In recent times, there have been a follow up of action plans and coordinated activities on how to restructure Ogoni land among other Niger Delta communities for sustainable peace and development. At the fore of this advocacy and clamour for peace and stability in Ogoniland is an International NGO known as the Academic Associate Peace Works, (AAPW).
The NGO has through a strategic Engagement Practice, (SEP) initiated a series of dialogues among major Ogoni stakeholders under the platform of Ogoni Dialogue Forum (ODF), with the objective of proffering solution to the evolving conflicts in the area. Drawing from decades of exploitation of its natural resources and devastation of its environment, without commensurate development, Ogoni had remained evidently agitative and resentful over the perceived injustices against the people.
Consequently, Ogoni had been beset by many of the same conflict dynamics that affect the wider Niger Delta communities; including, cultism, militancy profliferation of weapons, intra and inter communal conflicts, chieftaincy tussles and widespread Youth unemployment.
However, as part of its sustained effort in taming the social ills engulfing Ogoni and other Niger Delta Communities, the AAPW worked with other stakeholders/peace ambassadors to initiate and support interventions through a strategic engagement model.
The first ODF organised by the AAPW last December under the theme: Port Harcourt “Peace and Stability in Ogoni land: the Current Context, Challenges, Solution”, identified the prevailence of crisis in Ogoni, with the imminent collapse of communal and a destabilised process.
The Second ODF was also organised by the AAPW in Port Harcourt, in February with a commitment among the stakeholders towards addressing the identified challenges of development in the area. Held under the theme: “Opening up Ogoniland for Development: Need for Dialogue Forum”, identified the need to open Up Ogoniland for development through investment in agricultural productive ventures.
The NGO also, recently organised the third Ogoni Dialogue Forum, at the Atrium event centre in Port Harcourt, under the theme: “Rethinking and Rebuilding of Ogoni From Within”. Various stakeholders who spoke at the event, emphasised the need for total re-ordering and preservation of the norms and values of Ogoni land.
Speaking at the event, a lead facilitator, and speaker, Ambassador Nkoyo Toyo, said the Dialogue Forum was billed to create a sustainable platform for Ogoni stakeholders to proffer solutions to identified problems in the area.
“Ogoniland is very critical to Niger Delta development, it is pertinent to note that if we get it right in Ogoni, by extension we can also get it right in the Niger Delta. There is need for Ogoni stakeholders to create the desired change through consensus”.
Amb. Toyo, who also represented the Executive Director of the AAPW Dr. Judieth Asuni at the event, also urged Ogoni stakeholders to look inwardly in tackling the development crisis in Ogoni and pointed out that; “only Ogonis themselves can rebuild Ogoniland through a consistent and coordinated process of dialogue and critical engagement”.
In his remark, the Chairman of the event, Prof. Barineme Fakae, commended the (AAPW) for their sustained effort in promoting peace and development in Ogoni land.
Prof. Fakae, who also chaired the second Ogoni Dialogue Forum, said, “The AAPW has created the basic platform for Ogoni stakeholders to engage themselves through dialogue to address the issues of conflicts in the area. It is important that we as Ogonis take advantage of the Dialogue Forum to bring lasting peace and development in Ogoni land. I am happy that representatives of all facets of Ogoni society, traditional institution, religious leaders, political leaders, youths, women among others are all here”.
Also speaking, a lead discussant, Dr Nuka Gwarah, expressed hope over the prospect of sustainable development in Ogoni land through the Dialogue Forum. He emphasised the need for proper parentage and concern towards the activities of the younger generation of Ogonis.
According to Dr Gwarah, most of the social ills experienced in Ogoni in recent times were as a result of the collapse of morals and lack of rectitude on the part of parents.
In his presentation, the President General of the Eleme General Assembly, Elder Isreal Abe said Ogonis in the past were known for the virtues of hardwork, communal bond and integrity and called for the re-ordering of the social fabric of the society.
Elder Abe also advocated for the establishment of community constitutions, “to guide the management systems in our localities, and put a check to some excesses on the part of the people”.
He added that such community constitutions should also regulate the activities of the political leaders in their various communities.
In his contributions a University Don, Prof. Joseph Kinanee, called on all Ogonis, irrespective of religious or partisan affiliations to embrace the peace process and rebuild Ogoni land.
Prof. Kinanee, who is the immediate past acting Vice Chancellor of the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, also commended the AAPW over its interventimist effort in building the peace process in Ogoni land.
Speaking in an interview with The Tide at the event, a rappatture and official of AAPW, Chief Lucky Duuma, described the Dialogue Forum as a veritable platform of addressing issues of conflict in Ogoni land. Chief Duuma assured the readiness of the AAPW to sustain the process and called on all Ogoni stakeholders to key into the strategic engagement process to restore lasting peace and development in Ogoni land.
The third Ogoni Dialogue Forum, which was equally funded by the UK Government’s Niger Delta Stability Programme (NDSP) and administered by the stakeholders Democracy Network, (SDA) made some far reaching resolutions.
The forum which reviewed the various activities of the AAPW around “Restoring Peace in Ogoni land” upheld the pursuit of dialogue and strategic engagement as opposed to conflict.
It also set up a 15- person committee of all stakeholders consisting of religious and traditional leaders, women, youth, persons living with disabilities, academic, business, politicians, students, ex-militants, and cultists, ethnic organisations and civil society, with a mandate to coordinate the dialogue process.
The committee known as Ogoni Dialogue Coordination Committee (ODCC) is headed by Prof. Barineme Fakae, a former Vice Chancellor of the Rivers State University (RSU) and key Ogoni stakeholder..
Some of the terms of reference for the committee include; “To reach out to all segments of the Ogoni society and engage them with a view to seeking ways of resolving the existing differences through dialogue, reflection and engagement”.
“To organise ongoing dialogue, including Town Hall meetings, consultations and interactions with a view to rebuilding trust and ensuring the restoration of the social fabric of Ogoni land”.
The committee is also expected to “engage all key duty bearers whether in government, society, politics, international organisations and oil companies in finding ways of responding to the challenges facing Ogoniland”.
“To build inclusion, communication, Openness, responsiveness and acceptance for the Ogoni Dialogue Coordination Committee who will serve as the facilitators of the dialogue and its outcomes.
He said the people of Opobo/Nkoro in particular were in dire need of electricity, as a contract awarded by the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) several years ago for the electrification of the area was not executed, stressing that electrification of the area would open up places for commerce and also pave way for the establishment of cottage industries as well as encourage small scale businesses.
“I can tell you that the issue of electricity for Andoni and Opobo/Nkoro has been a thorny one. We have great need for electricity. It is not something that we can quantify. It is important you don’t forget that you have a constituency and people are looking up to you to ensure you come back with something good like electricity”, he said.