OGONI AUTONOMY – A RIGHT NOT A PRIVILEGE
By – KorneBari Nwike
The declaration of political autonomy by Nigeria’s indigenous Ogoni people is apparently borne out of their desire for freedom, liberty, and the protection of their rights as human beings. In fact, the United Nations see the need for the protection of indigenous peoples’ rights when the UN General Assembly by its resolution 45/164 of 18 December 1990 proclaimed 1993 International year of the World’s indigenous people.
The United Nations pointed out that, “For indigenous peoples all over the world, the protection of their cultural and intellectual property has taken on growing importance and urgency. They cannot exercise their fundamental human rights as distinct…, societies, and peoples without the ability to control the knowledge they have inherited from their ancestors.” Definition of political autonomy by Wikipedia collaborate the above narrative: “ Political freedom (also known as Political autonomy or political agency) is a central concept in western history and political thought and one of the most important (real or ideal) features of democratic societies , it has been described as a relationship free of oppression or coercion; absence of disabling conditions for an individual and the fulfillment of enabling conditions or the absence of lived conditions of compulsion, for example, economic compulsion in a society.” The question to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Mr. Joseph Dauda, the outgoing president of the Nigerian Bar Association, is where does the charge for treasonable felony and succession comes in here?
From my standpoint, the august 02, 2012 declaration by Dr. Goodluck Diigbo opened new chapters in ethnic political discourse as it has further exposed decades of oppression, coercion, engraved apathy, lack of empathy, and ethnic mistrust in Nigeria. Suffice to note that, in 1990, the Ogoni people submitted the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) indicating the need for them to exercise some level of political and economic autonomy (within Nigeria) but were crushed for daring to ask for autonomy. Even now under a democratic government, the Ogoni people (instead of enjoying the dividend of democracy), continually suffer incarcerations, arrest, chases into bushes and forest, burning of their homes all of which are orchestrated by Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi.The Ogoni people are fed up with situations where even their councilors are appointed by Rotimi Amaechi in return for cash. They are sick of the heightened level of corruption, insecurity, unbearable looting of government treasuries, and worst still lording over their estates and killings of hapless Ogoni indigenes (as recently as the invasion of Sogho community) by Rivers State government.
A glimpse of historical anthology could help clarify some of the above assertions. President Jonathan ascended the ladder to Nigeria’s presidency through the Ogoni struggle built on guest for justice and equity for the people of the Niger Delta; unfortunately, his ascension to power saw an unprecedented level of apathy toward the Ogoni people’s demand. He is even indifferent to the scientific report submitted by the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) on the Ogoni environment. He is unresponsive as the Ogoni people demand for Bori State. Although the Ogoni people continue to cry for help for their deliverance from the hand of Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who acting like an untamed wolf is constantly pushing a supremacist, ethnocentric prejudice against them. President Jonathan acting in ignorable pretenses to all other problems in the Niger Delta groups only orchestrates his plan to send hundreds and thousands of Ijaw youths abroad on pretext of an amnesty program for Niger Delta militants. How will government continue rewarding militants while shoving aside genuine demands? Ogoni political autonomy will help the discourse on how minorities are treated in Nigeria.
Since the declaration of political autonomy for Ogoni by Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, a number of hateful sermons has been evangelized by Nigerians prominently, Mr. Joseph Dauda and Governor Amaechi. These folks have pronounced Dr. Diigbo guilty of treason without trial while calling for his pound of flesh. According to Mr. Daudu (who is culpable in the murder of Ken Saro Wiwa), “ succession bid by the people of Ogoni in Rivers State and the Bakassi people of Cross Rivers State is unconstitutional”. All these are interesting but wait a minute, who is talking about seceding from Nigeria? An autonomous Ogoni is in conformity with United Nations declaration on rights of indigenous people and in local context to tame the excesses of political tyrants such as Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State.
Ogoni was forced by the British into a political contraction called Nigeria and ever since, Ogoni like a cow on a farm in rural Iowa has been milked, and its resources carted away without putting anything back in return. Ogoni people are tired of seeing their resources looted and shared as bounty of war. Ogoni people must participate in their resources and Ogoni development and Ogoni autonomy will ensure that.
Political autonomy will guarantee adequate security for Ogoni; it will stamp out the institutionalized corruption in public and private lives that is synonymous with Nigeria; it will eradicate the menace of truck load of money to purchase political offices in Ogoni area; it will mean that instead of Amaechi’s appointees dressed as Ogoni elected politicians, the Ogoni people will be able to freely elect (and when necessary), recall their politicians without fear of being kidnapped in the middle of the night.
Political Autonomy is good for Ogoni and Nigeria; and Nigeria must come to terms with it rather than creating a David and Goliath situation because as Lord John Dalberg- Acton (1834-1902) stated, “The most certain test by which we judge whether a country is really free is the amount of security enjoyed by the minorities.” It is common knowledge; security eluded the Ogoni people in 1901 when it began the journey that incorporated it into an unholy alliance with Nigeria. Now the people and the ecosystem are vulnerable and they need to reorganize, take their political destiny in their hands, and pursue their liberty, freedom, and happiness. Ogoni people should stand up for their autonomy because freedom is a right not a privilege as guaranteed by the United Nations.
KorneBari Nwike – President/CEO, KG Marketing Inc, Missouri, USA.
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