A major crack surfaced in the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People [MOSOP] on Friday following the declaration of the Republic of Ogoni by a faction of the movement.
The playwright and poet, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who was hanged by the regime of late General Sani Abacha, founded MOSOP, which has consistently campaigned against the environmental degradation of Ogoniland by oil companies.
The group loyal to the successor of the Saro-Wiwa, Ledum Mitee disowned the declaration made by a factional leader, Dr. Goodluck Diigbo on Thursday to mark the Ogoni Day.
The Mitee group described as misleading, the declaration of a republic as not representative of the will of Ogoni people and MOSOP.
Describing its group’s latest move as “declaration of political autonomy”, Diigbo said his group had commenced an arrangement of understanding, which would see all those elected by the state’s electoral body into political offices in the four council areas in the Ogoni axis hand authority over to those elected by his faction’s local electoral arrangement within 30 days.
But, the Rivers State government, through the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs Ibim Semetari, said the faction had no such rights constitutionally.
Diigbo had said in a statement he signed as both President and Spokesman of MOSOP on Thursday that the Ogoni people chose to go the new direction because the existing local, state and federal governments had allegedly not discharged their duties conscientiously.
He, however, vowed that the people, having declared their political autonomy, would not back down, but would pursue their vision, which he hinged on the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to a logical conclusion.
The declarative statement by Diigbo reads: “Concerned that in the absence of a responsive government that the indigenous people of Ogoni will continue to suffer from historic injustices;
“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 lawmakers 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.
It continues: “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.
But in a statement responding to the declaration by Diigbo and signed by its MPC Chairman and Secretary, Professor Naane and Dr Meshach Karanwi, the other MOSOP group described as mainstream, said Ogoni people had not called for political autonomy.
It stated that the popular election that Diigbo claimed was held across the Ogoni land was a ruse, alleging that he had used armed cultists to create a sense of panic among the Ogoni people in the last few days.
The group said that there was only one MOSOP recognised by the people and led by Professor Naane in the MPC arrangement.
“MOSOP has received with dismay the purported declaration of “Ogoni Autonomy Day” by Mr Goodluck Diigbo. He had, earlier this year, falsely claimed that the Ogoni people had voted for autonomy in a referendum. At no time did the Ogoni people take any decision to establish a sovereign nationhood.
“The Ogoni Bill of Rights is clear on the aspiration of Ogoni people in Nigeria. The Ogoni, according to OBI, want adequate representation in all the institutions of the Nigerian state as a matter of right. They want their economic, social and political rights to be protected in the Federal Republic of Nigeria. A people aspiring to sovereignty cannot also be asking for representation at the same time.
“It will be recalled that Bori, the headquarters of the Ogoni people, has been put under tension since Tuesday July 31, 2012 by groups of young men armed with automatic and other dangerous weapons. These young men are connected to Mr Diigbo. They attacked the Peace and Freedom Centre (MOSOP Complex) in Bori, causing considerable destruction while the staffers of the centre suffered various degrees of injury. The attack was a prelude to their celebration of the so-called “Ogoni Autonomy Day” on Thursday August 2. Mr Diigbo had earlier sent messages that businesses and offices in Bori should be shut in observance of the day,” the statement said.