In defense of Yeghe and Ogoniland
After the raid on Ogoniland in February 2016, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike visited the affected communities and seeing the level of damage and killings, denied knowledge of the operations of the army.
"He declared that the military must subject itself to civil authority, pointing out that as Chief Security Officer of Rivers State, he was not informed of the operation that led to loss of innocent lives of Ogoni people and residents of the area. He accused some politicians of deliberately instigating crisis in the state to create room for the evil declaration of state of emergency plotted by enemies of Rivers People".
Following the cancellation of same elections, the intimidation of the people of Yeghe resumed and on Wednesday May 11 and Friday May 13, 2016, three(3) armored tanks overwhelmed the community while foot soldiers went into the farmlands in search of Chief Solomon Ndigbara, a former militant whom the army had declared wanted for kidnapping and gun running, they have destroyed his home and he was suspected to have taken refuge in some forest location.
The mission failed to arrest Solomon Ndigbara putting to question the credibility of the information sources available to the Army. The angry army was reported in a press statement by the woman leader of Yeghe, Mrs Daadaan, to have poisoned all sources of drinking water around the vicinity. This supports the point I have always made - that the raid on Yeghhe and neighboring Ogoni villages is not about arresting a "supposed criminal" but a politically motivated crackdown to win elections. I will later prove this to you but you need to understand why the community called Yeghe features so prominently in the life of the Ogoni people.
The Political Significance of Yeghe in Ogoniland
Yeghe is located at the very heart of Ogoniland and had been an epic center of activities. Yeghe have attracted people from all over Rivers State and nearly all influential Ogoni personalities have had a relationship with Yeghe.
Late Hon. Timothy Paul Naakuu Birabi (the father of modern Ogoni) is a native of Yeghe, Late Ken Saro-Wiwa lived and schooled in Yeghe, Senator (Dr.) Benneth Birabi is a native of Yeghe, Dr Noble Abe was born in Yeghe, Senator Magnus Abe was born in Yeghe, Rev. Dr. Uma Ukpai schooled in Yeghe, Hon. Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the APC guber candidate in the April 2015 elections in Rivers State schooled and lived in Yeghe, Senator Lee Meaba schooled in Yeghe, Prof. Christy Mato is an indegene of Yeghe, the list is endless.
With a population of about35000 spread between two local governments areas (Khana and Gokana), no serious politician will downplay the significance of Yeghe at any election.
A clearer understanding of the role and significance of Yeghe in Ogoniland can be seen from the history of the Ogoni struggle. Indeed the move for a free Ogoni started in Yeghe on Sunday, January 3, 1993. Led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, the first point of call was the St. Peters Anglican Church Yeghe, the next was at the grave side of Hon. T.N. Paul Birabi (the well acknowledged father of modern Ogoni). You may want to read the biography of Hon Birabi at http://www.ogoninews.com/heroes/174-biography-of-timothy-naakuu-paul-birabi-the-father-of-modern-ogoni
Following the return of civilian rule in 1999, the role of Yeghe became more significant politically. As the 2003 elections approached, Yeghe came under heavy attack with the collusion of its neighbors and the security men. An estimated 56 houses were burnt and properties worth millions of Naira were lost. At least 26 persons were killed while some remain missing till date.
In 2011, as elections approached, two of its citizens were gunned down by unknown men. Engr. Clement Faah (a lecturer with the Rivers State College of Arts and Science and his friend Pius Gbarazia, a detective with the Canadian Police) were both killed after attending a meeting of the PDP stakeholders in Gokana. Neither the police nor the traditional institutions have been able to uncover their killers. The community appointed a team to investigate the killings using their traditional means. The man who led the team, Chief Moses Gbaranor was kidnapped and had not been found till date. Just like the Police investigators, none of the other members of the team have made any statement regarding their findings.
In 2015, the PDP had its way but unfortunately, the courts have annulled the elections setting the stage for a re-run. Trouble started again for the Yeghe people. Dr. Vincent Elvin Eebee, another prominent son of Yeghe had been killed by yet to be identified gunmen. Vincent was attacked in Bori, he ran towards his hometown, Yeghe. Unfortunately, the assailants got him right as he attempted to escape into the community and gunned him down. Vincent's assassination was coming barely one month after an army raid which left over 20 people dead in Yeghe and parts of Ogoniland.
It is my position that Vincent's killers are not the residents of the physical location where the assassins met him. His killers are those who actually planned and got him killed. Vincent had been attacked in Bori, headquarter of Khana local government area and like every normal person would do, he ran to his hometown, Yeghe, in Gokana local government area which is about 100 meters away and tried to escape but he was cut down by the assassins bullets. May his soul rest in peace.
As unfortunate and painful as this is, it appears to me that there is some kind of a repeat of the script in "wasting operations" which was prosecuted by Major Paul Okuntimo in Ogoniland during the dark years of 1993-1999. Okuntimo in the document titled "wasting operations" had engineered communal conflicts in Ogoni to justify sustained military crackdown. Could these killings not be an attempt to justify the military operations against innocent civilians in Yeghe? Why has it been so difficult for the Police to unravel those behind the sustained attacks and killing of prominent members and innocent civilians in Yeghe?
The Solomon Ndigbara Question
I do not intend to speak for Solomon Ndigbara, In fact, In my last post, I expressed my dissatisfaction with the amnesty programme. However, I am inclined to question the desperation to link this young man, Solomon Ndigbara, to every crime in Ogoniland.
Solomon Ndigbara was in 2014 awarded a prestigious "Ambassador of Peace" by the first lady of the federal republic of Nigeria, Dame Patience Jonathan. He and a team of security men were in Kaani in November 2015 where they rescued the kidnapped bursar of the Ken Saro-Wiwa Polytechnic, Bori.
In 1999, Ndigbara was chief security officer of Khana Local Government Area and worked with his party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) seeing to the election of all their candidates. Finally, prior to and after the declaration of amnesty for Niger Delta militants, Ndigbara is not known to have been convicted by any competent court of law for kidnapping or gun running. One would have expected that if there be an issue against him, he should be brought before the courts to answer for his charges. And what if he resists arrest you may ask? The answer is that the law prescribes how to deal with such issues and one shouldn't expect that every body in an entire community will be killed just in search for someone who resists arrest. Besides, if the security men had been honest in their search for an alleged criminal who was their ally in November 2015 and by February 21, 2016 has become a wanted man yet, he lived in his village.
Truth be told, The raid on Yeghe does not seem close an attempt to arrest Solomon Ndigbara but a politically motivated attack against the innocent voters in Yeghe ahead of the forth-coming parliamentary re-run elections.
Fegalo Nsuke is Publicity Secretary of The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) He wrote from Bori, Ogoniland.