By Donu Kogbara
Last weekend, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, was warmly hosted by VIP members of my Ogoni ethnic group – and by hundreds of grassroots wellwishers – in our traditional headquarters, Bori.
Honourable Emma Deeyah is a former Federal legislator, a member of the Board of Trustees of the Ogoni Trust Fund (one of the governing bodies of our environmental remediation project) and the current President of KAGOTE, our apex socio-cultural organisation.
KAGOTE, by the way, is an acronym for Khana, Gokana, Tai and Eleme, the four Ogoni local government areas.
Deeyah – with support from other individuals and groups, including His Royal Majesty King Gininwa, former Commissioner for Environment Professor Roselyn Konya and two ex Secretaries to the Rivers State Government, Kenneth Kobani and Magnus Abe – organised the highly successful reception for Wike.
Here are excerpts from his welcome address.
“Your Excellency, it is our pleasure to welcome you to Bori…The massive turn-out of our people for this event is testimony of our love for your Administration and we assure you that contrary to certain perceptions, the Ogoni people are very united and more focused than ever before in their support for your leadership.
We cannot but honour you because we are beneficiaries of the unprecedented infrastructural developments witnessed in the State since you assumed office as Governor of this great State. In this light we respectfully place on record our gratitude for the various appointments and elective offices that came to our sons and daughters through your singular effort. Due to several infrastructural development programmes and projects that you have executed in our local government areas both completed and ongoing, which we cannot list here, as time and space may not permit, it is difficult not to acknowledge that you are indeed a Brother!
Your fatherly provisions extend beyond Ogoni and has presence in all Local Government Areas in the State which is highly commendable. Your regime of hope will leave a lasting impact on the lives of the people of Rivers State for a long time to come. We are proud of the strong Government you have put in place for the defence of Rivers State interests in Nigeria. In this regard the people of Rivers State, particularly Ogoni have noted with admiration the recovery of our stolen oil wells and successful judicial judgment for payment of damages for environmental crimes committed by oil prospecting companies in Ogoni. There are many more we need not mention for sake of time, all of which are already impacting positively on the living standard of our people.
Furthermore we sincerely appreciate you for the construction of the Saakpenwa–Bori-Kono dual carriageway which is not just a high way for Ogoni nationality but a major trunk line for the South East Senatorial district of the State. This project will keep you permanently in our hearts. We are not saying this for the sake of making a statement but because since the creation of the State in 1967, every office seeker has given the Ogoni people a promise to dualize this road. These promises were never honoured. Thankfully, Your Excellency has killed this elephant. We congratulate you Sir.
As a people, we have a rich history especially the struggle
for environmental rights and quest for legitimate recognition of our rights within the Nigerian State, a fair share of the national economy, we conceived the idea of a centre that will serve as a repository of our history, a resource centre and place of learning particularly the revival of our languages which is our unique identity that is gradually going extinct. Let me specially thank Your Excellency, for your promise to us that you would not only support our dream to construct a befitting Secretariat in Bori for KAGOTE but also to stand by us as a people that have been marginalized.
We have gathered here today Your Excellency just to tell you thank you. You have spread light across the length and breadth of Rivers State through even spread of development projects across the nooks and crannies of the State. We shall however draw your attention to a few issues:
- The Afam Power Plant in Oyigbo is a few kilometers away from Ogoni and it is this plant that is providing electricity for several communities and states across the country. Sadly, Sir, Ogoni land do not have electricity, it is our humble plea that you help link Ogoni land with electricity from Afam.
- While acknowledging the massive work executed by your Administration regarding education, we would also bring to your notice Sir that there are a good number of schools in Ogoni land that would need your “Midas” touch.
- We join other citizens of the State and indeed all peace loving Nigerians to commend you for your pro-active measures on security within the State. We support you whole-heartedly and assure you of our readiness to partner with you to ensure that Ogoni communities that are presently bedevilled by cultism and other social vices become and remain totally peaceful.
Once again, we appreciate you and look forward to meeting you soonest on matters affecting Ogoni ethnic nationality.
Thank you Your Excellency for being Ogoni!
I did not attend this historic event because I was in London. But I was delighted when I was told how vibrant it was and hope that Wike will remember, when it is time to put his weight behind a potential successor in 2023, that Ogonis have done him proud with sincerity and that there has never been an Ogoni governor of Rivers State.
There has also never been an Ogoni deputy governor of Rivers State. But I don’t think we need to play second fiddle within this context!