THE YOUNG OGONI DIDN’T NEED TO SEE ORONTO DOUGLAS, YET HE INSPIRED US! – A TRIBUTE BY CELESTINE AKPOBARI
As a young Ogoni in the 90s and at the peak of the State and sHELL’s persecution of Ogoni people and their environment, it was that name “ORONTO” that we started hearing as the new “driver” of our legitimate struggle, especially as every active Ogoni at the time, has either been driven into the bush by then Col Paul Okuntimo, sent on forced exile or to their early graves.
We were told of how the spirit of Ken Saro Wiwa possessed him and how he was beaten severally and detained by the rampaging army for daring to champion the Ogoni campaign at a time the Persecutors thought it was all over. I was later to meet and talk with the bold and very courageous Oronto Douglas in person at the famous No 13 Agudama Street in D/Line, Port Harcourt when as a Trade Union Activist, I paid a visit to Dr Isaac Ásume’ Osuoka (Sankara), Godwin Frank and Jaye Gaskia who were working behind the scene to liberate the enslaved workers of Risonpalm Ltd under my leadership.
Years later, we were to meet regularly as one of the Directors of Social Action as I have the responsibility of getting him to sign papers. Oronto became the force, the rallying point, the unifying factor and the face of our collective struggle after the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa. In his time at the helm of the Niger Delta struggle, we were very productive with several declarations to show and there was no tribal colouration such as we have now.
Till date, I am not sure any Ijaw man living or dead, has impacted the Ogoni struggle the way Oronto did, he became the bridge linking the action phase of our collective struggle for self determination, environmental remediation and resource control. And that is why we are at a loss as to why he couldn’t influence the President Goodluck Jonathan led Federal Government of Nigeria to commence clean up of the heavily polluted Ogoni land by implementing UNEP report which was submitted to that government on August 4, 2011.
Dear Oronto Natei Douglas, as you proceed to the land of the spirits, please tell Ken Saro Wiwa that the Ogoni environment is now worse than his days; tell him of our increasing pains, hunger and poverty, tell him sHELL remains a persona non grata in Ogoni and that our oil remains in the soil.
You may have left us physically, yet, we see your footprints in the sand of time. Thank you for being such a rare gift to the Niger Delta people and the human rights community at large. Thank you for uniting and inspiring us. Good Night Oronto!
AKPOBARI CELESTINE .N
OGONI SOLIDARITY FORUM-NIGERIA (OSF)