20yrs after: Tribute to my father
By Suage Badey
By Suage Badey
It is 20 years on May 21 2014, when death snatched my humble, good-humored and kindhearted father away from us – his wife, children and beloved ones. I’m still bemused to figure-out the circumstance that led to his inappropriate death.
I still remember his generous show of love to us and how he conscientiously instilled every ounce of discipline he could with emphasis on the core values of honesty, humility, truth and integrity in us – his family, and those who came in contact with him.
He was thorough and applied it with some measure of moderation. He was a devout Christian of the Methodist faith and ensured we had the fear of GOD at all times. He further more taught us the values of self worth, self respect and confidence. My dad was selfless and principled and this became an attribute known to many who knew him too well.
I still imagine the excruciating pains that my father must have gone through on that shadowy and gloomy Saturday May 21, 1994, when he was tortured to death by a cross section of a people he loved so dearly. One could only imagine the disbelieve on his mind while he painfully received slaps, machete cuts and all the terrible blows coming in quick succession all around his body.
This sad encounter was an unfortunate product of a campaign of bigotry and disinformation. Very sad! I have taken his death as a matter of misconception even though that I’m finding it very hard to forget the incident that led to his death. They alleged that my father and others who shared in his fate were sharing money given to them by Government and Shell to disseminate information that would thwart what some of our people said they believed in then.
It could be taken as a case of jungle justice in some quarters. But in my father’s case, it was a case of jungle injustice as over 250 youths besieged their place of meeting at the palace of His Royal Highness, Chief James Bagia, the Gbenemene of Gokana. They used weapons such as clubs, machetes, bottles, iron rods, broken blocks, stones and garden rake, as some observers had noted and, hacked my father down to his unfortunate death.
According to some investigations especially those made by the Publishers of The New Gong, it was a motorcyclist who misled the crowd that killed my father with false information or what I could say was a premeditated act to exterminate my father and those whom he shared views of how to better Ogoni with, when our towns and villages were in turmoil and, our people were struggling for total emancipation and the control of the Ogoni nation.
The New Gong had written: The leader of the mob shouted ‘E-sho-be’... Four of them (known today as Ogoni-4.) were singled out and marked for execution. The marked 4 were Mr. Albert Badey, Chief Edward Kobani and the Orage brothers (Samuel and Theophilus). The crowd descended upon them instantly with stones, clubs etc as they managed to run back into the palace sustaining the first round of injuries.
Now huddled up in a corner, Alhaji Kobani, now late and brother of Chief Kobani went down on his knees appealing but it all fell on deaf ears. They continued throwing all manner of dangerous weapons causing more injury and pain to these men who did nothing except their genuine concern for a better Ogoni. Mr. Badey made a bid to escape and was pursued; Chief S. N. Orage was beaten to death ‘on the spot’. Chief Edward Kobani and Chief T. B. Orage, whose right eye had been pierced in the first attack outside, were stripped nearly naked and the latter led out of the palace.
These were the four Ogoni who were killed as a result of disinformation. The New Gong continued: Alhaji Kobani said that his brother, whom he tried to help, was sliced on his back and hands with a broken bottle by one of the assailants while another buried the teeth of the garden rake in his skull. A third shoved a pole up his anus. Later, somebody was heard to say, ‘Rise up now and go and contest the election with Ken Saro-Wiwa.’
Hear The New Gong again: Seeing that his brother was dead, Alhaji Kobani fled to the shrine behind the palace for refuge because, as he later told a British journalist,‘I am an Ogoni man and I know churches are just window dressing.’ He said that if he had entered a church like Mr. Badey who ran to the Methodist church or a mosque ‘they would have killed me there’ but that their ‘fetish belief’ made them afraid that the repercussions ‘would be on their families for generations’.
The story continued: He was helped in no small part by the courage of the Gbenemene, who hurried from his sick daughter’s bedside when he heard ‘crying and wailing of people around me’ and refused the mob's demand that he make a libation for attack. He made a libation for peace instead and then entered the shrine to await help. That was at about 2 p.m. Unknown to them, soldiers at a nearby checkpoint, as well as police in Bori, the main Ogoni town, refused to leave their posts when they were told what was going on because, they said, there was no senior officer around to order them to do so.
