Commemorating the deaths of past leaders, the Ogoni are urged to stay true to their non-violent struggle for emancipation.
t is precisely 19 years after the people of Ogoni lost four famous and patriotic leaders to the cold fingers of Oil and Economic Politics played by the Nigerian State.
By this period in 1994, unerringly, on May 21, that year, the air in the entire Ogoni was not only hot but thick as both young and old scampered to survive the pains, the emotions, and the fears resulting from the disgustful and shocking incident that exalted life out of the very high chiefs, whose names rang bells not only in Ogoni but across the shores of Rivers State and Nigeria unconfined.
Talking about the death of Chief Edward Nnaa Kobani, a former Commissioner for Information, and Education at different times in old Rivers State, and ‘Tonsimene’ Gokana; Chief Albert Tombari Baddey, an erstwhile Secretary to the State Government and Head of Service, Rivers State; Chief Samuel Orage, a one-time Commissioner, also in old Rivers State, and Chief Theophilus Orage, an Educationist, Ogoni leader and State actor, is like, no doubt, recalling the dark days in the life of the people of Ogoni Ethnic Nationality.
However, in remembering them, one thing that is sure that must come to mind, are the legacies that these Nationalists and Fellows bequeathed this generation of Ogoni and Rivers State people generally. One cannot but think about the unity, purposeful leadership, politics without killings and assassinations, political argument based on state and peoples’ interest, and even some laudable development efforts made, among which include, the sitting of Rivers State Polytechnic in Bori, Ogoni, the creation of more local government councils out of the then Bori Local Government Area, BOLGA, the construction of some major roads linking Ogoni communities, and the establishment of some primary and secondary schools in the area, the dignity of traditional institutions, and sustenance of peace in the various communities in Ogoni, to mention a few .
It is, regrettably, unfortunate that today the story has changed not only as a result of the absence of these leaders from the scene, but the apparently deliberate non action, uncivilized and unpatriotic attitude of the so called leaders, mostly politicians, to our communities which are clear deviations from what used to be.
As we remember these fallen heroes, it behoves on us to bring to bear, those values, patriotic attitudes, kicks of development and spirit of statesmanship in political contests demonstrated by these Nationalists, which today, are deficient in our leadership and political life. It is a sad commentary that the political and economic scenes are controlled by political matadors, who rule with unpopular policies and therefore continue to subject the people to avoidable pains and woes.
It is also of fact that since this incident took place, things had never been cordial between the Ogoni people and key players in the circumstance which include the Multinational Oil Operator, particularly, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), and Nigerian Government.
Of a truth, these Martyrs of the Ogoni revolution deserve more than just an annuity of a remembrance service.
Together with other fallen heores of the Ogoni non-violent struggle for justice and emancipation, who are not the subject matter for today’s discussion, the people of Ogoni, to be specific, owe them a befitting honour in acknowledgement of their various development inventiveness and utmost sacrifice for the good and survival of our Ogoni today.
The lessons from this event also should serve as an imperative curb to the leaders, I mean, rulers and governments at all levels never to engage in brutal and repressive response to non-violent or civil agitation by any people who feel alienated by state policies and actions as in the case of the Ogonis.
It is as well true that no amount of compensation to the families and the entire Ogoni people can truly be enough to put back what has been lost. But then, while we continue to remember them for the good things they did for the families, the communities, and the state, it is important that we do not let their dreams and struggle for a greater Ogoni to be in vain. We can better remember them by playing the politics of the masses, not of the few, politics of even and distributive development, not skewed and selective development; institution of popular economic policies and actions, not economic empowerment of political gangsters and neophytes, politics that guarantees security and safety, not that tolerates insecurity; and programmes that respect the rights of others and have the spirit of brotherhood. One day, certainly ‘one day’, we shall all give account of our deeds, whether as leaders or followers.
While we join the Kobanis, the Baddeys, the Orages, and indeed, the entire people of Ogoni to commemorate the transition to high glory of these great patriots, we would not fail to remind the people of this generation and our compatriots that the choice to succeed or to fail is left for us to make. If we falter, we would all perish.
To our Ogoni brothers, particularly the leaders and the youths, it is our view that an occasion like this, though draws emotions and feelings of woes and denials, but calls for unity, forgiveness and love, which are the only tools to fight and conquer the enemy, who strives to divide and destroy the house. A humanist once said ‘whoever forgives first is the strongest, whoever forgets first is the happiest, and whoever apologies first is the bravest’. Let’s think along that line.
These fallen heroes can better be remembered if all efforts are genuinely made to achieve the desired development of the people and area for which they struggled and laid down their lives.
Compatriots, let’s console ourselves with good and popular leadership and love. May the labour of our heroes past not be in vain, and May their souls rest in Perfect Peace.