Let me first of all thank the Almighty God who has made it possible for all of us to gather here today and the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers ably led by my father, His Royal Majesty, King G. N. K. Gininwa for providing this platform for us to come and discuss issues of security and welfare of our fatherland.
I want to use this forum to also thank God for making it possible for me to stand before you today as a Distinguished Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I'm grateful to the Governor of Rivers State, Barrister Nyesom Wike and people of Rivers South-East for giving me this opportunity to serve. I pledge my total commitment towards the actualisation of my mandate and by God's grace we shall succeed with your support and prayers.
I believe this is my first public meeting in Ogoni after my inauguration. I therefore see it as timely as it offers me the opportunity to bare my mind on some of the touching issues affecting us as a people. First, is the issue of Security in Ogoniland. It's saddening to see blood flowing in Ogoni every passing day. Our youths are foolishly killing themselves and other persons when there is actually no war and they themselves are not fighting for anything whatsoever. Therefore, this must stop because Ogoni people have never been seen to be criminals. Our fathers earned integrity through hard work, honesty and dexterity in service, So We must stop these youths who have been possessed by the devil to destroy lives and scatter communities in ogoni.
We all know that anybody who kills and disturbs the peace of the society, what befalls that person is death. If we all sit aloof and allow our youths kill themselves, who are we going to use to work for the betterment of Ogoniland and who are the people to enjoy the brighter future that's coming ahead of us. Let us therefore drop our personal, political and community interests and grievances and come together to work for the peace and development of Ogoniland.
As for me , I feel there is a practical solution to this menace. I've therefore resolved to take up the issues of cultism and killings as a cardinal project I'll pursue and confront within the first one year of my stewardship in the Senate. Let me assure you that this evil plaque shall be a thing of the past very soon.
Secondly, let me speak on the issues of Clean-up and resumption of Oil exploration in Ogoniland. As a member of the House of Representatives' Committee on Environment and as a grassroot Ogoniman, I've never been impressed with what is going on with the clean up project. I actually feel lost at times about what is really happening with the implementation of the project as to whether or not they are doing it in line with UNEP Reports. However, after my inauguration I've started consultations with relevant stakeholders in the implementation process and I think at the appropriate time, I will tell Ogoni people what I see and how we can make it faster for the benefit of our people.
Now talking about oil exploration in Ogoniland, it looks to me that Ogoni people are not presently against resumption of oil exploration. What I think people are concerned about is, how they are going to do that, after several years of stoppage, which as all of us are fully aware, was a common decision taken by our people in response to the many years of neglect, deprivation and oppression which we suffered in the hands of SPDC and the Nigerian State.
Personally, I support the idea of resuming oil exploration in Ogoniland. And my main reason for supporting it is the fact that the major cause of the problems we are facing today in Ogoni, is hunger and poverty. Yes hunger! Truth be told: what happens when the main sources of people's livelihood have been devastated; their farmlands and rivers polluted and their ecosystem destroyed? They are now left to wallow in hunger, frustrated and depression.
I'm not in any way trying to justify the criminal tendencies of our youths at this time, but I strongly feel one way of drastically reducing poverty and hunger in Ogoni,
is to carefully ensure that when oil exploration resumes, it comes with a sustainable people oriented template. A lot of mistakes have been made in the past. It is therefore very important that at this point in our history, efforts must be made to get it right. We can't have wealth beneath us and our people continue to suffer hunger, poverty and frustrations. We must negotiate how to use our resources to put food on the table and create opportunities for sustainable growth and development for our people. I believe this would've been the position of Ken Saro-Wiwa and our forebears should they still be alive. And we must not afford to make a second mistake.
Though I'm aware that several committees have been set up in that direction, let me say that there's still the need to continue to consult widely to create room for a more open and transparent process that would bring about mutual understanding and engender peace and confidence building among the generality of ogoni people, such that will earn the collective trust and mandate of the Ogoni people. I therefore wish to call on our sons, daughters and professionals who still have useful ideas of how we can get it right this time around, to offer their wealth of experience and wisdom to us in this direction. Furthermore, no effort should be spared to continue to review the templates provided by organisations in Ogoniland such as Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers, KAGOTE, MOSOP, GBO KABARI, Ogoni Church Leaders Council, Ogoni Youth Council, Forum of Elected Representatives of Ogoni, NGOs and any other community based association in ogoni, as we continue to build consensus from a wider spectrum of Ogoni society, towards achieving our common goal of getting our oil to work for us.
I sincerely think that such approach will definitely help us negotiate well with oil exploration companies and the federal government with the confidence that we are truly speaking the mind of Ogoni people and not driving our own personal interests.
Thirdly, I feel constrained to talk about a seeming confusion in the public domain about who is the right person, with the mandate to speak for the Ogoni people on issues relating to our common aspirations. If you tune to any radio station in Port Harcourt today or choose to read any newspaper in Nigeria, you'll discover that almost everyone who can afford media fees are asserting authority over one organisation or the other and are issuing out conflicting statements on issues concerning the Ogoni people.
Almost all the organised leadership structures in Ogoni have been balkanised along sectional ,political or pecuniary interests. Some are in various courts fighting for the soul of our common destiny. They'll quarrel on air, disgrace themselves and Ogoniland thereby painting Ogoni in a very bad light. This trend is not only disturbing but very shameful and painful and if not stopped is capable of throwing ogoni into another phase of leadership crisis with daring consequences. It is also very confusing and ridiculous when you hear people who ought to speak for the Ogoni people turning around to defend government agencies and companies on issues affecting the people.
To this end I passionately plead with all those who want to speak for the ogoni people to either resign their appointment into government boards, agencies and parastatals that have anything to do with the corporate interest of the Ogoni people or stop speaking for us, so as to avoid a clash of conflicting interests. I also call on the Supreme Council of Ogoni Traditional Rulers and our Elders who are not having appointments in government boards, agencies and parastatals, to henceforth take up the leadership of Ogoniland on all issues affecting us until we sort ourselves out of the structural leadership issues.
We must all come together to stop this disturbing trend and build a united front towards providing the needed leadership for the Ogoni people. Consequently, the Forum of Elected Representatives of Ogoni have agreed to seek ways of resolving all the Leadership crisis affecting us, so as to put everybody together towards building a formidable leadership team for the good of our people. We must show the world that we are a very organized people, and truly we are an organised people.
His Royal Majesty, my dear brothers and Sisters, before I end my remarks, I want to inform you that today is my birthday! I am 58 years old today. I've chosen to cut my birthday cake with all of you in this hall today as a mark of love, solidarity and goodwill towards Ogoni and her cherished people. Please join me cut the cake after this remarks. At this age, my only goal in life is to work for the betterment of Ogoniland and indeed the Senatorial District, so as to make our own children and grandchildren proud of their place of origin.
Finally, I want to tell you that I'm ready for the work you have freely given to me, though I am the Senator of not only the people of Ogoni. I'm also ready and committed to work for the wellbeing, growth and development of the people of Andoni, Opobo-Nkoro and Oyigbo towards making the whole Senatorial District greater and better. Let me once again thank Governor Nyesom Wike for his support and all of you for trusting me to represent you at this time. I shall not betray your trust.