From Tony John, Port Harcourt
Former President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) Ledum Mitee and other prominent sons and daughters of Ogoniland have expressed concerns about the leadership crisis rocking the organisation.
They have also appealed to aggrieved members and supporters of MOSOP to sheath their swords and not allow the pan-Ogoni group to die.
Mitee, in a statement he signed alongside 21 other signatories, which included Owen Wiwa, Kenneth Kobani, Ben Naanen, Vincent Idemyor, Rev. Canon Olungwe Abraham, Don Baridam, Mrs Comfort Giadom, Mrs Rose Nwigani and Evelyn Senewo, advised that MOSOP could not accomplish anything if it is divided.
According to them, MOSOP became known globally because it opposed to the repressive activities of the Nigerian state and Shell Petroleum Development Company (Shell) that almost drove them (Ogoni) to extinction.
The signatories noted: ‘In the last couple of days, we have been inundated with calls by well-meaning people within and outside Ogoni, expressing grave concerns about the happenings in MOSOP: the multiple law suits, multiple factions with corresponding claims of multiple elections and proclamations of victories etc. all of which culminated in the inability to host Ogoni Day for the first time this year since we launched the event in 1993.
‘MOSOP is the movement that was our response to the repressive activities of the Nigerian state and its collaborators, including the oil giant, Shell, which almost drove Ogoni to extinction and our activities through MOSOP earned us the respect of the world as we dared successive repressive regimes and in spite of grave sacrifices, we remained unbowed.
‘Our successes were possible because we were united in the struggle for justice which made our struggle a metaphor for the agitations for justice, not only across the Niger Delta region, but the world at large.
‘As succinctly put by the late Professor Claude Ake, “MOSOP has risen to become the conscience of this country. For better or for worse, it holds our hope. Battered and bleeding, the Ogoni people through MOSOP, struggle on to realise our hopes and to restore our dignity. If it falters we all die.
‘It is against this backdrop that we the undersigned representing MOSOP activists, supporters and concerned MOSOP elders, have observed with grave dismay the regrettable leadership crisis that has bedevilled MOSOP recently and threatens its very survival if not checked.
‘We have in the recent past been content with working silently at the background to see how the crisis could be resolved through silent diplomacy.
‘Painfully, such interventions have not yielded the desired results as the leadership crisis threatens to sacrifice our collective hope on the altar of the unnecessary battle for the soul of our esteemed organisation.
‘Driven by our firm belief in the cause for which some of our founding fathers have paid the supreme sacrifice and to ensure that these sacrifices are not in vain, we believe we have some responsibility to intervene to save the organisation.’
They resolved and advised that nobody should recognise any of the current factions of MOSOP leadership, adding that they would immediately commence a process of reconciliation and work with other concerned former MOSOP activists and elders to reset the organization.
Mitee said: ‘We would commence a process of reconciliation in the coming days to reset the organisation by putting in place a process leading to an all-embracing election that would produce a credible MOSOP leadership and a transparent good governance structure and management.
‘We hereby call on the disputing parties and their supporters to sheath their swords, discontinue all pending court cases and desist from further press statements capable of further putting MOSOP and our people in disrepute.
‘We also appeal to all Ogoni people and our supporters at home and abroad to bear with us, whilst this process to reset our revered organization is earnestly ongoing to move Ogoni forward. MOSOP and Ogoni must survive”.