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The Niger-Delta region since after independence: A call for sustainable reforms

Petroleum ExplosionFive score decades ago, our founding fathers and patriots brought forth on the continent of Africa a new nation we call Nigeria. This new nation was conceived under the yoke of divide and rule where every tribe like an olive branch lived in harmony, peace and liberty, but dedicated to a serene spirit of unity and brotherhood. The same spirit of unity in tribal division influenced their actions to uphold the universal proposition that all tribes are equal no matter where they fall within Nigerian Geographic compass. The same spirit of togetherness compelled them to uphold that all men are created equal despite ethnic or religious affiliations. This same spirit is compelling us today to believe that Niger Delta is equal to other part of the country; that Islam and Christianity are one and equal before all men and before God who we call the maker of all things! We hold these truths as evident even after we have drifted from the very spirit of our founding fathers’ objectives. The consequence is testing whether the Niger Delta; the Nigerian nation or any other African nation so conceived and so dedicated to human right values can long endure the impact of religious antagonism, economic alienation and tribal disunity.

We are aware that Nigeria as a nation is met on a great battlefield of religious wars and on a deep Plainfield of religious antagonism. We are aware that Nigeria is met on that sectional and economic disparities and social isolation that widens the ambition of unity. Nigeria is met on that same religious Plainfield of spiritual wars against those whom we deem lovers of social justice and actors of fundamental human rights. This is the more reasons why many people have come to awaken the silence of your mind and to wake your spirit up from the morass of tribal disunity. This is why they remain tireless in giving testimony to economic alienation that is ongoing in Ogoni-land. At the same time, they have pleaded with you to dedicate a portion of your strength and wealth of your knowledge as a resting-place for those who un-hesitantly gave their lives in a bid to stop the rumbling associated with oil drilling; that this nation might have peace and live in unity. They have pleaded with you to forgive one another and to ignore vehement disputes that took place between you and the other. They have asked you to cease from blaming yourself and the other. Let me reaffirm that if you continue to blame the other, you will end up blaming youself in the long run. It may be true that in blaming the other, people will react against you. But you don’t blame one who blames himself. This would amount to blaming religious or tribal fanatics because their faith or tribes precipitated the evil acts. Ultimately, society must condemn the fanatics and not their faith or tribes. Society must protect our tribes and faith and not the fanatics. This is why so many people have come to plead with you today. I am convinced that there is nothing more powerful than to dramatize tribal and religious evil than touching your inner voice of reasoning. I have this touching fear, and people of every tribe and religion have the same fear too, that through forgiveness and understanding, we will be able to lower the voltage of our blame and the antagonism in our minds. I am not in any way compelling you to change your minds. I am not compelling you to either change your habits. But it is my believe that once you change your attitude towards the other, people will quickly adjust to accept themselves and cease to blame the other, just as the Niger-Delta have quickly adjusted by uniting themselves to fight against poor housing and poor accommodations. I am aware that the average man and woman from the Niger-Delta has not profited from the windfall of oil and bitumen for the past two decades. They have not enjoyed themselves in their own land because they are more discriminated in education; more alienated in schools and other social amenities; yet they are at the lowest rung of unemployment rate in a nation of plenty. I think where they hang now is so slippery and so precarious that any moment in time, and if caution is not put into place, they could just go down the drain or in the pit of hell. The Niger Delta experience along with tribal and religious indifference occupies the mindset of anyone who seeks tribal justice and social equality in Nigeria. I have carried with me a visual memory and image of the sufferings, of the pennilessness, and of the expressions on the faces of these inhabitants and the people of the East central states of Nigeria. These images though painful it maybe, have transformed into deep and courageous determination to cast off the imprints of the past to become free like any integrated community. I cannot but say that for so long I have contemplated for a positive solution to these anomalies without being constantly reminded of the awesomeness of its danger and responsibility. I always live and will continue to live with three deep concerns in this our troubled world filled with positive ideas. Are my ideas centered on justice and unity? Have I chosen writing career for a just cause? Am I awakening minds for positive spirit through the press? I do not dare say that your future would continue to prosper even though I believe that heaven favors those who are sincere in their intentions. I dare not say either that your present sorrows and lamentations would end with certain serenity of heart. The “mandate of heaven” which we must borrow from the Chinese dynasty is not easy to gain. The mandate of heaven became central to the Chinese view of a just government. Lack of food, lack of affordable accommodations, riots and other calamities might be signs that the ancestral spirits were displeased with the events unfolding in the Niger Delta. In this case, the mandate of heaven might pass to another leadership. This was the Chinese explanation for rebellion, civil war, and the rise of new dynasty. (Duke of Shaq, Quoted in the Chinese Heritage).

