Welcome Address by Dr. Patience Osaro-ejiji, Co-ordinator Ogoni Women Development Initiative at Ogoni Women Peace Forum organized at Sapenwa, Tai Local Government Headquarter, Rivers State, Tuesday September 21, 2021.
Local Government Chairmen and Vice Chairpersons Government Areas here present,
Our Royal Fathers,
Respected Councilors and other officials,
Prof Fidelis Allen, Chairman of this occasion,
Distinguished Personalities, Our Fellow Ogonis,
Executive Director Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center, WANEP, CEMEDEC and Pius Dukor Foundation
Members of the Press,
It is with a heart filled with appreciation that you answered our clarion call , and anguish because of happenings in our land, that I on behalf of Ogoni Women Peace Forum, welcome you to this very special event.
We thank the Almighty God for making today possible and Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center for relentlessly seeking the best for Ogoni women and by implication, Ogoniland. Executive Director, Obomawang Emem Okon, Ogoni Women Peace Forum say a big ‘Thank You’. We also salute your partners.
We want to specially appreciate the Chairman of Tai Local Government Council, who did not hesitate to support our being here today making necessary logistics available. We say May the Almighty God bless you sir.
The matter before us is grave-the high state of insecurity in Ogoniland and the absence of a united voice to stem the ugly tide and put Ogoni where it should be in the scheme of things in Nigeria.
Concerned over the worsening state of insecurity in Ogoni resulting in daily killings and wanton destruction of properties, rapes, kidnapping, etc., and worried that things can drift into a state of anarchy if not checked and fast, we as mothers, wives, daughters and sisters, have invited you here to join us to reason together and fashion how best peace, the very important ingredient of societal development, can be regained in our land.
Ogonis have faced tougher battles in the past but one thing kept us, the spirit of oneness which also encouraged the world to fight on our side. Today, the story has changed. Community members are killing one another, Ogoni Communities are fighting their brothers, cultists are holding sway and our umbrella body, our voice-MOSOP- is fragmented into factions. In the face of these developments, uncertainty reigns and women feel the pain most. Young girls are being forcefully taken away, women can no longer go to the farms without fear of attack and their farm produce are no longer guaranteed. Unfortunately, there is no one to run to as people are busy lining up behind the different MOSOP factions.
Because a flock without a shepherd is an easy prey, while we fight among ourselves, the enemy is taking advantage of our weakness. The federal government is silently arranging the return of oil production in Ogoni without addressing the reasons for which Ogonis rose up in anger to demand stoppage of oil production.
Our condition rather than improve has worsened. Our lands are still very much degraded, our water still heavily polluted, our health endangered and our livelihood destroyed. Unemployment has driven our youth to vices including illegal oil production and cultism while life expectancy has dropped seriously with our people dying in their 30s, 40s, 50s while health facilities are lacking.
Only a state of peace can help us address these challenges and we can best get there through dialogues like this.
Ogoni Women Development Initiative recognizes the fact that conflicts exist everywhere but well managed, they can yield positive results. Former American president, Richard Reagan once said, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means,” it is our position. We have strong confidence in the strength and ability of our people to bring the current ugly state of affairs to an end in the interest of our heroes who died that Ogoni should have a place of pride in this country. We must not allow the spirit of our late leader and visional, Ken Saro-Wiwa to die. Let us bury our pride, our needs, our differences and put Ogoni first.
Permit me to solemnly plead with all here, our traditional rulers, religious and political leaders, professionals and individuals of all persuasion to join the women in suing for peace. We are hopeful that before we leave this hall, we would have as brothers and sisters resolved on the best approaches to restore peace and prevail on our warring MOSOP leaders to close ranks and become one. We need one MOSOP president so Ogoni can effectively join ongoing discussions in the country. At this time in our history with court victories over environmental abuse and the Clean-up, we need effective monitoring which only a united MOSOP can offer.
We need peace and unity in Ogoniland and we all can make that possible.
Thank you once again for coming.
Dr. Patience Osaro-ejiji, President Ogoni Women Development Initiative
#Ogoni Peace and Unity