FRM. MOSOP PRESIDENT LEGBORSI PYAGBARA WROTE:
Open Letter to Ogoni People
My dear brothers and sisters,
Having served you some few years ago in the capacity of the President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people (MOSOP), I am constrained to write to you at this hour. We are at a critical juncture in our inexorable march to freedom and liberation. You may forgive me, if I am somewhat emotional about what I am going to write to you in this missive, I am an unrepentant Ogoni man.
From remembered times, Ogoni was never defeated in any war by any ethnic group. This was the reason our ancestors were able to keep the most fertile and productive part of the Niger Delta for us, a land brimming with all that nature has got to provide. Even the colonial invasion of the British could not penetrate Ogoni easily because our gallant forefathers fought them with ravenous ferocity until the great Battle of Deeyor in 1914 which made Ogoni one of the last frontiers to fall to the fledging hammer of British militarism and adventurism in Nigeria. British administration remained haphazard until the early thirties. Hence, Ogoni did not participate in the first General Elections of 1923 conducted following the introduction of the Clifford Constitution of 1922 named after Sir Hugh Clifford, the then Governor General.
The 1946 Richards Constitution introduced regionalism into the Constitution and corralled Ogoni into the then Eastern Region which began the political domination of the Ogoni people and other ethnic groups in the then Eastern Region. Within this period, Ogoni leaders fought and got an Ogoni Native Authority created for the Ogoni people under the Eastern Region. The ruling party in the Eastern Region was the NCNC. The Father of Modern Ogoni Nation, Hon. Timothy Paul Naakuu Birabi was elected on this platform to represent the Ogoni people in the Federal House of Representatives. Ogoni domination and marginalization continued to fester and became stronger after the death of the lone voice, Hon. Birabi. The crux of the matter was that when the ruling party, NCNC ignored the Ogoni people, the Ogoni people registered their protest in the 1957 Eastern House of Assembly Elections and voted out the NCNC. They voted for the Action Group in protest. My brothers and sisters, I want you to know that we have always risen from the ashes of humiliation, stronger and victorious. We have never given up and we have never given in.
In the 70s, in the face of pernicious domination, our people resisted and teamed up with their likes to form the Port Harcourt State Movement. Our fathers never acquiesced to oppression, intimidation and domination. Though the Murtala Mohammed regime created other states but failed to create the Port Harcourt State, our fathers were never deterred. Notwithstanding their level of political intimidation and exclusion, our forebears never gave up and never gave in.
In our continuing search for political justice, in the 80s, following the need for political accommodation, the late Hon. Kemte Giadom having tried to get the ticket in the ruling party and was denied, broke away from the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) to contest against the incumbent Governor, His Excellency Chief Melford Okilo leading to the famous derogatory remark of “Monkey no dey wear coat” from his Excellency. Ours has always been a struggle of assertion of identity and rejection of injustice.
In the 90s, Ken Saro-Wiwa and co. against all odds even protestations from our neighbors had led a struggle of transformation and justice that had made us an admiration and bride to the whole world but a nightmare to our oppressors who are worried about our staggering success except in politics.
It would be recalled that flying on the wings of our forebears, in 2013, I , along with those who believe with me, launched the Ogoni Governorship Project basing our position on the Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR), where it stated inter-alia that Ogoni people be granted adequate and direct representation as of right in all Nigeria national institutions. It was stressed that the Ogoni people are not oblivious of the fact that the State is an institution of governance in the Nigeria nation-state. The project was focused on putting an Ogoni son or daughter in Government House as the Governor of Rivers State irrespective of political party platforms. Ten years after we launched Project Ogoni 2015 and 56 years after the creation of Rivers State, Ogoni have become matured enough to produce a Governor of Rivers State of Ogoni extraction. There can never be fair and adequate political participation without commensurate political representation at all levels of governance.