I will not forget my experience in Rumola Port Harcourt, when a CEO in one of the oil magnets drove past a woman and her daughter who was sitting by the road-side begging for sustenance. While this oil magnet drove past this woman and child, he threw a pill of banana from the window of his Range rover, and this pill of banana fall into the rough pan the woman was using in begging for money. Her daughter who already was famished and indignant was infuriated and at the same time uncomfortable. She started to rain curses on this rich man who saw the little girl from the rear mirror of his car pointing fingers at him. He drove back in reverse and stopped and said to the girl: “What is the matter with you?”, “what do you want from me the rich man asked the little girl? And the little girl looked him straight in the eyes and answered, “Food and money.” It was really a very beautiful scene to behold! She could not even have courage to ask for any other thing because they had been worn out for the day by the coercing heat of the sun. This incident reminds me that when people are subjected to penury and poverty, they would still ask for food, accommodation and a decent way of life. When you are in solely trying situations like the little girl and her mom or when you face similar episode like people from the Niger- Delta, you will always welcome the opportunity to be part of a drama of economic struggle, for it is a drama that will shape the Niger-Delta and determine the destiny of Nigeria nation. This story is one out of many stories that rings a church bell that Niger-Delta is roaring for social justice. It is one of those stories that seem that the lives of a people have been transformed into a land that time forgot. The Niger-Delta is lamenting for affordable housing accommodation. And it seems to them that living in bondage makes them to feel like Tarzan of the Apes. The Niger-Delta is roaring for competitive education. And it seems to them that a cultivated mind is the Guardian genius for democracy. Against these backdrops, inhabitants of this oil community deserve a pardon for intrusion upon their valued lands. They demand various oil corporations to treat them as individuals; to respect them as men and women and to appreciate them as Ogoni people because they obey honest but excited impulses. All these have caused them to reach this hopeless point after many hardships and privations but thanks to God in the most excellent health. As it stands now, they have no idea when they shall be free from this form of economic hardship! The people of the Niger-Delta have real problems and I wish in this articulation not to invent imaginary ones to the ones before them. These problems touch their hearts and the frustrations in their minds. You must therefore understand why we hear about the two souls of the people of the Niger-Delta. There is the Ogoni soul and the Kalabari soul-the condor and the bull. The two souls are at war with oil corporations but I know that when the two wars are over, the two would become one like trinity.

