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‘It signals a new dawn in Ogoniland’ 

By Ann Godwin
04 June 2016   |   3:47 am
Mr Celestine Akpobari, a human rights and environmental activist is also the former Chairman of Gokana Council Area. He has been in the forefront of Ogoni struggle since the demise of Ken Saro -Wiwa.


Mr Celestine Akpobari, a human rights and environmental activist is also the former Chairman of Gokana Council Area. He has been in the forefront of Ogoni struggle since the demise of Ken Saro -Wiwa. He spoke with ANN GODWIN in Port Harcourt on the impact of the flag-off of the clean-up of Ogoni land.

Can you itemise the gains the clean-up exercise will bring to the Ogoni people?
The Ogoni people are predominantly fishermen and farmers. They do not have so much employment in the civil service or in the companies. So their basic means of livelihood has been destroyed by oil company activities. So, coming to kickstart the clean-up will restore hope in our people, that one day our lands and water would be restored. People can go back to their fishing and farming especially in the system and environment where government has disappeared.

There is a complete absence of government. You buy your generator and give yourself electricity, you give yourself water, you pay your hospital bill, send your children to school.  So if you don’t have any means, there is nothing for you and for your future.  So to restore back our land and our fishing business is a thing of joy. It signals a new dawn in Ogoniland.

Are you saying the move means well for the Ogoni people especially, now there is food crisis in the country?
The Ogonis have been waiting for this exercise for over 30 years. Ken Saro Wiwa died about 20 years ago and we started this struggle 10 years before he was murdered. So over 30 years, we have been waiting.  The exercise will not be automatic because you cannot go tomorrow morning and start fishing or farming. It is a process. While the clean-up is going on for the 30 years they talked about, our people will engage in some services that will support their fishing and farming businesses.

Unfortunately, the long awaited exercise is coming at a time the Niger Delta Avengers are bombing oil installations in the region, won’t it affect the whole process?
It will affect it because we are talking about cleaning our waterways. When you clean today and tomorrow another spill comes up because when you break pipelines, oil is gushing out into the Rivers and this water is a chain, it cannot stop, so it’s a problem. I wish to let the Niger Delta Avengers know that environment is man’s first right and everything about a man is tied to his environment. The day you begin to destroy the environment, you are destroying yourself.

There is no way they will not breath the air from this environment they are destroying, they will also need to eat fish. So they are indirectly destroying themselves. The earlier they stop the bombing, the better. They should go to Abuja to demonstrate and leave the region alone.

Would you say that Ken Saro Wiwa has been vindicated by this move?
The struggle has been on, that is why Akpobari Celestine has been there, the struggle has continued and we will not stop until we achieve all because there are several demands such as the issues of political marginalization. No Ogoni indigene has been governor, deputy governor, Speaker or Chief Judge.

Is it not disappointing that a President from the North is carrying out the exercise when we had the son of the region as a president for six years and he did nothing about this?
It is not only disappointing, but shameful  because then, oil was about 150 dollar per barrel and today oil is less than 50 dollars. It is shameful that a President from the North has the political will to do what the Niger-Delta son could not do. It is shameful.

Will this exercise harness the relationship between the Ogonis and the oil companies?
Let them clean up the mess first. The return of oil companies is not the issue to talk about for now.

Is the community being carried along in the whole process?

MOSOP is driving the process. So if MOSOP is there, the communities are carried along.

Do you have confidence in the whole process as it looks like a political move?
It is not a political move because I discussed with former President Jonathan’s government and I have discussed with Buhari government, I know the difference.

The integrity of the current Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed cannot be faulted. She is a human right activist. She practices what she preaches. In this exercise, the International best practice will be applied and it will be transparent. The eyes of the world is upon this clean- up. So we are really prepared for it because if we miss this opportunity, we may not get it again.