By Kote Obe, Port Harcourt
Former Senate Minority Leader, Senator Bennett Birabi, has accused the Governor of Rivers State, Chief Nyesom Wike, and his predecessor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, of deliberately dividing Ogoni people so as to keep them under perpetual political slavery.
Senator Birabi, son of Paul Birabi, foremost Ogoni leader, was responding to a recent declaration by Wike that the Ogoni were their own worse enemies.
Wike had said at the 2022 Ogoni Day rally at Bori that the quest by Ogoni people to produce a governor in Rivers State had been thwarted by Ogoni leaders, who worked against the aspiration of Senator Magnus Abe.
However, Birabi, who said at a press conference that the fate of an Ogoni governor lay with Wike, the leader of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, the leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the state, appealed to them to consider supporting a candidate from Ogoni area to be governor in 2023.
“For reasons only known to him, Governor Wike has demonstrated in speech, body language and actions that he is at best contemptuous of Ogoni people. Otherwise I sometimes feel he hates us,” Birabi said.
The former Senate Minority Leader also accused Amaechi, the immediate past governor of also failing to reward Ogoni for their political loyalty to him.
“Governor Amaechi during his own tenure mortgaged the whole of Ogoni to one or two of his own Ogoni minions who were ready to lay down their lives for him. Will it not be also spiritually rewarding for him to reciprocate such loyalties for the Ogoni people?” he queried.
Birabi notes that since 1967 when Rivers State was created an Ogoni has not been governor, deputy governor, speaker or chief judge of the state.
“My appeal is based on six fundamentals of justice, equity, fairness, reason, conscience and political morality. They are the authentic basis for any State or country to exist in peace, grow and develop,” he added.
He recalled that the Ogoni suffered a devastating internal crisis resulting in the death of five of her prominent leaders namely Chief Edward Kobani, Chief Samuel Orage, Mr. Albert Badey, Theophilus Orage and Mr. Ken Saro-Wiwa, and over a thousand young men/women in varying circumstances, which resulted in a deep divide between the families of the elders that were killed and those accused of their murder.
“Unfortunately our own tragedy has left us more foolish than we started. And in that internecine crisis, and at our lowest morale, every government in Rivers State instead of helping to heal the wounds, has taken advantage of our weakness and continued to water the seed of disunity and disinformation to keep Ogoni in perpetual subjugation almost to the level of political slavery. We don’t even decide who should represent us in any election or speak for us in our internal issues.
“And to make matters worse, the present government, has unwittingly further widened the divide by taking sides with one faction and turning around to blame the entire race for not uniting when in fact the government is fueling the disunity. Unity has become the excuse for our marginalization. This is mischievous and unfair and bothers on wickedness,” he lamented.
“Can I ask these two gentlemen who run the parties in Rivers State, ‘if you were from Ogoni, would you be happy to be called fellow citizen(s) of Rivers State?’. This is a matter of conscience and I would like to know who in his right mind has the moral high ground to claim that Rivers State has been fair to all concerned,” he said.
“We agree that politics is a contest, but with the examples cited above and for the sake of equity, justice, fairness and political morality, I am appealing to the Rivers People led by their political leaders in the two political parties to pick their next candidate from Ogoni. The choice should be at the discretion of the two political parties, who they think will best serve the Rivers people,” Birabi said.