Therefore, if economic, tribal and religious wars in Nigeria are not solved in the earliest possible time, Nigeria will soon be on the road to its self-destruction. But if tribal sentiments and religious conflicts are brought to absolute control, Nigeria will just as surely be on a feeder road to the fulfillment of the founding fathers’ dream. I am proud to engage in this act of “silence awakening” because for so long now the silence of our minds has been questioned time and time without mercy to defenseless souls. It is altogether fitting and proper to engage in such enterprise even when danger lies ahead of you and me. I must say that it is even proper and fitting that we should do these courageously and collectively. In a larger sense, Christians cannot dedicate themselves in the absence of Muslim intolerance. Traditional religionists cannot dedicate themselves in the absence of Christian conservatism; likewise Muslim brothers cannot dedicate themselves in the absence of Christian piety. Indeed, Christians cannot consecrate while their Muslim brothers are belligerent and war-like; Muslims cannot consecrate to Allah while their Christian brothers are neck-deep in nepotism and kidnapping for ransom. Without doubt, Igbo-man cannot hallow when his sensibility is provoked in religious intolerance; the South-South cannot hallow in the jungle mindset of the Niger-Delta experience. Therefore, Christians and Muslims, North and South, healthy and sick, living and those who struggle in Ogoni land must collectively consecrate, dedicate and hallow that old pathway on which future generations must walk. The call to dedicate, consecrate and hallow is a call beyond my elusive power and imagination to add or to detract. I know myself that the world with little note or long remembrance will forever forget the merits of hate but welcomes the positive outcome of a just cause. Therefore, it is for us living rather than the dead to dedicate, hallow for the unfinished task of religious unity, economic inequalities and tribal codification. I therefore call on you today to dedicate your lives to the great task remaining before us and on how best to unite this noble nation and to stop the impending nightmare associated with religious indifference. We must engage in an increased devotion to the cause for which people gave the last full measure of devotion and to the same cause for which they gave their time, talent and treasure that we here highly resolve that these dead shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the face of the earth; that the government of Ogoni people, by the Niger-Delta is government for all tribes despite ethnic affiliations. There is need therefore for progressive, social and economic reforms to protect and advance the lives of average and disadvantaged Niger-Delta inhabitants. Always, progressive reforms often bring about social change. Social change must embrace the premise of populist movement where effort is made to reform political parties, economic insecurities and social life of average Nigerians. Progressive reforms will establish social security art to provide financial assistance to the elderly and the handicapped. It must establish Securities and Exchange Commission to regulate Nigerian stock market. Reforms will establish recall or referendum where voters can rescind a law and where they can actually vote to pass a proposal into law. Civil service reforms will help end awarding government contracts as “favors.”These needs are relevant but they are more acute in areas of shelter, education and other social amenities. A call for a reform in this light must challenge the traditional policy of Laissez faire-where the government should leave the economy of the Niger-Delta alone. You are aware that before the emergence of indirect rule, our social, economic and political problems were settled in the village square. The chiefs, Obas and Sultans were incumbent judiciaries and verdicts and proposals were immediate and spontaneous. Solution to problems was progressive and spontaneous too. What affected dick affected Harry and the problem of the eyes was the problem of the nose too. The same indirect rule reaffirmed that it was through reforms that government can become more democratic to the people. It was through reforms that manifest destiny felt among people. When Franklin Roosevelt was elected President of the United States; he had to deal with the vast economic disaster that was the Great Depression. Roosevelt initiated a series of programs and policies that helped bring about recovery to American people. These programs include: Establishing the federal Deposit Insurance Corporation to insure bank deposits; putting people back to work, building schools, hospitals, federal buildings and roads through civilian conservation corps; establishing civil works administrations, such as progress administration and public works administration and finally creating the Tennessee valley Authority to bring electricity to the rural South.

Today, inhabitants of the Niger-Delta are in great economic and environmental depression. Therefore, there is need for reforms that would help bring about recovery to their economic and social needs. Inhabitants of the Niger-Delta need similar amenities in order to overcome their present economic meltdown. They need good infrastructures since violent adventures mixed with subhuman living conditions have created legendary stories of Niger-Delta saga and experiences. There is need for reforms that would help put smiles on the faces of people and put them back to a just employment with room and board like others. There is need to build schools, hospitals, roads and fair housing to accommodate a large number of population living on the streets and under the over bridge that we call the highway. Creating a constant power supply would help sustain financial and economic strength of the city. Establishing a city emergency relief system and passing a fair labor standard act would help integrate working citizens and dependent children of the oil city. Establishing a pension scheme would help provide financial assistance to the elderly and the handicapped. There is also need to form a National Association for the Advancement of the Niger Delta (NAAND) as against MOSOP (movement for the survival of the Ogoni people). The primary goal would be to secure a safe working condition and equal opportunities for all in this region. This organization would help reduce as well as eliminate lynching, and other forms of violence that is common in the region. Such initiatives would help the people of the Niger Delta to focus attention on self-improvement and education. I believe that with self-improvement and education, the attitude of Ogoni people would eventually change and they will join the integrated society. Through self-improvement and education, the attitude of Ogoni people would intensify for good. For so long now, Ogoni land has served the world oil corporations and in return deserve a change of their present life conditions. They deserve affirmative action through education and self-reliant. And through the spirit of self-reliant, Niger-Delta can transform their oil economy into assembly line method of factory production. This transformation would largely improve the pace of factory production and lower dependence on oil. Over dependence on oil would keep oil corporations in the soil but under dependence would force them to find other economic alternatives.

