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Former president Olusagun Obasanjo has noted the need for genuine reconciliation in all fronts of the country, calling for an attention on the causes of the incessant agitations and protests in the country.
Obasanjo, who spoke yesterday at the book presentation -’Witness to Reconciliation: My Personal Journey Towards Reconciliation in Ogoni’, authored by Bishop of Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, in Port Harcourt, said the failure to attend to issues that require urgent attention is the bane of most human conflicts.
Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi was also in attendance at the event, while the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike hosted the event.
Speaking, the former president stressed that there is no human disagreement that cannot be resolved through dialogue. To this end, he enjoined Ogoni people to continue to strive for peace and reconciliation.
Obasanjo said the government must have the courage and the political will to address pressing issues in order to forestall the agitations.
He described Kukah as ‘meticulous’, adding that the book was borne out of his experience as Secretary of the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Panel and Chairman of the Ogoni/Shell Reconciliation Committee.
According to Obasanjo, “The aim of the excursion which brought about the book we are presenting today is not leaving situation that needs attention unattended to.
“This is very important in any human organisation and any human relation and interaction. The situation in Ogoni land had gone from bad to worse, particularly after the Justice Chukwudifu Oputa Panel the issue of the situation of Ogoni land featured prominently.
“And I thought it was necessary to not leave unattended. But I found out that government was not fully trusted by the Ogoni people. Shell of course was a corporate body that was not trusted at all.”
Speaking further, he added, “When there is a human issue that requires attention don’t leave it unattended to. Because it will continue to go from bad to worse. And I believe that all human disputes, human disagreements can be talked about and be resolved by human beings.”
He commended the former governor of Rivers State, Dr. Peter Odili for his cooperation with the federal government and the support given to Kukah on the job in Ogoni to ensure all the key stakeholders were on board in the reconciliation effort.
While noting that reconciliation, mediation, peace-making are not a one night affair, Obasanjo said, “Unless you can continue persistently you may not get there at the end of the day,” he said, expressing delight that after he and Odili left office successive administrations continued the effort.
In his remark, Governor Wike urged Ogoni to embrace the spirit of reconciliation and forgiveness.
The governor pointed out that the incidents that culminated in the loss of lives in Ogoniland in the 1990s, which later precipitated the setting up of the Justice Oputa panel by the President Olusegun Obasanjo administration, remain painful.
“It behoves on us to know that it is for the interest of Ogoni people to allow peace to prevail in Ogoniland. There is nobody that will lose even if it is a chicken that will not be painful. We agree, but for how many years now, where are we?”
Governor Wike regretted that efforts aimed at fostering peace in Ogoniland by the likes of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, former Rivers State governor, Dr. Peter Odili and others, have been pathetically frustrated by Ogonis themselves.
“You know every effort made to achieve peace, there is always one faction here that will come against this. You put this other effort, this other people will come from this place and make sure there is no peace.
“Accusation and counter accusation. Blackmail and all kind of things, at the end of the day, who is losing? We must tell ourselves the truth that we need peace in Ogoniland in order to move the Ogoni people forward.”
The Bishop of Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan Kukah, thanked Ogoni people for the support accorded him when he was saddled with the responsibility of driving the Ogoni peace process.
He also commended Governor Wike, who launched the book with the sum of N50 million, for hosting the presentation and unveiling of the book in Port Harcourt.