossible.
They'd have known that if the work even start $hell will manipulate things in its favor and produce bad end-result. Of course, they've started seeing the manipulation and games that stalls the project--not even a second meeting by the management team after the inaugural meeting of August. It's obvious the $hell I know isn't willing to spend on the project considering it's seen as the major sponsor due to its roles. Nigeria and $hell are hoping to use donations from around the world to abdicate their financial responsibilities.
Buhari also asked the world before the last United Nations General Assembly, to assist him with $14 billion so he can restore the Lake Chad Basin. He knows how much it will cost to restore Lake Chad but not the monetary value of the damage pollution has done to Ogoni nor does he know how much it will take to complete the project-not even an estimate. Yet the project will span 25 to 30 years?
The case could have by now be different if $hell and these other foreign western companies were allowed to spearhead the project with little or no supervision. The fear of external supervision is one serious issue the oil companies have with this project. They will rather prefer the project is placed in their hands so they can sit on it and do no meaningful work or start some work but will use same outdated and improper methods UNEP report frowned at. These are same methods they used for 50 years without properly cleaning any oil spills thus compounded the contamination issues.
Very important is the fact that Ogoni is a distinct ethnic nationality so deserve distinct service approach as UNEP recognized and recommended concentrated intervention that should bring the best result. UNEP knew the assessment wasn’t done in these Niger delta communities yet stated what’s learned in Ogoni can be replicated in other places with pollution problems. The United Nations agency is clear regarding the need to not use funds meant for Ogoni project for any other place hence its recommendations for OERA and OERF.
Mr. Akpobari and his team which include MOSOP president, Mr. Pyagbara should have asked to known whose responsibility it's to secure UNEP recommended OERA and OERF through the National Assembly. They'd have known it isn't the responsibility of Ogonis or MOSOP, to be specific. Rather the responsibility, duty is Buhari's/the Federal government's to present OERA that comes with OERF, before the assembly and secure it as a national project it's.
Buhari could also have gazetted OERA the same way HYPREP is reportedly gazetted to cover Niger delta communities and Ogoni, though made to look as if it may concentrate on Ogoni and subsequently focus on other communities. The composition of the Governing Council and Board of Trustees show that the work scope of HYPREP is broad beyond Ogoni yet Ogoni will be used as front due to its popularity and earned global sympathy.
Funds will be raised in Ogoni name and if at all used for work in Ogoni part of the funds will be spread to other communities. This will cause competition hence drags up to unthinkable delays and possible abandonment synonymous with Nigerian projects. The claim by Akpobari that the Board of Trustees was formed to make sure money meant for Ogoni is used only for Ogoni project is unfounded. There is no public record to this effect. Even the so-called reformed HYPREP gazette is nowhere ready for public viewing. Other communities whose members are also on the HYPREP management team will not sit and watch Ogoni get all the money when HYPREP is designed to cover all of them.
In short, MOSOP sometimes ago complained in a report posted on Ogoninews.com that the reform agreed upon by all parties was altered, and demanded the document should be left as agreed. As I write there is no report or document suggesting that what was removed or added to the agreed gazette and MOSOP complained about has been replaced. Nor is there any document anywhere known to the public that can be called HYPREP's gazette except long pieces of positions by $hell, the government, MOSOP and others yet to be formalized rather used as delaying tool among many.
These have been my concerns and criticism. Of course, I'm a strong believer of the Ogoni cause and its success and so will oppose any move that tends to negate the vision of Saro-Wiwa and Ogonis living or dead. These Ogonis who represented Ogoni are my brothers and friends irrespective of current disagreement.
Finally, I've had the opportunity to discuss with Messrs Akpobari and Pyagbara, and during our many discussions including meeting with the MOSOP president twice in Washington, DC between 2012 and 2014, HYPREP was always viewed to be anti-Ogoni interest. OERA and OERF with other prerequisites to the cleanup such as Center for Excellence among others were always on our lips as the way forward.
Sadly, they got influenced and deviated. It would have been better to understand the processes and stand by UNEP recommendations for Ogoni and get dribbled than fall for the tricks due to fear which makes for self-defeat, and still being played as there is nothing on the ground indicating honesty and seriousness, but a political manuever to scale through the times. There is no dignity or pride in self-defeat, but chaos and setback as with this MOSOP, OSF and others' decision to accept HYPREP against UNEP recommendations that targets and favors Ogoni.
HYPREP opens the project to unwarranted competition and lobbies, delays synonymous with this project. In short, HYPREP, which was Jonathan's deliberate rejection of UNEP recommendations for Ogoni was a tacit means by which Jonathan and his team can undermine Ogoni and probably scuttled this project they believe Ogoni doesn't deserve despite her sacrifice, which Jonathan and many Niger deltans have benefited.
Finally, if such criticism as this and hard push back from Ogonis and maybe MOSOP forces action on the part of government and $hell, others, that will be a great call. There is serious need for action to help save Ogonis from this imposed genocide. It must be said that the thin line left between Ogoni-Nigeria-$hell, is the successful commencement and completion of this project which is possible.
Therefore, Ogonis have no option but reason together as one family. Our people and land are dying. No time for division. Unity is the best we need badly now, yet the truth should be told as is. Criticism shouldn't be viewed as enemity, rather a means to listen, review and amend then regroup for the greater good! After all what all honest and committed Ogoni and non-Ogoni are saying is that the work should be done in all honesty beginning with respecting the UNEP report and recommendations.
It's about laying proper foundation as protected by law and the use of experts of internationally recognized agencies such as UNEP, tested and proven remediation companies which will be neutral, ethical and trusted to deliver based on internationally acceptable best practice.
My role has been to educate, enlighten Ogonis and the general public about the issues and way forward while working with MOSOP, OSF and others, even though we're now in disagreement. There is common ground. And it can be found, but only with the truth and openness on the side of MOSOP leadership, Mr. Akpobari of OSF, other groups and actors such Nigerian government, $hell, NNPC and other oil companies. MOSOP and Ogonis must not fall for cheap negative political maneuver and get entangled while Ogoni environment and people suffer.
Although this is the first real test MOSOP and others have had and failed since the 1995 hanging, returning to UNEP recommendations and demanding commitment and justice from government, $hell and other polluters is possible. Shape and critical thinking, earning trust and killing pride and shame then open up to communicate honestly, competently and effectively could bring about such possibility.
Thank you very much.
Ben Ikari, is a peoples right and environmental justice advocate; expert on Ken Saro-Wiwa; author of Ken Saro-Wiwa and MOSOP: The Story and Revelation. I can be reached @ [email protected] . Please note that this interview questions were submitted by the Publicity Secretary of MOSOP, Mr. Fegalo Nsuke who is also the publisher of Ogoninews.com, to Ben Ikari (me) on Nov. 23, 2016 via Facebook. For whatever reasons Ogoninews refused to run the original response.
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