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My fellow Ogoni people, 25 times of cebrating a day that our struggle took a quantum leap of faith and resilience presents both a need and an opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the struggle in Ogoni. What worked? What did not work? What lessons have we learnt? And what do we need to keep in mind moving forward into the future?
My fellow Ogoni people, 25 times of cebrating a day that our struggle took a quantum leap of faith and resilience presents both a need and an opportunity to reflect on the highs and lows of the struggle in Ogoni. What worked? What did not work? What lessons have we learnt? And what do we need to keep in mind moving forward into the future? Though our struggle was launched on the 26th August 1990 with the historic adoption and signing of the Ogoni Bill of Rights, our struggle became a unique people’s movement on 4th January, 1993 when our leaders led by our martyr, Ken Saro-Wiwa took that giant step with over three hundred thousand Ogoni sons and daughters marching to break down the manacles of injustice that had held us down and to usher in the symphony of national rebirth and rediscovery. They marched so that we may live. They marched so that we may lay claim to a life of honour, pride and dignity. They marched on January 4th to lift us from the valley of oppression as indigenous people, to the brighter hills of Ogoni redemption. On January 4th, we made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together. A new Ogoni was born. My dear brothers and sisters, whilst some of us here partook in that march, let us not forget, that today, we are all the heirs of that first revolution. We must realize that the torch had been passed on to us to continue the struggle for our human rights: our right to life, our right to health, our right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment and our freedom from poverty, to which our pioneers were committed, and to which we are committed today as a people and as citizens of Ogoni nationin a united Nigeria. These rights do not come from men because if it were to be so, Ogoni people would not have benefited. Ogoni people will not today be put in this land labeled a little paradise on earth by our late leader Ken Saro-Wiwa. These rights were naturally given to us by God. The knowledge of the sacrifices of our forbears will keep us forever vigilant against those who would want to do us evil by trampling upon these our God-given rights. Each time we gather to commemorate 4th January, we renew our commitment to continue to protect and jealously guard the freedom and rights that it pleased the Almighty God to give to us. We recall that what had bonded us as a people in this generation had been our abiding fidelity to the ideas of our ancestors and our total allegiance to our declaration, the Ogoni Bill of Right. What makes us exceptional is that our struggle like every struggle founded and prosecuted on the twin pillars of truth and non-violence must continue to be the enduring alternative to the condemned face of violence. Today, my co-travellers, we continue on that uncommon journey to connect our understanding of those words written in the Ogoni Bill of Rights with the current environmental, social, cultural and political realities of our time. VIOLENCE, CONFLICT AND INSECURITY The theme for this year’s Ogoni Day Celebration is Peace and Unity for the Sustainable Development of Ogoniland. My dear brothers and sisters, we are meeting today at this 25th celebration of the Ogoni Day at a most auspicious time in our history as a people. The increased level of violence, conflict and insecurity in our area had never been this bad. At certain moments in a people’s history, leaders must rise up to tell themselves the truth. Today, the greatest threat of the Ogoni man is no longer the Shells or the Federal Government of Nigeria, it is our own behavior. The level of bloodletting in our communities had surpassed all the periods in our recorded history save the period of the military repression. It is as if the demon of conflict had enveloped our land. It is for this reason we are seizing the opportunity of this year’s Ogoni Day to call on God and our people to intervene to restore peace and unity in Ogoniland. This is a time for a soul-searching. It is the time that all of us, church leaders, traditional rulers, politicians, youth leaders and opinion leaders must come together to find a lasting solution to this menace. If Ogoni must survive, then we must end the violence and conflict in our communities. We must redefine our engagement with the youth. We must accept the fact that youth are not just the future of our society, they need to be included today in everything we do – when speaking about youth there is a tendency to refer to them only as the future. I also want to seize this opportunity to inform the youth present here today that we are calling on them to be ready to set aside personal interest and place our interest as a people on the front burner of every action and decisions that they take in the coming months particularly as the Ogoni Clean-up process begins. There is no doubt in my mind that the youths continue to be the greatest heirs of the Ogoni struggle and its benefits. This means that the youth of Ogoni have a critical responsibility. So today, if the youth truly believe in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, let them not allow anybody to use them to inflict violence on one another, let them not allow themselves to be deluded and seduced into taking the life of any Ogoni person, the life of every Ogoniman is valuable to us and never again shall we allow any Ogoni blood to be spilled on the altar of any cult or politics. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND UNEP REPORT IMPLEMENTATION Several reports and studies have indicated that Ogoni is one of the most polluted regions of the world albeit the reckless oil production that took place on our land. If we could recall, in my 2014 Ogoni Day speech, I had reiterated that our ancestors taught us that water is life; they taught us that our forests with its collection of trees are the cathedrals of life; they taught us that we and our animals have a psychic relationship, that we are caught up with in the same web of life. Today, Ogoni is undergoing profound environmental changes. As you are aware, UNEP submitted its report to the government and peoples of Nigeria on the 4th August 2011 with far reaching observations on the state of the Ogoni environment and made several recommendations. Following negotiations that took place between 2014 through 2015, the Federal Government of Nigeria led by President MuhammaduBuhari approved fast track actions on the UNEP report on August 5th 2015 and eventually flagged-off the UNEP Environmental Clean-up of Ogoniland on 2nd June 2016. On August 4th 2016, the governance framework to oversee the clean-up process was put in place. Though the process had endured some delays, we are hopeful that with some positive developments in the last month of the preceding year, this year, the process will eventually kick-off with addressing key emergency issues, training needs and infrastructures necessary for the clean-up process. We thank the President for showing commitment to the UNEP process and we urge him to ensure that the clean-up process remains a key priority of his government. I also want to