The Ogoni, the North and the Quest for Political Autonomy By Ogaga Ifowodo

Ogaga Ifowodo

Two weeks ago, a faction of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People led by Goodluck Diigbo proclaimed political autonomy. The action appears to be the outcome of internal wrangling over the implementation of the report of the United Nations Environmental Programme on the devastating impact of oil on Ogoniland and how to mitigate the disaster.

But Diigbo claims that it was prompted by an irresponsive government set on ensuring that the Ogoni “will continue to suffer from historic injustices.” The declaration, controversy aside, is not a new development as it merely echoes the 1993 Bill of Rights on the basis of which MOSOP mobilized the Ogonis to halt oil production in its lands and confront the Nigerian state with its atrocities.  The faction of MOSOP led by Ben Naneen has disavowed the declaration, but not the allegations of neglect and devastation, saying only that the Ogoni have yet to decide, collectively, “to seek the path of sovereignty as a solution.” For my purposes here, the procedural question matters little. As Diigbo has explained, the declaration is not an act of secession. “We are acting with legitimacy to reclaim all of our rights, without exception,” he says, and that to me is the heart of the matter.

Those words describe the struggle of the Niger Delta to salvage its ecology and economy from a viciously exploitative Nigerian state. While the ruling cabal of this state founded on colonial domination cannot agree on anything pertaining to nation-building, it is wondrously united in the goal of sucking the Niger Delta dry of its oil and gas and blighting its land and waters. But this mindless expropriation mirrors the subjugation of the country as a whole. The irony of a Niger Delta ethnic group declaring political autonomy while one of the region’s own, Goodluck Jonathan, is president points to the truth of our predicament: no matter the ethnic identity of the president, the colonial edifice called Nigeria will continue to crumble brick by brick until we convene a sovereign national conference for the urgent task of rebuilding. But since our so-called leaders will not hear of anything not to do with the sharing of political offices and petro-dollars among themselves, only one option is open to those aggrieved by Nigeria: gradual withdrawal of loyalty to the totalitarian centre. That is the meaning of Diigbo’s declaration.

As it happens, the Niger Delta is hardly the first to demand, by word or deed, a renegotiation of the articles of association. When in 1953 the Northern delegation stormed out of a House of Representatives session in Lagos at which the southern delegates were intent on independence sooner rather than “as soon as practicable,” they were insisting on political autonomy. In the end, it was the small matter of customs duties and access to the sea that dissuaded Ahmadu Bello, leader of the North, from succumbing to what he acknowledged in his autobiography as the “very tempting” idea of secession then sweeping the region like a gale.

Truth is that the North has always been fierce about political autonomy. At the various regional conferences to discuss the framework of devolution of powers to a central body, the North issued the South an ultimatum: 50% of the seats in the central legislature or no further part with Nigeria. It desired the loosest federation possible, essentially indistinguishable from confederacy. The concession of greater representation would later be backed up by dubious population figures. With the British in their corner, the North played the game of political brinkmanship to perfection. The 1952 census, aimed at establishing the basis of electoral constituencies, turned demographic logic on its head by proposing, in effect, that the closer to inhospitable domains, in this case the Sahara Desert, the greater the population density. That paradox has haunted every subsequent census and has been instrumental to the North’s sense of political entitlement, of its people as first among equals in Nigeria. Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule may have given the most arrogant expression to this notion by reserving governance for the Hausa-Fulani, but it is a widely shared belief of the Northern elite. It is the view that Juniad Mohammed, echoing the Northern Governors Forum and the Arewa Consultative Forum, stated recently while rejecting the proposed restructuring of Nigeria into six equal geo-political regions split evenly between north and south. Democracy, Mohammed reminds us, is “a game of numbers” and so the North, awarded sixty percent of Nigeria by census figures, cannot be equal to the South. So good is the North at this mathematical democracy that the numbers have grown from 50% representation to 60%! And once again, it is either this or ... “anarchy,” says Mohammed. More anarchy, presumably, than Boko Haram is currently causing the country.