Oil attracts foreign investors just as honey attracts forest bees. Filthy environ attracts roaches just as Gold attracted the British in Johannesburg and blood diamond in Rwanda. If attraction on oil continues in the present pace, oil corporations would become too large and too intrusive in both business and private affairs of the people. Therefore, the Niger-Delta Mystique I am proposing should be considered the beginning of a new era of economic and oil management. This mystique should help inhabitants find a better job rather than evacuating to settle in towns and cities like “Obigbo” “Asa,” “Obehie ”where they are forced to provide a major part of labor needed for industrial revolution. Back in big cities like Port Harcourt, citizens were not fascinated with stories they heard about the Ogoni people, the loss of lives and properties, and clashes of cymbals between natives and oil explorers. As a matter of fact, the legendary stories of the Ogoni people would later in this our life time become a subject matter for book review in the near future. Before books and reviews are written, we must recognize the way in which rhetoric’s of unconstitutionality of violence and the legendary lynching of human lives have seeped into this community. Therefore, the analysis of human right and the quest for peace would never fail to create as many problems as it solves.

REFORMS INSTEAD OF MASS MOVEMENT

A mass movement such as MOSOP would always end in violence and intimidation, despite how humble leaders’ intentions are? Saro-Wiwa was confident on this score, but in the end it was the violence of some of his followers that led those who were responsible for his death to offer him no reward but strangulation. Many of his followers were not educated as to know how best to put behind frustrations inflicted on them by another man. They were not as rational as to know that irrationality culminates in anger, strike, protests and demonstrations. They were not as logical as to know that illogicality leads to community disorientation or barbaric disintegration. They were not as united like United Nations as to know that disunity leads to dismemberment and division. Yet, we witness how frustration, irrationality and disintegration lead to aggression and cruelty where self-affirmation and optimism continues to unite people and make them unbroken. We have observed how self-affirmation which gives way to openness and solidarity helps people to learn about self and the other. It humbles one when dealing with the other even when one is a “Viking raider” or maroon fearless warrior. I do understand that community strength must come from economic empowerment and the brotherhood of man. Anything short of this is like breaching a dragon ship in salt marshes between an island and the English coast. Therefore, the need for reforms would bring sustainable change and improve lives. Best reforms for the Niger Delta must include but not limited to:-Abolitionism of Violence: This effort would help end violence and clashes of cymbals in the Niger-Delta region and its environs. An effort in this direction would help eradicate factors that help contribute to the present escalation of crises in Ogoni land.

– Public Education: Reforms in public education would help provide free education to all children in the Niger Delta area and other people in within close environs. – Women’s Rights and Privileges: Reforms in this area would help gain economic rights for women such as equal pay for equal work. When this happens, women in Ogoni-land would gain the right to serve in juries and the right to birth control. Passing a fair labor standard act would help set a minimum wage of 40hrs a week and a national minimum wage of 40 kobo per hour; and finally breaking up oil monopolies-where one oil company dominates the entire oil industries such that others cannot compete. In the event of history, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890 and the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 were two laws that were used to break up the standard of Oil Company in 1911 and the ATT &T in 1982.

-Civil and Economic Rights: Reforms in this regard would help secure economic and voting rights to Niger Delta inhabitants. Effort would center on how to secure employment, education and housing rights for members of Ogoni people and other neighboring cities. – Bell of Rights: Reform here would center on making everyone believe that all men are created equal and have right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. At all times, the right to life has guaranteed freedom from cruelty, violence and unusual punishment on individual rights and protections where citizens could seek judicial relief from law and government. In return, the Ogoni people would organize their effort to gain suffrage for women and advocate for programs to help poor women and minorities.

