“Given the dynamic nature of oil pollution and the extent of contamination revealed in UNEP’s study, failure to begin addressing urgent public health concerns and commencing a clean-up will only exacerbate and unnecessarily prolong the Ogoni people’s suffering”-(UNEP, United Nations Environmental Program).

I have lived Shell’s hell, literarily, and I am still as mad as hell. I happen to come from Kegbara Dere, where the first oil well in Ogoni was struck in 1958 and which has the largest concentration of oil facilities in the nationality. By implication Kegbara Dere is the epicenter of environmental devastation in Ogoni. In 1970 Kegbara Dere witnessed one of the worst oil well explosions in Nigeria. The explosion was so severe that the well head, the “Christmas tree,” was blown off.  Earth tremors associated with the explosion were felt in the town, some five miles away from the scene, as granite rocks from the earth crust rained onto roofs of buildings. For months our rain water was laced with crude oil. It took more than a decade for any meaningful farming activity to take place on farmlands up to two   miles radius from the exploded oil well; as rain water would not percolate the soil. Even when farming activity was resumed after a long spell, crops grown there exhibited stunted growth.  Our fishing creeks were flooded with crude oil, with attendant destruction of marine life and mangrove forest, thus grounding our fishing occupation.

One sign that indelibly registered in my memory as we protested on January 4, 1993, is the one that read ASSASSINS GO HOME. Yes, the Ogoni people have been assassinated by installment for 60 years, today. The transnational oil giant, Shell, aided by the Nigerian ruling cabal, has been assassinating the Ogoni people on a multiple  front attack – land ,sea and air environmental pollution. This had been going on long before the shooting war started in 1993.

The Ogoni people have been living in the shadow of death since 1958 when Shell struck the first oil well in the area. Shell continued to pollute and degrade the Ogoni environment, exposing the people to incalculable health risks. Our farmlands are being polluted. Our rivers are being polluted . And  our breathing air is being polluted. So the Ogoni people have no place to hide .

According to the UNEP report, soil and ground water contamination in Ogoni exceed the limits set by Nigerian national legislation. The report also revealed that hydrocarbons are found in drinking water in Ogoni. Yet, a Human Rights Watch report on the impact of oil pollution in Ogoni published in 1999 reads inter alia :” In April 1997, samples taken from water used for drinking and washing by local villagers were analyzed in the US. A sample from Luawii, in Ogoni, where there had been no oil production for four years, had 18ppm of hydrocarbons in the water, 360 times the level allowed in drinking water in the European Union (EU)”.(pg. 67, THE PRICE OF OIL-Corporate Responsibility and Human Rights Violations in Nigeria’s Oil Producing Communities,1999).

Like I noted earlier, the Ogoni  people are  in  a state of  siege when it comes to environmental devastation. We are an agrarian community who depend on subsistence farming for our food source. Yet, perpetual oil pollution has imperiled our food production. Before now, all we knew was that oil pollution renders our soil infertile, leading to poor yields. However, the UNEP report noted :” Farming in soil which is contaminated also exposes the (Ogoni) community to dermal hydrocarbons”. Which is to say , whenever the  Ogoni eat any food item grown on their land they are consuming hydrocarbons. In other words, the Ogoni people are daily being poisoned as they feed.

Also, as our  rivers  are being flooded with crude oil, marine life is destroyed and our mangrove vegetation  where they still exist, are  being replaced by strange  plants, altering the ecosystem. This scenario is pretty much confirmed by the UNEP report.

 In a related development, Chinese scientists recently conducted a study which shows that air pollution has an adverse effect on intellectual ability of inhabitants of a polluted environment.  And very recently, the WHO, World Health Organization, reported that air pollution kills seven million people annually

The London Guardian recently exposed a secret study conducted by Shell in 1988 and reportedly marked “Confidential”. The Guardian reports: “Shell’s analysis, warned of the disappearance of specific ecosystems or habitat destruction, predicted an increase in “ run off, destructive floods, and inundation of low-lying farmlands; and concluded that “ new sources of freshwater would be required to “ compensate  for changes in precipitation. According to the report Shell went on to predict that global changes in air temperature would also drastically change the way people live and work.  (The Guardian, September 19,2018).

