Jubilations are continuing throughout Ogoniland after the Ogoni people in southern Nigeria, today, Thursday, 2nd of August declared political autonomy.
In a live broadcast on a newly established radio station: Voice of Ogoni, MOSOP President/Spokesman, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo vowed that:“By this declaration of political autonomy, we, the Ogoni people are determined to enforce the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, without fear or retreat,” Diigbo said.
Diigbo affirmed that self-government within Nigeria will secure for the Ogoni people, their indigenous rights, enable them to meet their needs and interests and finally end internal colonialism.
Diigbo said self-government became urgent recognizing the need to arrive at a consensus to collectively review the disputed UNEP Ogoniland Oil Assessment report, because any dialogue must be with the genuinely elected representatives of the people expected to enforce indigenous rights without dictation.
In the broadcast, Diigbo further underscored the reason for the urgency of self-government for Ogoni: “Concerned that in the absence of a responsive government that the indigenous people of Ogoni will continue to suffer from historic injustices.”
Diigbo stated: “In order to make indigenous rights practicable in Ogoni, we have through a very transparent electoral college process, beginning with community by community elections, set up 272 village councils, while the village councils in turn elected representatives for 33 district councils and the district representatives went on to elect representatives to serve at the center as custodians of customs and traditions, otherwise called lawmakers.”
“The law makers in turn elected the executive arm of the Ogoni Central Indigenous Authority (OCIA) with checks and balances inbuilt to ensure corruption-free, effective, efficient and answerable system of grassroots self-government instead of the old, corrupt and mismanaged local government system endured by the Ogoni for decades,” Diigbo explained.
“In taking these measures, we are quite aware of the discomfort to about 56 local politicians that control local government politics in Ogoni, however, we care more about the 1.2 million people that have for too long been excluded,” he stated.
He announced that a Transitional Committee was already set up to facilitate dialogue to ensure peaceful transition, within 30 days, while consultation with the national government and international community begins without delay.
Diigbo emphasized the need for Ogonis to remain law-abiding and act nonviolently; saying “we are acting with legitimacy to reclaim all of our rights, without exception, and for the sake of peace and security; let no one test the collective will of the Ogoni people, because we will not surrender our indigenous rights anymore.”
In 1990, we the people of Ogoni presented the Ogoni Bill of Rights to the Government and people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, in which the Ogoni nonviolently demanded among other indigenous rights:
· Political autonomy to participate in the affairs of the Republic as a distinct and separate indigenous unit (by whatever name called), provided that this autonomy guarantees political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people; The right to control and use a fair proportion of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development; adequate representations, as of right, in all Nigerian national institutions, and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation as recognized under international law to which Nigeria is obligated.
Nigeria, a multi-ethnic nation state, a legacy of the British colonial administration, granted political independence October 1, 1960, after the British violated Ogoni independence in 1901, did not respond to the Ogoni, inhabiting their ancestral land in southern Nigeria.
When in the struggle for indigenous political autonomy; especially, in matters concerning confiscation of sacred ancestral lands for oil production without prior informed consent, there comes a moment to assert powers derived from the consent of the people and Nature’s blessings in order to protect, preserve and pass on inherited sacred ancestral heritage to succeeding indigenous generations. On behalf of the entire Ogoni people, I am highly honored to present these issues surrounding the proposed Ogoni Declaration of Political Autonomy.
Part of Full Text
30. That despite the fact that the “Nigerian Constitution” and other laws and policies provide for a local government system, in reality, the local government constitutional provisions meant to extend the principle of Federalism to its logical conclusion, by bringing the government to the grassroots level, do not apply in Ogoniland as a result of corruption and public deception by local and state political actors and the lack of enforcement of the shaky “Nigerian constitution” by the federal government;
31. That, this is because quite often local governments are frequently dissolved in Ogoniland without any explanation rendered to the Ogoni people;
32. That, essential appointments into local government service are often suspended for several years without information to the Ogoni people about the reason for such suspension, when the local authorities still operate budgetary provisions for needed manpower;
33. That the elected representatives who have supported this proposed declaration of political autonomy for the Ogoni people as they have bitterly complained that the present system of local government in Nigeria does not allow them the freedom to govern according to the wishes of the people;
34. That individual local government chairman has to remit monthly allowances in substantial amounts to those politicians at the state and national levels that put them into office;
35. That since local government operators are often imposed on the people, they, the local operators are required to compensate for the way they are often put into office through massive and violent rigging of elections;
36. That in the circumstance, the local operators, expected to respond to yearnings of their grassroots constituencies have become perpetually vulnerable to threats of illegal removal from office without reference to the electorate;
37. That, we the Ogoni people take very serious, the complaint by the Ogoni local officials that have confessed that they still hold office because they are able to settle their political godfathers, meaning political stalwarts that planted them as conduit pipe for siphoning funds meant to help in the development of Ogoni villages and wellbeing of Ogonis;
38. That the application indigenous rights will end this manner of abuse of power and mismanagement of public resources as the representatives of the people have been duly elected by the people in Ogoni, and controlled by the people and to end the system whereby politicians handpicked by political operators at the national and state levels, remain in office without accountability to the people as long as they satisfy those who put them into office.
39. That the local government employees, some in service for over 30 years cannot even afford a good meal with their families, but have seen politicians that come into the local councils buying houses in Port Harcourt and Abuja, even in overseas countries within six months in office.
40. That we believe that the Ogoni people are equal to all other Nigerians that now lord it over the Ogoni by means of indirect internal colonial rule through the corrupt local government system, which violates indigenous rights of the Ogoni people.
“Now, therefore, acting on the General Assembly mandate on the questions relating to the Political Autonomy of Ogoni in southern Nigeria, and in the spirit of the General Assembly motion DPA/001/2012, and its resolutions DPA/002/2012 and DPA/003/2012 adopted and approved on July 31, 2012; in accordance with the wishes of the Ogoni people contained in the Ogoni Bill of Rights of 26 August, 1990 as revised on the 26th of August 1991; expressing the collective will of the good people of Ogoni in the referendum of 2010 and the second referendum of 2011, obeying the command by the Ogoni people and their elected representatives from 33 district councils, comprising over 272 village councils, living in the six kingdoms of Ogoni, namely: Babbe, Eleme, Gokana, Kenkhana, Nyokhana and Tai and two administrative units: Ban Goi and the Bori National Territory; conducting this solemn affair in accordance with the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples adopted by United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 13, 2007, guided by the purposes and principles of international law in accordance with the United Nations Charter, I, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo, hereby make this historic statement, to announce the proclamation of this General Assembly Declaration of Political Autonomy for the Self-determination or Self-government of the Ogoni people within Nigeria, today, the 2nd Day of August, 2012. So declared, and so be it; for the advancement of liberty in freedom and the preservation of the ancestral heritage of the Ogoni people.”