If reforms are not carried out, the Niger-Delta would continue to roar like a wide lion looking for affordable human condition. If movement continues to take the place of positive reforms, the Kalabari, the Yenagoa and Nembe people would continue to roar like forest hyena seeking for justice and fundamental human rights. They will continue to roar because work and sustainable human accommodation which improves condition of mankind increases power and enriches self-esteem that seek comfort in human living. It is lack of work therefore, that forces people into servitude in a land flowing with oil and bitumen. It is lack of work that causes Ogoni people to wait anxiously on the mainland of their cities for nothing but stand hungry and poised for battle. If asked the reason why they continue to roar time without number, you will find they are asking for a kind of work that somehow would bring security and stability for its own sake for their communities where want would finally be eliminated. And if justice and affordable housing accommodation is provided, they will develop a cosmic energy to deal with other problems of life and join in an effort march to eliminate poverty, abolish war and eliminate violence. The poor who are transformed through education and good housing would ultimately do a great deal on their own to alter housing decay and anything that stimulates economic inequalities. Beyond these social and economic demands, a host of other positive human changes would inevitability results in widespread social and economic security. When this happens, the dignity of Ogoni people would flourish as decisions concerning social lives would be placed in their own hands than in the hands of oil corporations. And when their dignities are placed in their own hands, they would grow to transform their lives and eventually seek self-affirmation and improvement. I believe that personal conflicts and community violence would diminish when unjust measurement of human worth is challenged and eliminated.

Let me say that we must first reaffirm our zeal and commitment to the violence and riots taking place in these regions. Since our zeal’s are different, let those who hold power to execute projects get into work. Power brokers must execute good proposals because the futility of Ogoni violence in the struggle for oil benefits is tragically etching in all past and recent Niger-Delta experiences. Every time I try to analyze the violence taking place within these environs, my mind goes straight to what caused the problems in the first place. In the second instance, my mind goes to the end result of devastation of violence on life and on human properties. Always, there is something painfully sad about violence and killing of people because of oil money. The sad thing about violence is captured in a desire for self-destruction, a kind of suicidal longing for revenge. When I see screaming youngsters abandoning their studies or job or when I see angry adults fighting aimlessly with no peace in vision, my mind goes back to the goal of nonviolence and altogether my spirit remembers our two slain brothers, Martin Luther King Jr. and Ken Saro Wiwa. Ken and Luther were apostles of the peace movement. Both were crusaders of nonviolence. Both were evangelizers of peace and serene negotiators for unity. I say this without stumbling words because war and violence produces no concrete gain as results. At best, riots and violence have only succeeded in producing a little additional antipoverty money allotted to frightened oil corporations, and a few water-sprinklers to cool off the hearts and spirits of children in the ghettos of Ogoni-land.

It is sometime like giving somebody a fish without any effort to teach him to fish. It is something like recruiting too many servant-boys to sell merchandize in Onitsha main market without settling them well enough when it is time for them to open their own shops. It is something like improving the food in the prison while the people remain securely incarcerated behind bars. Nowhere in history has violence won any concrete improvement such as the organized protest demonstrations by the Negros in the United States. When I try to pin down violence and its advocates in the Niger Delta region and as to what acts would be effective, the answers are blatantly illogical. It is perfectly clear that a violent demonstration on the part of inhabitants would find no sympathy and support from oil corporations. It is clear that a violent demonstration on the part of the Ogoni people would find no support from the international community. Destruction of properties and the killing of lives would neither draw attention of the united nation. If this is the case, then there is no time left for romantic illusions or empty philosophical debates about the plights of these inhabitants. There is no time to smile falsely or to engage in the old fashioned devilish smile. There is no time to be furious undertaker either. Rather, this is time for action and to address the problems facing this people. The time is now to rescue oil explorers from the harm’s way. The time is now to protect the people from current reckless oil exploitation. What the Niger Delta need is reforms to address their condition of life. Oil explores and owners of the land must be saved at the same time. Both must be saved because both are not above the law. Both are not above natural laws or civil laws either. The royal seal on the document that came to be called the Magna Carta has made us to realize that everyone is equal before the law. Through the Magna Carta, England knew that the king was not above the law. Through the Magna Carta, England knew that the king was not above the law. Through the Magna Carta, English subject picked up their rights from the rubbles of nothingness and learnt that nobody shall be denied any form of justice. Through reforms Ogoni people would know that oil corporations are not above the law of the land. They will come to know that their own rights in the land; and that they are citizens of the land from which the riches and barrels of oil flows. Tactical reforms therefore, would help bring Ogoni people into the mainstream of society. So far, this has not been done. So far, this has not been done by any of the oil corporations. So far, this has not been done by meaningful people in Nigeria. Without meaningful reforms, Ogoni people would end up with solutions that don’t solve; answers that don’t answer and explanations that don’t explain. I believe that through meaningful solutions and reforms life and the needs of these inhabitants would help addressed. I am still convinced that tactful reforms are potent weapons available to Ogoni people in their struggle for economic justice. The reason I say these is because, I am concerned about universal justice for mankind. I am concerned with the brotherhood of the Niger Delta. I am concerned with the brotherhood of man. I am concerned about discouraged beggars in the life’s oil market. I am concerned in the reconstruction of those edifices that produces beggars in the land of great oil reserve. For through violence, you may murder the murderer but you cannot murder, murder. Through violence you may murder an unjust aggressor but you may not murder aggression. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you may not murder hate. Through violence you may murder one who inflicted sufferings on you, but you may not murder suffering itself. Darkness cannot put out darkness. Enmity cannot eradicate hate. Evil cannot put out animosity. Belligerence cannot put out anger while hostility cannot eradicate violence.

