Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike has berated the leaders and people of Ogoni ethnic nationality for promoting disunity among themselves while blaming the backwardness of their area on others.
Wike stated this at the 30th celebration of Ogoni Day with the theme, ‘Leaving no one behind,’ held at the Birabi Memorial Grammar School, Bori town in Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State on Tuesday.
Specifically, Governor Wike wondered if Ogoni leaders can truly defend the interest of Ogoni land and genuinely pursue issues of environmental degradation and resource control with the same zeal demonstrated by their forebears like late Ken Saro-Wiwa, without selling out.
“People like Ken Saro-Wiwa and all of the people you’re celebrating on Ogoni Day, how many of you can today stand for what Ken (Saro-Wiwa) stood for? How many can today stand like the great Ogoni men who died for your struggle?” he asked.
He noted with regret how some Ogoni people have now debased the struggle and have rather used it to collect money from those who do not want the goals of the struggle achieved.
The Governor said such money can best be described as blood money.
“You use Ogoni Day to make money. God will never forgive you. I will never be at a party to make blood money. All of you, you’re here today for Ogoni Day, are you standing firm for Ogoni people?
“Are you standing firm for the spirit of those who died for you? Go and check your conscience. Ogoni people check your conscience,” he stated.
The governor asserted that he had never betrayed Rivers’ interest but defended it with courage including pursuing the OML 11 lawsuit at the Supreme Court.
Wike observed that the case may not conclude before his tenure will end, but it may secure the most needed ownership right of such resources to the people.
“You people are talking about OML 11. Today, I’m in the Supreme Court to challenge the federal government and NNPC. I will not be governor forever, I’m leaving next year, but God in heaven will bear me witness, I have protected, defended the interest of the state and interest of Ogoni land,” he added.
The Governor admonished Ogoni leaders and the people to stop being used as agents of discord by the Federal Government and its agencies to pull down their own and betray the Ogoni interest.
He pointed to how Ogoni is contributing to frustrate the political career of one of their bright brains, Senator Magnus Abe, and Ledum Mitee’s long fight to become a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
The governor also noted that the same lack of unity seen in Ogoni land was prevalent in the entire Niger Delta because governors in the region, lawmakers, and other levels of leaders are hardly working together in unison.
According to him, the people of the Niger Delta are the ones marginalizing themselves because each tribe thinks of itself as more Niger Deltan than the other.
Chairman of the occasion and President, Ijaw National Congress, Professor Benjamin Okaba, said the fundamental problem of the country was the refusal of the Nigerian State to restore the derivation principle that was abrogated by Decree NO.34 of May 1966 by Aguiyi Ironsi, the subsequent promulgation of Petroleum Decree 1966, and General Olusegun Obasanjo’s 1978 Land Use Act considered widely as the most obnoxious, draconian and unjust piece of legislation on land and resource ownership.
“The Petroleum Industry Act 2021 that is laced with several contentious and discriminating clauses against the people of the Niger Delta is yet another dimension of institutional injustice against the oil and gas host communities of the Niger Delta.
“Chief Obasanjo who is unarguably widely travelled, if excused from the paranoid of hypocrisy and hatred for the Niger Delta, will admit that in the United States of America which presidential system Nigeria borrowed from, it is the states where oil is found that own them and not the Federal Government of America.
“It’s the reason states like Texas are very rich from proceeds of oil and gas. The same goes for Canada. In every federation, the undiluted application of the fundamentals of federalism (including fiscal federalism) is the minimum prerequisites for sustainable unity, peace and coexistence.
“Where else among the nations that practice federalism is the federal government permitted to hijack the resources from the various federating units and communities, siphon them to the Centre on the Emperor’s laps, and share the same as booties in the manner we have in Nigeria?” he asked.
Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ledum Mitee, recalled how he and other Ogoni leaders gathered at the same venue 30 years ago to commence the Ogoni struggle that has since been recognised globally.
He appealed to the Nigerian state to extend the rail line to Ogoni which has contributed immensely to the development of the country’s economic growth.