Ogoni day: Tonye Cole remembers the struggle, assures of better days

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Governorship candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Rivers State, Tonye Cole has celebrated leaders of the Ogoni nation whose struggles have helped made Ogoni land a better place.

Cole who was speaking at the Ogoni Day Celebration in Bori, said their struggles were worth celebrating.

He also reeled out the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration’s efforts in Ogoni land since assuming power in 2015, including the government’s efforts to bring electricity to Ogoni land.

Read full address below:

Full Text of Tonye Cole’s Address to Ogoni People on Ogoni Day Celebration today in Bori

Gbene Ogoni!
(Bue ka’!)
Gbene Ogoni!
(Bue zor),
Gbene Ogoni!
( Kaa’ alene Bari)

Today, Wednesday January 4th, 2023, I join the Ogoni people and millions of people the world over to whom the Ogoni struggle typifies a struggle for a better environment and an improvement in human rights, to celebrate the annual OGONI DAY.

One key event in your struggle was the signing in August 1990 of the Ogoni Bill of Rights by most of your respected elders, most of whom are martyrs, and continue to be celebrated worldwide. In this most important document, you demanded for “political control of Ogoni affairs by Ogoni people, control and use of Ogoni economic resources for Ogoni development, adequate and direct representation as of right for Ogoni people in all Nigerian national institutions and the right to protect the Ogoni environment and ecology from further degradation.

The struggle culminated in the 4th of January 1993 peaceful protest by some 300,000 Ogonis against environmental destruction of Ogoniland.

Your efforts and that of many people all over the world who supported this most valiant struggle of yours led to the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). This declaration establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for the survival, dignity and well-being of the indigenous people of the world and it elaborates on existing human rights standards and fundamental freedom as they apply to the specific situation of indigenous peoples, of which Ogoni is one.

So today is a day to to celebrate the virtues of resilience, determination , perseverance, & staying true to the demand for improvements in individual & population rights. That’s what you, the Ogoni’s stood for and continue to stand for till this day.

These positive attributes and virtues found in the people of Ogoni land, and most of the people of Rivers State resonate with me. In most of my adult and working life, I have supported and commit to support the Ogoni people and the organisations that drive the message that represents the desires of the Ogoni people. Some of these supports have also been to support the celebration of Ogoni day at different times from years ago.

I understand that this event may not be the place for partisan politicking, however we must together take stock of where we are with the Ogoni struggle and what it represents for the Ogoni’s, the people of Rivers State, and what the future portends.

The Ogoni journey to a better life has by no means been easy. No one can say so. However, as commonly said, ‘nothing good comes easy’. B.C. Forbes also said “ hard work is not fatal to success’

Your struggle was a key one in bringing the living situation in many of our rural communities to light. The Ogoni’s drove the messages way beyond the shores of Nigeria to the world. In that sense, you have become the standard against which world wide environmental and human right issues are benchmarked. This has spurned the growth of a vibrant local industry in environmental & human rights activism, a focused civil society sector which continues to set standards for best practise in the private sector and government, and has brought more attention and an increasing inflow of funds into the environmental sector in Nigeria. For this, we are most grateful.

In response to your struggles, the FGN got the United Nations to carry out an environmental assessment of Ogoni land. This culminated in the UNEP Ogoniland Report 2011. The FGN accepted ALL the recommendations contained in that report. However after an earlier jerky start to the implementation of that  report , the APC -led Federal Government of Nigeria under the administration of our President Muhammdu Buhari GCFR in 2016 put in place a very robust framework , leading to setting up HYPREP – Hydrocarbon Pollution Remediation Project. This was done after extensive consultation with different Ogoni people and stakeholders. HYPREP today is up and running , and strives to restore the Ogoni environment, and improve the livelihood of the people. Without holding brief for the Project Coordinator of HYPRER, I can’t but inform you that the APC -led FGN through the Federal Executive Council just approved funds for the immediate improvements in provision of power to all Ogoni communities. Very soon , Ogoni will see almost 24-hours power supply.

The APC as a party, and in the many organisations it has control over , has continued to demonstrate empathy for the demands of the Ogoni people. This love for the Ogoni’s has been shown in many ways beyond just the reinvigoration and support for HYPREP and remediation of Ogoni land.

In response to your cries, the APC has nominated many Ogoni sons and daughters to the helm of affairs of many ministries , departments and agencies of government. Some of these agencies are some with responsibilities to development of Ogoni land and other parts of the Niger Delta, & also to empower our people. It is important to note that true to the acknowledged Ogoni spirit , your sons and daughters discharged their duties creditably. Many of these Ogoni sons and daughters who have served , & continue to serve are with us at todays epoch event.

How can we forget the most important Bodo-Bonny road which is also being constructed by the APC led government. The benefits to the people of Ogoni land , and Rivers State are better imagined.

I am a member of the APC that has done all the many great things I have stated above, & much more . I also put myself forwards to run for the governorship of Rivers State on the platform of the APC. By God’s special grace , I’m the governorship candidate for the APC in the forthcoming elections. I am a 100% sure that by the special grace of God , and with you the great Ogoni people in partnership and togetherness, we (including many of your son’s and daughters on the platform of the APC) will be at the helm of affairs to put that Ogoni vision together with the aspirations of many other people in Rivers State at the heart of governance in Rivers State in May 2023.

I would have said a lot more to you, but the day is far gone, as I’m sure that this celebration is going on in most Ogoni communities and in the hearts of most Ogoni people and sympathisers of your struggle worldwide. May God bless you all , & keep your spirits high.

Finally , I speak of togetherness , because we are stronger together. We can achieve great things together. The Ogoni struggle was successful because of unity of purpose and togetherness.  As we journey into a better Rivers State, I advise all Ogoni’s to continue to seek for increasing unity and togetherness. You must come together, and build on the successes of the past. In these times of campaigns and electioneering, I know Ogoni’s in partnership with other people of Rivers State will join hands to lead the ideals of our forefathers and bring their ideals closer to the people.

Thank you and do have a wonderful celebration of Ogoni day 2023.

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