It was another season of remembrance for the Ogoni in Rivers State, and when they did, tributes, demands and protests reeled endlessly. They had assembled at Bori, the traditional headquarters of the nationality on Sunday, November 10 to remember the killing of some of their brightest sun by an expired Nigerian military junta. The “Ogoni 9” were sent to the gallows on November 10, 1995.
Nigerian government, precisely, President Goodluck Jonathan, received the bashings of the Ogoni for “sitting to supervise the gradual annihilation of the Ogoni by not implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Environment Programme, UNEP, report.” The report, already dubbed the “Ogoni death warrant” was released in 2011 and part of its key prescriptions to remedy the ecological and health disaster ravaging the entire area, was the immediate cleaning of its hugely polluted land with high volume of carcinogen. The report was distinct in declaring that Ogoni land harbours the largest concentration of poisonous metals, the product of several decades of unguided oil exploration by multinationals. The report also captured the outrageous level of death in underground and surface water in Ogoni land citing Ogale, Eleme underground water as a concentration of death.
And so, when the Ogoni marked the 18th year remembrance of the “judicial murder” of Ken Saro-Wiwa, their foremost rights campaigner, the central theme of their speeches and processions was the failure of the Nigerian government to act swiftly on the UNEP report. Legborsi Pyagbara, President, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, fiery Ken Saro-Wiwa-like activist, Celestine Akpobari and Distinguished Senator Magnus Ngei Abe, each extolled the virtues of Saro-Wiwa and the struggle he waged for a better Ogoni environment. They, nonetheless, lampooned the Federal Government for sitting aloof while Ogoni natives “die in batches.” Pyagbara declared the Ogoni, having exhausted the 90-day notice served the Nigerian Government, would begin series of non-violent agitations to persuade the Jonathan administration to implement the UNEP report.
The Ogoni, aside holding remembrances for Saro-Wiwa want a state memorial in the mould of an institution. So, they have demanded for the establishment of “Ken Saro-Wiwa University” in the area.
Speaking to journalists at the Peace and Freedom Centre, Bori, venue of the annual event, AkpoBari, a human and environmental rights activist berated the Federal Government of Nigeria for the continued delay in the implementation of UNEP Report.
Comrade AkpoBari who is National Coordinator, Ogoni Solidarity Forum, said the Ogoni would gladly donate the portion of land on which the Rivers State Government has located Banana Farm. The siting of the banana plantation had pitched the Rivers State Government and some Ogoni in a verbal war. In recent times, a bunch of anti-Governor Chibuike Amaechi politicians had sought to ride on the back of the controversy to score cheap points.
Rather than climbing on the podium of the controversy to cause more rancour among the nationality, the Ogoni have asked Mr. Ezebuwon Nyesom Wike, Nigeria’s Minister of State, Education, to cite a Federal university to be named Ken Saro-Wiwa University on the controversial land.
The rights activist who had wiped Mr. Wike for criticizing the Banana Farm Project that he was part of its designing process as Chief of Staff Government House, however, expressed joy that Senator Lee Maeba and Wike have agreed with the Ogoni that the sitting of the Banana Farm in the area was wrong. Akpobari challenged Wike to show the proof of his claimed love of the Ogoni by using his position as Supervisory Minister for Education to ensure that a Ken Saro-Wiwa University was established on the Banana Farm site and also see to the implementation of the UNEP report by using his closeness to President Jonathan to persuade him(president).
That is the only way Wike can prove he loves the Ogoni,” Akpobari remarked.
His words, “The Ogonis didn’t want banana farm but they forced it on them and killed Ogonis in the process. At that time, nobody seemed to care and now that traditional landmarks have been removed people are struggling to show concern and playing politics with the pains and misery of the people.”
He opined that “If Mr. Wike loves the Ogoni he should use his position to ensure that Ken Saro-Wiwa University is established at the Banana Farm site and use his closeness with President Jonathan to influence immediate implementation of UNEP Report on Ogoni.”
Comrade AkpoBari also said with the expiration of the ninety days ultimatum issued for the implementation of UNEP Report, the Ogoni will take steps to force the federal government to implement the report.
The rights activist who had on Saturday, November 9 led a group of Ogoni in a candlelight procession in honour of Ken Saro-Wiwa in Port Harcourt called on Ogonis to be steadfast as all that the slain activist fought and died for will be achieved.
While requesting that all political parties in Rivers State field Ogoni candidates for governorship election in 2015, Comrade AkpoBari further demanded for the immediate trial of all those who played different roles in the murder of Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogoni in 1995.