In the build to 2015, we reached out to all the who is who in Nigeria in both the PDP and the APC on this issue of political justice for the Ogoni people. All fingers were directed at the two political gladiators in the leadership of the parties in Rivers State. In one of the meetings in Government House, Port Harcourt, one of the leaders promised that he would personally lead the Ogoni campaign for Governorship in the next elections. In several of our meetings, the leader of the other party assured us to vote for his party so that after eight years, power will return to Ogoni. He emphasized that any attempt to vote the other way will amount to Ogoni waiting for twenty-four years. We heeded to his position. Today, we know better! This clearly demonstrates that this people do not have our interest. They are friends in the morning and enemies at NIGHT. It is never a coincidence that in an attempt to spite us, they went above us twice to make their choices. Ogoni, what again do you need to know that we are treated with disdain by those who feign to love us. They want to KILL us politically. And this, they would like to do with some Ogoni collaborators who had chosen to remain with our slave masters than joining the cause for liberty. They did it in the heydays of the Ogoni struggle. Today, they are lining up to hijack the fruits of the same struggle. Please do not worry about them. They will be born again at the right time.
I must say that these discussions about Ogoni political denial last year by the frontline political parties have remained on our lips but I am afraid, it has not rouse us to an overall sense of purpose like what the Damascus Affair of 1840 did to the Jews when the Jews of that city were accused of ritual murder and threatened with mass execution. This stirred protest meetings amongst Jews as far away as the USA, provoked the intervention of Moses Montefiore of England and generally rallied Jews all over the world to an overall sense of purpose. These were Jews who were not used to finding common grounds but this singular event brought a greater number of them together. 2023 General Elections is supposed to rouse Ogoni people to an overall sense of purpose. 2023 is the year of the Ogoni people. If we miss it this time, we miss it for the next twenty-four years. Unlike 2013, when we never had Ogoni sons on the ballot, today, ten years after we launched the Governorship Campaign, we have Ogoni sons on the ballot.
My fellow citizens of Ogoni, let us stop the long analysis, let us stop the blame game. Let us come together and demonstrate once again that we can work together, we can organize together, we can rebuild together, we can reach out to our friends together, we can relaunch Ogoni again together by voting an Ogoni candidate. The Ibos just demonstrated it last February 25, 2023 when they voted massively for their son, HE. Mr. Peter Obi clearly showing to the whole world that the Ibos are united and will never abandon their own. Before our very eyes, the much-touted Igbo disunity and disorganization crashed and had been buried forever. Far from the insinuations of ethnicity, had Igbos not voted this way, the same people accusing them of ethnicity today would have branded them as those who do not love themselves, who hate their own. Beyond the fact that His Excellency, Mr. Peter Obi was one of the best candidates in terms of character and competence in the elections, the Igbos demonstrated their love for their own. We can re-enact the same in the Governorship Election in Rivers State by voting massively for our own.
According to Martin Luther king Jr., “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience but where he stands in times of challenge and controversy”. My dear brothers and sisters, where do you stand in this unfolding Ogoni drama? Can you be counted on the side of Ogoni? Can you rise above partisan politics and put Ogoni first? Ogoni beckons on you this day. Can we repeat what our fathers did in 1957 to those who took pleasure in abusing and humiliating us. Our fathers voted against the ruling party for their actions against the Ogoni People. We cannot continue to bemoan our existence without taking action. We can never reset to angry mode nor hatred mode. We can never submit to the emotional dictates of our enemies. We can show our anger with our PVC. Let us go out and vote massively for our own and follow our votes.
Transcendent Glory had in his service of love and infinite mercies provided pathways for our sons. Today, we have our eminent sons in the race, all of them with character, competence, capacity and compassion. However, one stands out amongst the lot. And that is Senator Magnus Ngei Abe. I am appealing to you all, my fellow compatriots, that in the spirit of Ogoni Project 2023, let us rally round and vote massively for one of our own, Senator Magnus Ngei Abe. He has the experience, the reach, the capacity and the compassion to turn around Rivers State.
My dear brothers and sisters, I cannot end this letter without reiterating that our day is here. Wounded justice lying prostrate on the blood flowing streets of our motherland can be lifted from this dust of shame and humiliation to reign supreme amongst the children of men. According to the timeless statement of former British Prime Minister, William Gladstone that nothing that is morally wrong can be politically right and nothing that is politically wrong can be morally right, political injustice is both politically wrong and morally wrong. Need I say more? This is our time. Let us come out and vote massively for our own. Let us vote for Senator Magnus Ngei Abe.
Bee Ogoni Naa Lee Pena!
Legborsi Saro Pyagbara
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