Dr. Patience Osaro-Ejiji and members of other CSOs at the event
Ogoni Women Development Initiative in collaboration with Kebetkache Women Development and Resource Center in association with other development partners including WANEP, CEMEDEC, Pius Dukor Foundation, held a peace forum on Tuesday September 28, 2021 at the Council Hall of Tai Local Government Area, Sapenwa.
Welcoming guests to the event, Dr. Patience Osaro-Ejiji, president of the coalition said Ogoni women were no longer comfortable with happenings in the ethnic nationality stressing that heightened insecurity is destroying the dreams and lives of the people.
“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”.
Chairman of Tai Local Government Area,…. represented by his chief of protocol and other key officers, commended the women for coming out to demand peace and choosing Sapenwa as venue.
He stated that things have gone bad noting that Bori which used to be calm and a hub of activities is no longer peaceful and the fact that the state of insecurity in Ogoni tars Ogoni image.
Chairman of the occasion, Prof Fidelis Allen of the Center for Peace and Conflict Management, University of Port Harcourt commended the women’s initiative.
Speaking through Mr. Promise Bina, he said Ogonis have helped in reshaping struggles for environmental justice and resource control in Nigeria, noting that Nigerian history will never be complete without proper reference to Ogoni.
He charged the women to be ready as expected change takes a while.
Keynote speaker, Dr Benemene Kpea said neglect of the important role women play in peace-building may have led to the failure of past peace efforts as he urged the women to be relentless in their pursuit of peace.
All agreed that Ogoni women have done well to step into the search for peace because past efforts by government and other groups had failed because they excluded women and the peculiar attributes women bring onto problem-solving.
Ogoni women were enjoined to take up the peace-building and be relentless, aware that it will not be an easy journey and that it is an important assignment worth undertaking. Taking the message to all nooks and crannies of Ogoni, beginning with talking to family members-children, husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins- was identified as the way to go.
Advocacy, appealing in that special way that gets women listened to, was identified as a necessary tool for the peace mission.
The internal cause of the conflicts which external effects are causing the worries was traced by the second presenter, Dr Doreen Kobani, to failure by parents, especially mothers, to bring children up with love, care and good guidance and women were challenged to look towards inwards and begin to train their children to follow the right path.
Since without peace there can be no development, it was agreed that there is need for all to work hard to return peace to Ogoniland. Women have worked for the survival of Ogoni in the past and they can do so again.
Government should recognize the special role of women in peace-building and always include them in peace processes in line with UNSCR 1325 while local government councils should develop a local action plan for UNSCR1325 implementation working with the Rivers State Ministry of Women Affairs and partnering organizations.
The Women peace conference called on all Ogoni leaders to put aside their differences, close ranks and work for Ogoni starting, with the resolution of the current division within MOSOP so that Ogonis can have the right voice to protect Ogoni interest in these critical times in the country.
The peace campaign it was agreed, will require support from the traditional rulers, local government council leadership and other Ogonis.
Gbenemene Tai King Felix represented by the paramount ruler of Goi, Chief Steven Kobani lauded the effort of the Ogoni Women Development Initiative and promised to take the matter to the Ogoni Traditional Rulers Supreme Council while the permanent secretary ministry of Women Affairs, Mrs UcheUriri, who was commended for always identifying personally with women, urged all to begin the peace campaign from their homes.
“I thank the organizers of this forum for bringing this programme to the grassroot.
‘Peace cannot be bought. You must give in, concede. Let us start peace from the home. Be at peace with your family, then the larger society.
“My humble prayer is for God to bless the mission of this programme because, without peace, there will be no development,” she stated.