I have heard people describe Ogoni men as violent people without conscience. I have heard analysts say Kalabari people are war-like in nature. Critics use psychiatric terms to describe attitude of people from the Niger Delta region. Ogoni men have been labeled as having personality disorder, mood disorder, maniac with psychosis and schizoaffective disorders. They are criticized as having Bipolar disorder and depression with noncompliance to peace-talk. One cannot comply to peace-talk unless one identifies what caused one to have depression in the first place and what led to the present escalation of agitation and how it could be addressed once and for all. Therefore, compliance to peace-talk can only be possible when depressed mood of any community is transformed into a happy and triumphant mood. To use the language of hospital psychiatrists, Ogoni people are maniacs with aggressive behaviors. They are combative and destructive with malingering refluxes. These people have received expressive diagnosis as having suicidal ideations with recurrent psychosis. Let me assume they need special observations, but they are not maladjusted. They are not abnormal, disturbed, messed up, muddled, neurotic, unfit and unable. Maladjusted is a word associated with failure or when one is unable to cope with the demands of a normal social environment or when one is poorly adjusted to demands and stresses and having difficulty coping with personal relationship but not altered to fit certain requirements. One thing I can safely say is that Ogoni people hate being labeled as too angry, too aggressive and too demanding. The generalization that people of the Niger Delta are aggressive is worrisome. Therefore, it is paramount to draw attention to the way in which the debate about naked statistical evidence links more closely than hearsay to the superficially different questions about the role of generality in saying that all Ogoni people are violent and war-like. The problem with using generalization as violent and war-like, which gathered up all the Niger-Delta people with their diverse individual characteristics under a single category of being aggressive, was that one attribute of the category-a tendency toward dangerous aggressiveness was not necessarily an attribute of each member of Ogoni people. The generalization about the evidence plainly establishes that dangerousness exists in the community of Ogoni-land to a greater degree than it does elsewhere- I mean the subclasses of Nigerian societies, we call the middle class. Universal generalizations or empirical particularity tend to interest philosophers. In that case, what we encounter on the daily basis is not universal: “Swiss cheese has holes,” “Italians are demonstrative,” “Islamic faith is agitated,” “philosophers are cleaver,” “Theologians are Pius;” “Volvos are reliable,” “Ogoni people are aggressive” etc. We know that some theologians are not Pius and some Italians are not demonstrative and some Ogoni people are not aggressive. But there is no disputing the fact that many people in Ogoni-land, quite possibly the vast majority of them are not dangerous at all. Nor can we dismiss as irrational the practice of generalizing even when generalization produces errors in particular cases. Casting the problem in another light brings to mind hypothetical evidence. If we were to hypothesize that 90 percent of Ogoni people were vicious, then we could conclude, absent further information, that an attack by an otherwise unidentified “Obigbo people” was 90 percent likely to have been an attack by Ogoni people. Again, if we were to hypothesize that 80 percent of Muslims are terrorists, then we could conclude, absent further information, that an attack by an otherwise unidentified Somalian Muslim ruffians was 80% likely to have been an attack by Muslims. Let me affirm here that the paradox consist not in the willingness to admit that all Ogoni people are violent, but to say what they are not would be wrong and illogical. I therefore find it puzzling that people would continue to insist that the standard of proof in this kind of make-belief is a preponderance of half-baked evidence they have with them. To put it squarely, the preponderance of the evidence presupposes the erroneous denial of viciousness and erroneous imposition of aggressiveness which makes the matter equally regrettable. As we make such decisions and judgment, we may sometimes feel uneasy for we are attributing to the many the sins of the few. This makes our logic and intuition to fall in conflict because when we attribute the failings of the oil corporations or the failings of minority to the entire group, we may sense that we are being simultaneously irrational and unfair. The false positive is no worse than the false negative. Indeed, positive and negative are profound and incisive guide to the contested zone of aggressive accusation where justice, fairness and equality conflicts. Nothing less than social justice and economic stability is at stake in our ability to distinguish whether they are vicious, belligerent or aggressive. Nothing more than affordable housing accommodation and equal treatment is at stake in our ability to call them vicious or the pious ones. I seek not to defend the morality of aggression or the psychology of oil exploration. But I know Shell BP paid enormous sum to communities that met with a sudden oil spillage in the coastal land cities of Orleans.