The summation of all these studies poignantly highlights the perils the Ogoni people have had to endure for decades. However, there is a limit to what and to how long a people can endure, more so, when it comes to health. So naturally the endurance capacity of the Ogoni people has hit the elastic limit. And those who might have doubted Ken Saro Wiwa’s  assertion that the Ogoni people as a race, are being driven to extinction should by now have fully understood what he was talking about. This is genocide!

It is instructive to note that the UNEP in its recommendations drew attention to the “urgent public health concerns” in Ogoni occasioned by the intensity of the contamination in the area. Failure to address those urgent health concerns like the UNEP warned, has led to catastrophic situation which as recently revealed by a study done by Ogoni doctors showed a spike in death rate  linked  to environmental pollution in the area. So the inexplicable delay in commencing the clean-up project, in contemptuous disregard for the lives of the Ogoni people as  the UNEP ominously warned, has actually aggravated the agony of the Ogoni. Death now stalks Ogoni land as the “urgent public health concerns” raised in the  UNEP report continues to be ignored by relevant authorities in Nigeria.

Now, to add insult to injury, I learnt that one Dr. Ibe Kachikwu, Minister of State for Petroleum, a lowly officer in the present dregs of Nigeria leadership, is giving the resumption of oil production as a condition for the clean of Ogoni, to commence. I know that all sorts of people in Nigeria are now taking advantage of the leadership vacuum that exists in Ogoni today to insult our people. But the Ogoni people are not going to stand for this. This Kachikwu who? is not qualified to unlace the shoes of the late Dr. Garrick  Barile Leton, renowned Industrial Chemist, first President of MOSOP, and former Minister of Education. Not to talk of Ken Saro Wiwa, globally acclaimed author and environmentalist, winner of the Live Livelihood Award (an alternative Nobel Prize) from the prestigious Swedish parliament.      

The proposed Ogoni clean-up project is not a favor done to the people but an obligation arising from decades of destruction of our environment by Shell, aided by the Nigerian government. The Ogoni people will not be intimidated or blackmailed into abandoning our avowed position that there will be NO resumption of oil production and related activities in Ogoni land until our land has been completely cleansed as per the UNEP recommendation and until all the issues involved in the Ogoni crisis-the barbaric execution of the Ogoni Nine, the Ogoni Four and all those Ogonis who were murdered in cold blood by the Nigerian military in collaboration with Shell and the wanton destruction of Ogoni communities, the backlog of loyalties owed us, have been fully and completely resolved.

Like Ken Saro Wiwa stated, the reason Shell was declared persona non grata and asked to leave Ogoni land is: “because of its destruction of the environment , its uncaring exploitation of the community and its refusal to make any  restitution whatsoever for the great harm it had done to the Ogoni people and environment”. And Ken concluded: “The Ogoni people would be very foolish indeed to welcome it (Shell or as it is now, its surrogates) back without a full agreement, carefully worked out and signed”.( A MONTH AND A DAY and Letters by Ken Saro Wiwa).

I understand there are sadly, some people, maybe, “very foolish” and greedy people, in Ogoni today who are ready to allow the resumption of oil production activities in the area. However, my point is this: anywhere in the world,{ and this should be a universal principle) if a tenant is evicted for refusing to pay rent but at some point the delinquent tenant finds his or her former residence too irresistible to forgo and decides to return, the recalcitrant tenant must first settle the back log of rents owed as a condition for reinstatement. What is more, in the Ogoni case, this is a tenant whose lifestyle has proven to be inimical to the very existence of the land owner. No one in his right senses welcomes an assassin in his backward. Those assassins, thanks goodness, went home 1n 1993 and they must not be allowed back in Ogoni.     

Ken Saro Wiwa, the foremost Ogoni patriot, including an entire generation of our leadership and thousands of ordinary Ogonis got murdered for this oil. This generation of the Ogoni cannot afford to cheapen the lives of our fallen heroes.  . That would amount to an unpardonable betrayal.  And the spirit of Ogoni will not forgive us. In fact, Ogoni oil wells were effectively sealed with the blood of our patriots on November 10, 1995.

Any attempt to forcefully re-enter Ogoni oil fields by Shell or its surrogates as it is currently contemplated, will be vigorously resisted.

Perhaps, the Ogoni people could find inspiration from this line by the American musical band, the Dixie Chicks:  I HAVE PAID A PRICE AND I WILL KEEP PAYING. I AM NOT READY TO BACK DOWN. I AM STILL AS MAD AS HELL. 


Leburah Ganago

Atlanta, Georgia,

United States.

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