Investigation revealed that my father almost made it to a waiting taxi after he was dragged from the Methodist church Nweol, Gokana LGA in the company of another intended victim, Chief Francis S. Kpai, but the mob proved too much for them. A woman and a very few persons who sympathized over the level of brutality, seeing blood gushing uncontrollably from his head tried to keep him in a hut to prevent further attacks. This was about to cause the lady the beating of her life. My father on noticing this, managed to walk out, now weak and breathless being an asthmatic, with fingers broken, he mustered all the courage he could to pull out his inhaler from his safari suit but the mob mistook it for a device that would be used to contact the police.
It was taken from him, a lady, blew him in face, another kicked him, he fell to the ground. While helplessly on the ground and suffocating, youths, women and men kicked and matched him, hit him with sticks, machete, broken bottles until he gave up the ghost. That he was dead was not enough. They took away his body and that of the others to an undisclosed location where it was alleged that the unimaginable happened.
My only grouse till date is that Ogoni has not been better than it was 20yrs ago when my illustrious father was killed. His death and those of others in the struggle have not brought about the intended change or peace that our people had thought they were bent on achieving. I’m very sure that today our people are regretting the death of the Ogoni-4. I made a press briefing on 23rd October 2009, after the Saro-Wiwas were settled out of court, in which I recommended that Ogonis all through our history are known to be hospitable and loving.
This lost attribute visited on us by the insensitivity of Shell and the Federal Government should not dissuade us from conducting ourselves properly. No matter the enormity of a crisis, it ends up on a roundtable where peace and the way forward is discussed (a ready example is the Amnesty deal by the Government with regard to the Niger Delta struggle after years of bloodletting). .
So, the platform for dialogue should be our priority but more importantly is the internal sincerity amongst us. Our people of Ogoni should stop casting huge doubt on the sincerity of government in resolving the Ogoni crisis if the different communities and organizations in Ogoni-land are hardly to be sincere with themselves or to each other in the struggle for the emancipation of the Ogoni people in the business of Nigeria since 90s.
The greatest danger Ogoni face today is the danger of egocentricism, unnecessary leadership tussle and unhealthy suspicion amongst our elites and not the danger posed by Shells degradation of our environment. We must start ‘eradicating’ the cankerworms within, so as to have a healthy body to confront our common enemy. A deliberate and conscious effort to resolve our problems must start now, putting in our all for our collective gains by amicably resolving our differences without antagonizing any community or group. Ogoni-land needs development, just like the entire Niger Delta region.
And this development is rightly at our doorsteps. KAGOTE, our elitist oganisation founded by our fathers should be rejuvenated and the original valued intent of our forbearers brought back. A body that promoted hardwork, morals and was never prejudiced in its decision makings. This will enable us get back to the drawing board and screen everything that affects Ogoni. Our development must be collectively driven and not self centered. We must (not?) forget that the formation of MOSOP emanated from this esteemed body, KAGOTE.
Today, the body which hitherto made every Ogoni son and daughter proud has not only been consumed by MOSOP but completely relegated to the background, losing its potency and the positive impact it engendered on our people. We have a moral obligation as Ogonis to restore the values of self respect, regard and honour for our elders, the protection of our cultural values and heritage and the promotion of superior ideas that would bring about a formidable Ogoni.
This will bring us back on track as we tackle the perceived insincerity of Government to our developmental needs. The Federal Government and Shell should exhibit a more pragmatic sense of responsibility, being the remote cause of the entire crises that engulfed Ogoni land. In addressing the Ogoni question, which has been on the front burner for almost 25years now, the Government must desist from acts that appear divisive and be remorseful for its neglect.
In adopting this posture, the government should consult with a broad Ogoni representation that involves, KAGOTE, Paramount rulers of the respective kingdoms that constitute Ogoni, MOSOP, Local Government Chairmen and our respected Ogoni leaders occupying positions of trust in the Government on the way forward. Decisions / resolutions reached should be followed vigorously with a genuine intent to be implemented on schedule. The Government as a matter of fact due to its neglect, impoverished our people and in turn, unknowingly created a culture of violence that not only engulfed Ogoni, but also the Niger Delta in its entirety.
Today, you find in Ogoni just as you find elsewhere pockets of grievances that are now directed at the self: A deterioration of values leading to the breakdown of the family unit and society at large. Today, you find intra and inter communal wars: brothers killing brothers and so on, offshoots of frustrations that are traced to the insensitivity of the oil giant, Shell, and the Government.