Many oil corporations have put the yearnings and lamentations of the Ogoni people in different light. They say that Ogoni people are not satisfied at anything worthy of human condition. They say that inhabitants of Niger Delta can never be thankful for the development that has come their way since the beginning of oil drilling. All these accusations are tied together to destroy the Ogoni spirit, the Ogoni psych and Ogoni manhood. All I am saying is that you should look beyond these accusations and go out with “divine dissatisfaction.” Let the Niger Delta be dissatisfied until Nigerian nation no longer have a high blood pressure of creeds and low anemia pulse of deeds. Let the Ogoni people be dissatisfied until the tragic walls that separate the outer city of Port Harcourt GRA (wealth and comfort) and the inner city of poverty and despair (dungeon and slums) shall be crushed by the battering rams of the forces of justice. Let the children of the oil city who lives in slums be dissatisfied until they are cast into the junk heaps of history where every family will live in a decent sanitary homes. Let the Kalabari people be dissatisfied until the dark yesterday of poor accommodation is transformed into bright tomorrows of equitable integrated society. Let them be dissatisfied until integration is not seen as problem but as an opportunity to participate in the beauty of natures mineral resources. Let them be dissatisfied until men and women from Ogoni and Kalabari are judged on the basis of their needs and not on the content of their agitation. Let them be dissatisfied until from every streets and subways, justice rolls down like mighty waters and righteousness like a sweeping hurricane. Let them be dissatisfied until the day when the lion and the lamb shall lie down together, and every explorer and Ogoni man will sit under a vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid of each other. Let them be dissatisfied until inheritor of oil and gas and explorers of land and bitumen recognize that out of one blood, God made all men to dwell upon the face of the earth and enjoy its mineral resources together. Let them be dissatisfied until that day when nobody will shout “oil power,” when nobody will shout “Ogoni power”- but everybody will talk about God’s power and the power of the Niger Delta. I know that to overcome these odds, you must go through rocky places of frustrations and meandering points of bewilderments. I am a firm advocate of “manifest destiny”, the idea that inhabitants of Niger Delta have the God-given right and obligation to profit from the windfall of oil and bitumen in the own land. Let me expound manifest destiny in another way. The Niger-Delta are rightfully bound on the “East by sunrise, West by sunset, North by the Arctic Expedition, and South as far as oil flows. These words of empowerment from me come to you at this moment when the buoyancy of your hope has been transformed into fatigue of despair. It comes from me to you this moment when your shattered dreams and ambition for a better life in a land flowing with milk and honey is ethereally blasted. It comes from me to you after the United Nation and the world have refused to act but watched. It comes from me to you before the bier of some courageous civil rights workers whose contributions have not aided any relief but snuffed out by the dastardly acts of bloodthirsty mobs. Difficult and painful as it may seem, you must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. Let these words of empowerment be your ringing cry. Let it soothe your balm and yarning pain. Let it give you courage and consolation to face the uncertainties of the future. Let it give your tired feet new strength as you continues your forward stride towards the city on the hill; I mean the city of oil reward. When your days become dreary with hovering clouds of despair, and when your nights become darker than a thousand midnights, always remember that there is a creative force in this universe working to pull down the gigantic mountain of evil done to another man; a power that is able to make a way out of no way and able to transform the dark yesterday into bright tomorrow. Always realize that the arc of moral universe is long but this arc blends towards justice and justice alone. Always realize that William Cullen Bryant was right: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” You must therefore go out dissatisfied realizing that the Bible was right: “Be not deceived, God is not mocked. Whatever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” These powerful words are hope for the future, and with this hope and faith, you will be able to sing in some not too distant tomorrow with a cosmic past tense, “we have overcome the cause of our anger; we have overcome the paralyzing fears that harrow us by day and haunts our oil city by night. We have overcome the oil money and blood diamond. My hope is that you will overcome oil tragedies, blood diamond and other kinds of death and genocides that beats your imaginations around the globe because our world is sick with war and strife and everywhere you turn you sees its ominous possibilities. It is sufficient to quote Mr Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General to make our point. He said, “There has been a deafening global silence in response to Sri Lanka’s actions, especially from its most influential friends. The international community cannot be selective in its approach to upholding the rule of law and respect for human rights. Impunity anywhere is a threat to international peace and security everywhere.” Once more, yours experiences so far are not impunity and we must recognize for the first time the virulent desire that has engulfed Ogoni people and its environs. Think of it, if you were them whether you will not readily speak the language of public demonstration. The Niger Delta has many pent-up resentments and latent frustrations. These people are slightly different from some of us who are educated and who knows how best to put frustration staged by another man behind. Always, understand them when their repressions come out in ominous expressions of violence. This could be the only tunnel through which they could let out their discontent. I always believe that normal and healthy discontent in Ogoni-land can be channelized through creative outlet of reforms instead of barbaric outlet of violence. Creative reforms are more excellent ways of inviting peace and grace. It is more excellent ways of transforming a chaotic streets flowing in the blood of the martyr into a fountain valley’s of spring waters. Creative reforms are more excellent ways of dismissing the militants as “rabble-rousers” and Kalabari people as economic agitators. Creative reforms would eliminate the condition that causes Ogoni people to walk in the valley of darkness and in the steep slopes of frustrations and despair. Creative reforms would compel them to use time and resources effectively well just as the people of ill will have used time much more effectively than the people of goodwill. All that is said here grows out of a tragic misconception of social reforms and economic prosperity. Creative reforms would transform the contrite spirit of a violent man into a vitriolic action suppressed by an appalling silence to a good deed. If progressive reforms are put into place, the Niger Delta will come to see themselves in a good light where human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability. Without progressive reforms, peace would be elusive and social amenities would join the cult of social stagnation.

