06 January 2019, Sweetcrude, Port Harcourt — The planned resumption of oil exploration activities in OML11 and the clean-up exercise in Ogoniland have been identified as causes of the ongoing leadership rift tearing apart every fragment of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP in Ogoniland.
From time immemorial, the main driver of Ogoni struggle has been about the issue of oil.
In November 1992, after endless fisticuffs, the people of Ogoni issued SPDC a one-month demand notice which expired in December 1992, and due to the failure of Shell to meet those demands led to the declaration of Shell a persona-non-grata in Ogoniland on January 4th 1993, which became what is globally recognised today as Ogoni Day.
MOSOP is the apex Ogoni group that is duly recognized worldwide that was set up by some Ogoni martyrs with late environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, as the pioneer leader, to press home the socio-economic, political and environmental needs of the Ogoni ethnic nationality in the country, before his execution by Nigeria’s military government in 1995.
But currently, the group is a shadow of itself as about five different people with an alleged interest in Ogoni clean-up contracts and in the companies interested in the resumption of oil exploration activities in Ogoniland, have been laying claim as the authentic leader of MOSOP.
These people include the former Publicity Secretary of MOSOP, Mr. Fegalo Nsuke; a former Media Advisor, Mr. Bari-ara Kpalap, one Mr. Prince Diira, and one Barr. Naziga Lue, who has taken all the contenders to court, as well as the incumbent President, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara.
Even this year’s Ogoni Day, on Friday, January 4th did not hold as it usual, as some of the self-acclaimed MOSOP leaders could not even step their foot in Bori, the traditional headquarters of Ogoniland for the celebration, over the fear of impending violence from their opponents.
Will MOSOP crises affect clean-up and resumption of oil exploration activities in Ogoni?
With the strategic position of MOSOP as the mouthpiece of the people of Ogoni, industry watchers believe that the ongoing crisis may negatively affect the clean-up of Ogoniland, as some youth groups in Ogoni with allegiance to one faction of MOSOP already have declared HYPREP (the agency in charge of the clean-up) persona-non-grata in Ogoniland.
If this threat should be taken seriously, it, therefore, means that companies who have been awarded clean-up contracts may not be able to mobilize to the site, as they are likely to be resisted violently by some Ogoni youths.
According to the President of National Youth Council of Ogoni People, Dr. Young Nkpah, who described the factionalisation of MOSOP as official rascality, said the people of Ogoni may not reap from the struggle if the crisis rocking MOSOP is not addressed.
“There is no way this crisis in MOSOP will not affect what we expect of the clean-up because the Ogoni struggle has three thematic areas, we have the economy, politics and the environment, which is the clean-up.
“So definitely it will affect this tripartite fold because we have issues which relate to the environment, which is the clean-up and as we speak, we are not properly represented as a result of connivance.
“And again if we are saying as a people that we want the best out of the system, I don’t think the factionalisation will bring about anything positive, so on that note I think there is a need for us all to come together and present a common front so that we can be in one voice and fight our struggle together.”
Oil firms behind the crisis in MOSOP
On the other hand, it is not far-fetched that some of these self-acclaimed MOSOP leaders have interest in companies jostling to get OML11 license to resume crude oil exploration in Ogoniland, as these people over the years have been criticizing one company over another.
The incumbent President of MOSOP, Mr. Legborsi Pyagbara, has rather blamed some oil firms with interest in the resumption of oil exploration in OML11, Ogoni oilfield, for the leadership tussle rocking the apex Ogoni group.
Although Pyagbara did not mention the said oil firms, oil companies with a renewed interest in OML11 include, Belemaoil Producing Limited, RoboMichael Limited, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, NPDC and the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, SPDC.
He explained that apart from the issue of oil resumption oil activities in Ogoniland, the issue of the commencement of Ogoni clean-up exercise was also a factor in the crises tearing the apex Ogoni group apart.
On the issue of Ogoni clean-up, the MOSOP leader said it was unfortunate that some people are of the belief that the exercise is about making and sharing of money.
“Yes, it is true that some companies with an interest in Ogoni oil and resumption of oil exploration in Ogoniland are behind the crisis in MOSOP.
“As for the issue of resumption of oil in Ogoniland that is why we came up with this year’s theme of Ogoni day as “resource extraction, indigenous participation, and protection of the environment: ensuring fairness and respect.”
“Our position is that before crude oil exploration resumes in Ogoniland, three cardinal conditions must be met in line with global best practices, as it is obtainable in other countries of the world where crude oil exploration is taking place.
“These conditions are community participation in the oil extractive sector, community benefit/equity sharing agreement with the operating companies, and environmental management plan for Ogoni communities; because oil and gas production compromises the air quality, water quality, and soil integrity.
“Now these companies do not want to meet these conditions and instead they want me out so they can explore Ogoni oil. One of these companies, since November 2017 has spent a lot of money to lobby some Ogoni people, that is why you are seeing this tussle.”
Why we are fighting the incumbent – factional leaders
But for the faction led by Bari-ara Kpalap, Pyagbara’s tenure expired on 31st December 2018 according to MOSOP constitution, but he (Pyagbara) has refused to hand over or leave office due to greed.
He regretted that due to the crisis in MOSOP, the Ogoni Day which has become an annual ritual of the people could not hold this year while assuring that efforts are ongoing to resolve all the conflicts in the MOSOP.
“I am the authentic President of MOSOP, I emerged from the process that conforms with the constitution of MOSOP. Any other person laying claim to the presidency of MOSOP should tell us how he/she emerged if it was in conformity with the constitution.
“The issue is that there were some wrongs, the immediate-past president tenure elapsed on the 31st December 2018, but unfortunately he has the interest to elongate his tenure and as a result failed to institute a transition process which includes election, and because of that interest of elongation is the sole problem in MOSOP.”
Meanwhile, another factional leader, Mr. Fegalo Nsuke, who was a one-time Publicity Secretary of MOSOP is calling for peace and unity among the people, for the common good.
Nsuke believes that with his emergence as the authentic leader of MOSOP, the Ogoni struggle is reborn.
“We must stand with and for each other. We have gone through some argued differences and difficult times to achieve a transition to where we are today. However, elections have come and gone and it’s time to be united for the common good.”