The quest among the
various ethnic groups in Rivers State to produce the successor to Governor Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi in 2015 has been a major bone of political contention in the state.
Several measures, motives and decipherable options have been deployed among the various political interest groups, amidst stiff ethnic competition, considerations and vested concerns to justify their claims to the coveted 2015 guber slot in the state.
The political battle exceeds the zoning formula, a prevailing ethos in Nigerian politics, mostly applied in party formations to build structures of partisan competition and grappling political dynamics. Perhaps, zoning as an option may be considered after the formation of government through political appointments to stabilise the polity and balance the political equation.
The Ogonis appear to be at the centre of the heated debate over claims of being the authentic heirs to the governorship of the state at the moment. Their point of argument is premised on the fact that such actualisation would heal the deep wound of injustice they have suffered in the Nigerian state as a result of their struggle for economic emancipation and restoration of their devastated environment.
Beyond the fact that they have justifiable accessibility to the governorship position in the state like every other ethnic group, Ogonis believe that the price they paid in the enthronement of the present democratic dispensation is yet to yield commensurate result in terms of development in the area. They therefore see the governorship in 2015 as a measure of assuaging the development drift in the area and other parts of Rivers State, as well as other perceived injustices.
The true position of the Ogonis on this issue, which has come to be known as the Ogoni option, was stated by the President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Mr Legborsi Pyagbara, during the last Ogoni Day celebration on January 4, 2014 in Bori, headquarters of the Ogoni people.
Apart from its renowned advocacy for the restoration of the despoiled Ogoni environment, through the implementation the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, MOSOP, among other things, said “as a matter of political concession, Ogonis should be given the chance to produce the next governor of Rivers State. While re-affirming its partisan posture, MOSOP backed up its position with historic notes that border on the evolution of the present democratic dispensation.
The MOSOP president, while addressing a crowd in Bori, recalled that; “Prior to the 1999 general elections, there were two contending issues in the country; the annulment of June 12 presidential election, and the Ogoni crisis.” He further pointed out that “the political elite in Nigeria conceded the Presidency to the Yoruba ethnic nationality by allowing two sons of Yoruba extraction to fly the presidential flags of the major political parties that participated in that democratic transition.”
The move, according to MOSOP, was to ensure that the Yorubas were assuaged for the heat generated by the June 12 annulment, and perceived injustices against its winner, late MKO Abiola, a Yoruba son.
The political permutation as conceived by the political elite and power brokers in the country worked and restored calm in the polity with the emergence of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as President in 1999.
MOSOP further disclosed that nothing was done to address the Ogoni crisis, rather Ogonis were to bear the brunt of a punitive dose of brutality from the military junta.
Several years after the enthronement of democracy in the country, Ogonis are of the view that similar political actions should be replicated in the 2015 governorship election in Rivers State.
According to the President of KAGOTE, a pan-Ogoni organisation, Dr. Peter Medee, the demand is not selfish, but anchored on the need for the polity to respond to the imperatives of justice to balance the political equation in the state and Nigeria in general.
Speaking to newsmen in Port Harcourt recently, Dr Medee, emphasised the need for unity of purpose among the Ogonis to achieve the objective. He said Ogonis should resist “extraneous measures aimed at dividing the people and work in one accord to achieve their aims.”
In their views, US-based Ogonis also believe that the time is ripe for Ogonis to produce the governor of Rivers State. Speaking under the auspices of Ogonis in Diaspora Organisation, a pan-Ogoni movement based in Illinois, Chicago, the US-based group also cautioned against the tendency to balkanize the Ogonis at this critical period of their political demand.
Executive Director of the organisation, Chief Ambrose Kii, who commented on the issue, said “the Ogonis had over the years supported other ethnic groups to attain the coveted position of governor in Rivers State, and they did that without any iota of doubt that such political gestures would be reciprocated in due course.” He added that “2015 was the best platform to achieve that objective.”
Also speaking, a traditional ruler in Ogoni, H.R.H Mene Suanu Baridam, said “the Ogonis, demand for governorship in 2015 was a collective project that should be actualised to engender mutual peace and development in Rivers State.” Speaking in an interview with newsmen in Port Harcourt, recently, Baridam, who is the Gbenemene Bangha and spokesman of the Ogoni Supreme Council of Traditional Rulers, said “it would be unpatriotic on the part of any Ogoni son or daughter to be indifferent on this issue.”
Musing over the matter, the spokesperson of the Federation of Ogoni Women Association (FOWA), an affiliate of MOSOP, Evang. Caroline Nagbo, said “there must be a voice resolution among the Ogonis to clear the bumps on the highway to achieving this objective.” She added; “only unity of purpose among the Ogonis would stimulate the support of outsiders or other ethnic groups.”
President of the Ogoni Journalists Platform, Mr Barivule Akpo also warned against divisive, utterances among politicians in Ogoni, noting that such tendencies were inimical to the Ogoni project in 2015. He urged politicians to work out a common political destiny, irrespective of party affiliation to achieve the objective.
On his part, a minority rights activist and friend of the Ogonis, Comrade Ogbonda Amaechi, said the Ogonis have a glimmer prospect of achieving their objectives. He said Ogonis should align with other ethnic groups and also assert their political strength as a major ethnic group through unity of purpose.They should also work against “division and diversionary motives among the people.”
Comrade Ogbonda, who described Ogonis as the foundation for democratic revolution in Nigeria, said the transfer of violent actions to Ogoni during political rallies in the recent past, was an ominous sign which Ogonis must resist to foil their prime political demands in Rivers State.
The onus therefore lies on the Ogonis to re-examine their political vision and work out a collective strategy of achieving the ‘Ogoni option’ without falling into booby political traps that would truncate their dream.