Now therefore is the time to make real the promises of reconstruction and reforms. Now is the time to transform Kalabaris’ economic elegy into creative palms of workforce. Now is the time to lift up the social conditions of the Niger Delta from the quicksand of economic agitation to the solid rock of economic integration. Now is the time. If now is the time, then it would not be out of place to say that Ogoni people are reform intoxicated. It is better to be reform zealots than transform into such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial protest. Let us hope that the violent echoes of protests and penetrating drumbeats of violence in Ogoni land would soon pass away and the deep fog of creative reforms would cloud their sky and bring cosmic economic satisfaction. Let us hope that reforms would lift Ogoni people up from fear-drenched human existence to a hopeful survival mechanism not engendered by calamity or disaster that both led to the senses of sight and hearing being instantly aroused and the eyebrows raised. Let us look forward when the rain of rebelliousness will stop and give way to a bright serene sunshine of peace. Let us look forward when the burning fire of hatred will be overtaken by the calmness of environmental peace. Let us look forward to that day when the rein of bitterness is transformed into rain of happiness and sunshine of hope sparked through the wet leaves for human endurance. In some not too distant tomorrow, let the radiant stars of economic opportunities shine forth over the Niger Delta communities with all of their scintillating beauty. May anything that cause the mind of Ogoni people and hearts of oil explorers beat quickly and violently, and palpitates and knocks against the ribs be overcome by creative force of reforms.

Gerald Ogbuja

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