Since the submission of our shadow report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), certain developments have taken place in Nigeria which is a glaring manifestation of the continuing discrimination that the Ogoni people face and will continue to face in the nation ,if no action is taken to mitigate their precarious situation.
Fifteen years ago,the Ogoni people under the aegis of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was among the very first group to call on the government to convoke a Conference where all the groups that were forcefully conscripted into the Nigeria-nation state by colonial Britain can sit side by side unfetteredly and deliberate on key issues affecting the State with a view to proferring a lasting solution to the myriads of problems that skirt the country and set an agenda for the way forward for the Federation.
MOSOP’s position which was encapsulated in the famous Ogoni Bill of Rights later evolved to become a key component of what is called the ‘National Question’ and the ‘Nationality Question’ in Nigeria.
Towards the end of last year,President Obasanjo mooted the idea of holding a national dialogue this year and by February,2005, names of persons and groups invited to participate in the dialogue was made public.
As a demonstration of the inconsequential treatment given to issues of Minority and Indigenous peoples in Nigeria,the President,General Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd.), in his choice of participants for the National Dialogue,has left out the Ogoni People who were the initial idealogues of the Sovereign National Conference Campaign and other similar vulnerable Minority and Indigenous Peoples groups in the Country in his undemocratic choice of delegates for the Conference. While the President invited Social Justice and Cultural groups shepherding the interests and positions of the majority ethnic groups (AFENIFERE which superintends the interest of the Yorubas, AREWA, the protector of Hausa/Fulani interest, and OHANEZE, the guardian of Igbo interests) all other smaller ethnic groups of above two hundred including the Ogoni People are excluded from participation in the dialogue.
Furthermore, even the appointment of a large proportion of government-appointed delegates largely drawn from majority territories is an indication that the government is not prepared for the building of a democratic nation that promotes the protection of minorities and indigenous groups.
This is not an accidental happening but the carryover of an official policy of the government over the years which exults in its credentials of exclusion and discrimination against the Ogoni people and other minorities in Nigeria in discussions about issues relating to their place and destiny in the Federation.
While the conference falls far short of Ogoni expectations especially as it relates to the metaphorsis of the call for a Sovereign National Conference to the government’s mantra of a National Dialogue with no powers and legal backing, nonetheless, we feel that it provides yet another political space for people to reventillate their issues and reaffirm their desires for a truely federal and democratic Nigeria where justice,equity and fairplay will reign.
It is in this connection that we view with strong exception the present discriminatory act of the Nigeria government against the Ogoni People and other powerless minorities who are excluded from this process. This act which flies in the face of participatory development and modern nation-state social engineering, brings to fore our claim that the Nigeria government is not yet committed to the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance (ICERD), an instrument which the government has ratified and signed.
We therefore appeal to the Committee to use its influence in bringing this discriminatory act to the attention of the Nigeria government as a serious negation of the spirit and letters of ICERD during discussions on Nigeria at its 66th Session.
This statement was first published May 4, 1995.