This restatement of the North’s ultimatum to the rest of Nigeria began on 27 January 2000 when Ahmed Sani, as governor of Zamfara State, enacted the first Shari’a penal code in northern Nigeria, a deed emulated by all of the core northern states. It was tantamount to judicial secession since it violates the constitutional prohibition of the federal or any state government from adopting a state religion. Freedom of religious belief and worship notwithstanding, the extension of Shari’a to criminal law breaches other core constitutional provisions governing evidence, due process, human rights and the dignity of the human person.  And then there is the ultimate question of the grundnorm or basic law: the constitution or God? If for the sake of argument we say the latter, whose interpretation and whose credo of revealed wisdom would prevail?

The Ogoni declaration may be the product of factional in-fighting but it is a legitimate and commendable act of self-determination. Confronted by a stone deaf government that loves to play dumb and blind as well, we must all begin to withdraw group loyalty to the centre. It is already happening, anyway, what with all the ethnic platforms and militias, so why not make a declaration of it?

© Ogaga Ifowodo

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Very correct! An English

Very correct! An English journal back in the days said the only reason for making sure the north and the south remains together was to use the resources of the rich south to develop the less endowed north. The union is a mistake and if we don't stand-up and resolve this thing by talking about it, then it will be a big problem. An unattended sore always festers and smells, that's the situation we are now, it's smelling and people can no longer stand the stench!


I am the 67yr old sole carer for a 95 yr old father, we have aoslmt no family left and rely on outside care help which until earlier this year was from local government but now is switched to a private organisation. We have gone from a superb caring system to a money making system, the ladies are quite good with my father but the organisation and management behind them is total rubbish, we get no continuity of carers, never the same times, it is a complete fiasco. My father is lucky that he has me to shout for him when needed but there must be many old ,vunerable and frightened people out there who have no one,Why does not someone out there listen to us, people should not be treated in this way, surely there should be some respect for old age.

Southern parrots

So easy as it seems to be,even the sahara southern sectionalist media unfortunately are about to achieve their mission,the world has no place for those that read with mare eyes and blunty visions,mischevious servant framing to see their masters in hell,biafra will just be another day dream.

It is Better to Put Issues in Perspective4

So the North is in a dilemma and it's giving Nrthern elites sleepless nights, never mind all the pretensions and screaming headlines. When the North hears the South talk of separation, the North certainly thinks of South Sudan and North Sudan and how much life has changed for the people of the North in just 12months since the petrodollars of the South stopped flowing. Khartoum is no longer at ease and I am sure Northern Nig is very worried. The way forward is a SNC, devolution of powers, Sha'ria for the North and resource control for the South. The South feels the reason it is not making progress in dev is becuase of the Federal Govt and so the South is angry.

It is Better to Put Issues in Perspective3

But the truth be told, if Isaac Adaka Boro, Ken Saro Wiwa, Ojukwu etc are all dead and the issues remain, how long can Nig survive? Even during June 12, the clamour for disintegration was no this loud. The regions were not intereseted in separation. But all that has changed and two things are on people's minds in the entire south, SNC or disintegration come 2015. The North is caught in a dilemma part of whih it created: Without SNC, Nig will soon break violently and the North will lose access to the resources of the South. With SNC, Nig MAY survive but in a new arrangement where the North will lose access to the resources of the South.

It is Better to Put Issues in Perspective2

The SW can control the services (financial/admin) in the West African hub. It is the North and the SS that will face problems. Presently, the North is almost barren: no industrial base, no tangible natural resources and worse of all no human capital, so the first 60yrs will be very tough until the North can get a foreign lifeline through investment in agric or else, the North will just be another Niger, Mali, Chad or Mauritania depending on humanitarian aid for survival. The SS will have to contend with inter-ethnic rivalry: Ijaw, Urhobo, Benin, Itsekiri, Ibibio etc. Coupled with the fact that the small population of the SS will be sitting on huge oil/gas reserves both on/off shore is a recipe for disaster (Dutch disease) if not properly managed.