As the Ogonis begin the process of addressing our internal failings, it becomes necessary for the government to throw away the trench coats that conceal those deadly weapons it uses to drive us to an extinct when we react but rather create a better platform for positive and fruitful discuss that would bring a lasting solution to the Ogoni question. As we make this concerted effort which should provide a better avenue for meaningful dialogue, it is also necessary that the recommendations of the Ledum Mittee-led Niger Delta Technical Committee report be implemented.
It will also serve as a way forward in the Ogoni conversation. MOSOP’s views on “terminating Shell's operational relationship with Ogoni by December 31, 2008” might be sensitive but more sensitive is the leadership tussle of who represents Ogoni people as President from the MOSOP angle till date. It's time for us Ogonis to look into the issue of MOSOP leadership rather than continue to ridicule ourselves as we navigate through this painful, but necessary road in the actualization of our desires.
Ledum Mittee and Goodluck Diigbo's differences as of urgency should be addressed by KAGOTE, even though it seems that there is a hold-on on that, so as to prevent unnecessary overheating of the grassroots. We must arrest this trend so as to prevent further bloodletting in our communities' better still in furtherance of our unity as a people. If Shell is being referred to as lacking a good sense of purpose for the Ogonis, then it would be foolhardy to have a leadership that lacks direction and the requisite leadership qualities to promote peace amongst its people.
We don't need another Ogoni 1, Ogoni 3, Ogoni 4, Ogoni 9 etc. It's time now to throw away the differences of the past and push for our collective growth. KAGOTE, it’s time to act! Ogoni people have to re-build renewed confidence, drawing from the lessons of the past while dwelling on the present scenario and provide a framework for positive expectations. This can never be achieved except we come to tow the line of genuine peace and love, a prerequisite for cohesiveness and strength in our struggle for our rights. Our aspiration and expectations have been dampened by our discordant voices, because we have broken that cord that links us as one and given Shell and the Federal Government a relaxed atmosphere to click their glasses continuously.
We must re-awaken our resolve to be one and engage the aggressor not with violence, but with reason. The power of reason always surpasses the instruments of violence and oppression. The time is now, failing, which we might have just allowed our fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and children to have died in vain. Even if the FG decides to consult the Ogoni leadership on a new operator as Shell relinquishes interest in Ogoni-fields, it will be most necessary for us to put our house in order and have the collective interest of all our people protected.
This should form part of our submissions to a resolution panel. To enhance recommencement of oil production in our land, we can achieve little or nothing if we do not agree on what we want as a people: It will be senseless coming to an understanding with FG and oil companies, without feeling the pulse of the people, resulting in a disunited home. This “will” brew another disaster. And if many of our people are saying that if the FG FORCEFULLY return Shell in our land, the Ogoni people will non-violently resist. I ask which Ogoni people will resist the attempt non-violently. Is it the MOSOP that has been so factionalised that it appears not to represent the interest of the people?
We should look at the issues objectively and come to a conclusion acceptable to all. Let's not personalize issues. The issue shouldn't be the oil company concerned, but, rather its readiness to subscribe to our demand. Ogoni people must exhibit sincere love for one another. This is the most important ingredient, a love that will transcend all our pains and frustrations and throw to the front burner our collective desires. Let us now resolve to put away the enforced culture of violence imposed on us by the insensitivity of the FG and Shell and in return draw their attention to our plight through our collective strength armed with the injustice meted-out to us till this day and we will certainly arrive at the destination our fathers desired for us all.
It was in the cause of our fathers' love for Ogoni that they presented themselves to be gruesomely murdered and hanged in the uncertainty of the time. Today, we have a better chance. So, we must not disappoint them, let alone, ourselves and make nonsense of the struggle they paid the supreme sacrifice for. Indeed, we must remain sincere to each other first, before our committed struggle for the approach to achieve a lasting peace in Ogoni. That is, the non-violent protest we want for now, before any non-violent protest against the Federal Government if it allows Shell to enter Ogoni-land after its December 2008 pact to hound Shell out of our land.
My father served the state and federal government meritoriously without blemish in numerous capacities, which enabled him to contribute in both human and infrastructural developments. He did everything he could to influence people around him positively, the entire Ogoni nation and the people of Rivers State. Adieu, my beloved father! We hope that someday you will be remembered for your selfless service to the Ogonis and the state. We, however, find solace in that God Almighty will not forget your sincerity, truthfulness and honesty and above all your reverence for Him.