By Rose E. Obuoforibo
Rose E. Obuoforibo
November 27, 1999
His Excellency Olusegun Obasanjo
The Federal Republic of Nigeria
Aso Rock Presidential Villa
Dear Mr. President,
“Calling on President Olusegun Obasanjo to withdraw soldiers from Odi town”
As a concerned and patriotic citizen of Nigeria from Rivers State now living in the United States, I wish to express my deep concern about the recent horrific deployment of federal troops to Odi town in BAYELSA state. Odi has been reportedly burnt down, innocent men, women and children killed and property looted. What could provoke such a military over-run of Odi, a community characterized by deprivation and abject poverty?
I am particularly amazed at your
Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s explanation of the military havoc
done in the town. He said that your troops are deployed to Odi in order
to maintain law and order.
You know yourself, Mr. President, that is a lame excuse but just an opportunity to brutalize the people in the same way every preceding military government of Nigeria has done.
Recall the massacre of Umuchem, a town in Etche local government of Rivers State by the military government of Gen. Babangida. After plundering the town and killing everybody in sight, from the traditional village head to old men, young men, women and children, the brutish force that is the Nigerian military made a bonfire of the human corpses in order to conceal the evidence of their atrocities. A shocked Vice President Aikhomu tried to pacify the people when he saw the extent of the beastly act of the Nigerian military.
Again, the siege of Ogoni land in Rivers State by the same trigger-happy soldiers and the events that led to the hanging of writer Ken Saro- Wiwa and his colleagues by government is still fresh in the minds of all Nigerians and the international community. In that event, a major Okutimu boasted in a widely publicized television interview the more than 100 ways the Ogonis were tortured and killed by the Nigerian occupation force.
Just recently, the University of Port Harcourt town of Choba witnessed similar atrocities by the “invading force.” In that incidence, it is reported that uniformed soldiers were photographed raping innocent women and girls and looting property.
Since when does the military maintain law and order, a primarily police duty? Not even in colonial Nigeria were soldiers deployed to arrest criminals. In a civil society, the military is never seen in public. We all therefore know the real motive for the military deployment into the Niger Delta is not to maintain law and order. The federal might is deployed to brutalize, intimidate and silence a people while they plunder their resources unhindered. The bottom line underlining all these brutal show of federal might on the poor people of the Niger Delta is the crude oil, a resource used unashamedly to develop all other regions of the country except the region that produces it; a resource the exploration and exploitation of which has deprived the people of their farmlands, polluted their rivers and left the people totally impoverished and destitute.
How many federal roads are in BAYELSA state? How much federal amenities did the “invading force” see in Odi? Did they see electricity? Telephone? Water? Hospitals? How many bridges are there to link the various riverine communities in the state? Compare that to the numerous overhead bridges and flyovers in Abuja and the northern states where there are no rivers to start with.
Your government recently awarded contracts for repair and construction of 46 roads in the country. Not one of these roads is in BAYELSA, DELTA , AKWA IBOM or RIVERS state. Senator Udo Udoma called attention to this injustice . Is it because these states do not need good roads?
Every year including this year parts of BAYELSA, RIVERS and DELTA states are flooded during the rainy season, Mr. President you didn't show any concern but you were concerned enough to allocate over a billion naira to address flood problems in Lagos state, part of Yoruba heart land.
The federal government can plunder and kill the impoverished people of the Niger Delta all it wants, but a remnant will remain. Your soldiers can’t kill everbody. You should listen to the legitimate demands of the people instead of using the same repressive tactics previous governments have used. The Lord that put the resources in our land is greater than any military might and He will fight for us.
To add salt to injury, you absolved the rampaging soldiers in Choba when you said that you know that no soldier is capable of committing such atrocities. Are we not talking about our discredited soldiers , Mr. President, recall your own comments about the same soldiers when you were released from jail by the kind General Abubakar. You didn’t have a good opinion about them then. You said the Nigerian military has sunk so low, they lack honour, discipline and integrity - where junior officers humiliate and set up senior officers for the kill. Are some of them not being tried presently for killing and imprisoning innocent civilians of which you too were a victim? Where they not involved in the crating of Alhaji Umaru Dikko, a human being in London? Are they not part of the “unknown soldiers” that stormed the “Kalakuta Republic” of the late Fela Anikulapo-Kuti occasioning the death of the foremost Nigerian woman political activist Mrs. Ransome -Kuti.
I am writing this letter to you to call to your attention the injustice being perpetrated by all past military governments and your government on the people of the Niger Delta. When the country’s revenue earnings came from cotton, groundnuts, cocoa and palm oil, there were no military deployments to the areas that produced these commodities. In fact, revenue sharing was a non-issue. It was purely by derivative principle, a formula the federal government now abhors and loathes. If the agenda of the federal government is not to eliminate the southern Ijaw minorities while they plunder their resources, I challenge the federal government to reintroduce the derivative principle for revenue sharing and lets see whether there will be need for any further troop deployment to the Niger Delta. This is colonialism coming through the back door. But just as the first colonial rule was dismantled by the people, this plunder of our land will also be dismantled too, in God’s good time. Coercion! Beating a people into submission with superior force in order to plunder their goods smacks of dictatorship and has never succeeded in the long run.
We ask for the convening of a Sovereign National Conference at which the various ethnic nationalities would determine the basis for their continued association in this oppressive state. That is the only time we can have a union where peace and justice will prevail. You can not hide under the facade of a constitution fabricated by an illegitimate military government, whose myriad acts of misgovernment you are presently investigating. You can not therefore reject the call for a sovereign national conference by pleading for the constitutional provisions for change.
Mr. President, as a woman from the Niger Delta who desires a Nigerian nation where there is justice and equity, I plead with you to call off your troops from BAYELSA immediately. Mr. President in your wisdom, you did not give the governor of Lagos state the sort of ultimatum that was dispatched to the governor of the Ijaw state of BAYELSA, neither did you deploy 50 lorry loads of soldiers to contain the mayhem perpetrated by your kinsmen of the Oodua Peoples Congress on the Hausas in Lagos, rather the civil police was asked to maintain law and order.
I have personally visited Odi 5 years ago. I wept when I saw the extent of the marginalization of the people. Because there is no potable water, we used brackish water to take our bath. The women of Odi are so impoverished and over-burdened, operating in an environment where the basic amenities of life like electricity, water and wood fuel for cooking are unavailable.
My concern is that Odi is heavily populated by women, children and old men. There are hardly any able-bodied young men because of the destitution of the town and the lack of employment opportunities. Mr. President, what has happened to these women and children in the face of such heavy bombardment by your troops? How many defenseless women and children have your soldiers killed?
BAYELSA state is not at war with the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We only seek to be in charge of our resources and destiny as is the norm in all democratic societies.
Rose E. Obuoforibo
The President of the Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Federal Executive Council Appointees of the Niger Delta States.
The Governors of the Niger Delta States.
The Speakers of the Niger Delta States Houses of Assembly.
The President National Council of Women's Societies.