26th Anniversary of Ogoni Martyrs: Only Justice to the Ogoni People, Environment can Heal the Wounds*
The incident that took place 26 years ago in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, is fresh on our minds and the issues that led to it remain topical and will continue to dominate the political and socio-economic life and discourse in Nigeria and globally until justice is achieved. In solemnity, we remember today the executive murder of a whole generation of the then top leaders of Ogoni ethnic nationality by the Nigerian Government in the course of their search for oil justice under the late maximum leader and dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha, as the Head of Nigeria’s military junta.
On this day, November10, 1995, nine Ogoni Leaders were hanged, in addition to the killing of thousands of innocent unsung heroes and sacking of many Ogoni communities. The martyrs include, Ken Saro- Wiwa, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, Paul Levura, Nordu Eawo, John Kpuinen, Saturday Dobee, Felix Nuate and Daniel Gbokoo.
As unforgettable and of great significance as it is, the commemoration of this day also brings to remembrance the preceding event of the premeditated killing of four senior citizens and Statesmen of Ogoni extraction at Giokoo, Gokana on May 21, 1994. They include, Chief Edward Kobani, Albert Badeh, Theophilus Orage and Samuel Orage. For us, today’s activity is therefore, a commemorative event in honour of all known and unsung heroes of the Ogoni struggle for justice and survival in the face of a calculated plan for genocide against the Ogoni people by the twin brothers of the nation-state called Nigeria and corporatization of the State by transnational oil corporations led by Shell.
As the people of Ogoni and lovers of justice all over the world gather at various centers today to remember the supreme sacrifice these fallen heroes paid for environmental justice, energy democracy, human rights and the emancipation of the people of Ogoni and all suppressed indigenous minorities around the world, the African Indigenous Foundation for Energy and Sustainable Development (AIFES), in collaboration with the Human Rights Development Alliance (HRDA),calls on the Nigerian State to use the opportunity of this anniversary to promote national healing and reconciliation by ensuring the total exoneration of the Ogoni Nine, removal of all impediments on the people’s quest for a safe and healthy life and environment, including the socio-economic recovery of Ogoniland and her people.
It is regrettable and condemnable that almost three decades after the unjust killing of the globally renowned environmental rights campaigner, Ken Saro-Wiwa and his compatriots, the Nigerian authorities have still not shown remorse by apologizing for the weighty political error committed against the people of Ogoni.
It is also disappointing that in spite of the global condemnations of the unwarranted murder of the peaceful crusaders, the Nigerian authorities and the Oil giants have not addressed the legitimate demands of the people as enshrined in the Ogoni Bill of Rights and other acceptable global standards and issues bordering on environmental justice and the rights of the indigenous Ogoni people nay the Niger Delta peoples.
It is, therefore, our appeal to the Nigerian Government to also use the opportunity of the 26th Anniversary to take more accountable and transparent actions in setting up a machinery for the total exoneration of the Ogoni Nine, erect national honour and monuments in their names and emplace a proper process for addressing the issues raised in the OBR, including thoroughly cleaning the devastated Ogoni environment, and subsequently, the other parts of the Niger Delta and the people’s means of livelihood restored.
In view of the unsettled controversy surrounding the Presidential endorsement of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), particularly by the Host and Oil Impacted indigenous Communities, we urge the Nigerian State to revisit the PIA and ensure the contents actually address the concerns and plights of the people. How can the Government claim to be responsive and responsible in the face of persistent and unabated hike in cost of energy, gas and petroleum products consumption in the country without promoting energy democracy?
The long road to justice for the Ogoni Nine, the Ogoni four, other unsung heroes nay the Niger Delta has to be shortened by the Nigerian State by responding appropriately to the opportunity offered by this season of commemoration. The time for national healing and reconciliation is now and the government must seize the opportunity if it genuinely cares about the Ogoni people. It is only when justice is done and felt that the wounds of repression in Ogoni and other areas can be seen to have been treated.
Comrade Legborsi Pyagbara