challenge all of us here today that whilst we look up to the Federal Government to do the needful regarding our environment, we as a people and communities must also take responsibility for protecting our environment and stop the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation. We must deal with the dragon of bunkering in few of our communities carried out by some few members of these communities but is tainting our environment and our lives. Whilst we acknowledge that the failure of government to provide gainful employment for our people is largely responsible for a resort to this way of life, we condemn it in its entirety and we appeal to our young men engaged in this activity to end it now for the sake of our nationality and our people. CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE - HEALTH CRISIS Associated with the issue of the environment is the lingering health crisis in Ogoniland particularly due to the environmental crisis in the area. The biggest social event in Ogoni these days remain burial programmes. Ogoni people are dying on a daily basis. This is already a cause for great concern. Whilst we appreciate the efforts of the Rivers State Government in dealing with health care services, we are concerned at the deteriorating situation of secondary health services in Ogoni. And despite advances in health care in other parts of the country, there is not a single specialist or tertiary health facility in Ogoni established by the Federal Government. We are calling on government at all levels to reverse this trend as soon as possible. In addition, UNEP report had recommended that a health study be carried out on Ogoniland to ascertain the level and type of disease trends in Ogoni considering the depth of the health crisis. We urge that this will form part of the response that government at all levels including the UNEP response mechanism had to address as soon as possible. We stress that considering the health challenges that the Ogoni people face particularly the health issues inherent in the UNEP report, we appeal that a federal specialist medical facility be established in Ogoniland as soon as possible. EDUCATIONAL CRISIS The primary goal of education is to equip people with the knowledge and confidence to make a difference in the transformation of society. In addition to providing people with knowledge,education helps instill values, attitudes and behaviors that align with those expected in a society. That is the reason the forebears of the Ogoni struggle had enshrined in the second stanza of the Ogoni Anthem, the need for every Ogoni person to acquire education. In recent years, we have been witnessing a dangerous trend. The importance attached to education is waning and this is reflected in the growing decline in school enrolments and in a greater majority of schools in Ogoni, the number of teachers in a school is dismal. I visited a primary school recently in one community in Ogoni where I found only two teachers and in another, the school had almost closed down because there are no teachers. This is unacceptable in the 21stcentury. As the theme of this year’s celebration pointed out, we cannot talk of sustainable development of Ogoni without an educated population that knows the values of peace and unity. This trend must be confronted as move into this year. BODO-BONNY ROAD Road infrastructure had been identified as one of the important drivers of development. The Bodo-Bonny Road had been on board for decades, awarded and re-awarded but without completion. This road is very important to the economy of the nation. The road is indeed critical to the clean-up process and for the transformation of the economic landscape of Ogoniland and our surrounding neighbours. We are appealing to the Federal Government to address the issue of this road. We are gratified to note that the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Company had made commitment to providing some counterpart funding for this project to relieve the Federal Government of the entire burden. CREATION OF BORI STATE The events of recentmonths had reinforced our believe in the right to self-determination, which inOgoni means state creation. Our quest for Ogoni self-determination continues. As stated in the Ogoni Bill of Rights, MOSOP remains committed to the demand for Ogoni people to be granted political autonomy within the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We also note that some other peoples in Nigeria are already enjoying this political autonomy with the “State arrangement” which is empowering them to deal with issues affecting all aspects of their lives. MOSOP will be joining forces with others to call on the Federal Government of Nigeria to initiate the process of the creation of a Bori State without preconditions. It is time to reassure the Ogoni people that they are still part of the Nigeria project INTERNALLY DISPLACED PEOPLE Following the military occupation of Ogonilandin 1994, over fourteen Ogoni communities were destroyed by the military. With its attendant displacement, Ogonipeople resident in these communities are yet to return. In the past four years, members of Ogoni communities of Ekporo, Kporghor and Baraobara have also been displaced without the state or federal government finding ways to address their issues. Whilst the federal government is busy addressing the displacement in the North-East region, nothing has been done in respect of those displaced from Ogoni communities. The state government has not also shown the interest required of the state. Are these people not also citizens of Nigeria? At this juncture, my dear people, I wish to place on record that the Ogoni people have gotten thus far not only on their own but with the support of others. Therefore, to our neighbours, friends and sympathisers, we express our sincere appreciation for their continued support and assure you that MOSOP on behalf of the Ogoni people will continue to reach out and build strong alliances in order to take our crusade for justice to every corner of the world, to every valley of oppression and to every prison of hopelessness. Finally, my fellow Ogoni people, let us therefore hold fast to that message and renew our commitment to the cause of justice and human dignity committed to our hands by our forebears when they marched on January 4th 1993. Let us therefore resolve from this Ogoni Day as the theme of this year’s celebration had highlighted, “Peace and Unity for Sustainable Development of Ogoniland” to unite in ways that we have never before. Let us decide from this Ogoni Day never to become the promoters of hatred and violence amongst our people. Let us resolve to forgive ourselves and reconcile with our brothers and sisters that may have hurt us in anyway. Let us set aside competitions that threaten to tear us apart and make a mockery of the work of redemption of our forbears. Let us join hands together to explore what challenges unite us more instead of spending our time on those issues that divide us. Let us intensify the display of acts of loyalty, devotion and of courage to ensure the final success or otherwise of our cause for justice It is only when we do these that we will together set Ogoni on a path of greater glory. With the help of God and with the support of the Spirit of Ogoni, we shall win. I wish you a happy Ogoni Day 2017. Long live Ogoni People, Long live Ogoni Nation.
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