It is Better to Put Issues in Perspective! 1

First, we are better off in one Nig. I visited Borno, Kano, Yobe, Zamfara, and Bauchi and came back to the South telling myself that the South has so much to be grateful to God for becuase if the we complains of economic hardship then we'd go to the North and see the meaning of the term "poverty". But that said, there is no way Nig as presently constituted will survive. It's only a question of time. As for the prospects of the regions: The SE has the best chance in the present era of globalization because they ve trade and technology (like Japan/China)so they don't need oil or land to thrive. In fact, in 30-50yrs after breakup, the SE should be able to build an African Taiwan if their leadership is right.

which was why they tried

which was why they tried every means to subvert the Constitution of Nigeria to prevent GEJ from succeeding Invalid yar'Adua at that time before the Senate rose to uphold the Constitution. The same quest to perpuate their kins to the Presidency of Nigeria made them to violently fought to stop GEJ from winning the last election which they failed woefully, only for them to now adopt gorrila warfare to make the Northern part of the country ungorvanable to the President as they threatened during the election. People should open their eyes to really see the deceit of these people. South East does not need oil or barren desert land of the Core North to survive as a people. Besides, the Hausa/Fulani led Miltary artificial creation can not determine the Boundary of the South East. You should concern yourself with your lazy parasitic almajari that make up 75 percent of the Core Northern Population.

@Aliyu Muhammad Shehu,

@Aliyu Muhammad Shehu, Igboman has always been the Hausa-Fulanis biggest Nightmare in Nigeria, During the Hausa-Fulani led Military Era, they devised all sorts of polices to economically/Politically enmasculate the Igboman, created States to disadvantage of the Igbos, but the never-say-die attitude of the Igboman always prevailed over those evil schemes. The Fulani cum Hausa feudal lords turned their back to one of their own Al-Mustapha because he spill the bean at Oputa Panel where he revealed that there was existence of writen documents made by a section of the country after the war that forbids the Presidency of Nigeria from getting into the hands of people of the Old Eastern region

@nagodi, Osita's message is Nigeria is creation of north's milit

Osita Dioka's message is plain and simple to understand: his message was that Nigeria as constituted now is a creation from the imagination of erstwhile military dictators loyal to descendants of Othman Dan Fodio. And one must add: Nigeria as presently constituted must never survive as one country. The descendants of Othman Dan fodio can deploy all manner of force and deception to defend the present One Nigeria, but it must amount to an effort in futility. It took just little Lithuania to declare independence from the rest of Soviet Union, and lo, in a blink of an eye, all the nations forced together by Russia were freed. North of Nigeria can say no to this, no to that because it has a false majority in the NASS deriving from the undue myriad states created in it. But the days of One Nigeria are numbered.

Biafra and Oduduwa republics can only see peace

Southsouth & southeast together after balkanization of Nigeria? No, I dont want forced marriage. If south south want to go their way, it is better for the southeast. Southeast (Biafra) and Southwest (Oduduwa) are the only two groups with possible sustainable separate countries. They are Igbos and Yorubas respectively - therefore any internal problem could easily be resolved. The rest like Southsouth are amalgams of minorities and will have difficulty as cracks will open after the first election. Same as the North - the midbelt will feel suffocated and want their way out too. So Biafra and Oduduwa will have the last laughs. Lets tear this damn thing down and to your tents oh Israel!!



This is a brilliant medium

This is a brilliant medium and I totally agree with many of your ideas,in the sense that the ruling elite as consistently govern with little or no consequences with the decision that were made,either good or bad for the people to claim to represent. The west has helped to prop up kleptocratic regime by ways of making money readily available to carry out their ruthless totalitarian policies, at the detriment of the owner of the recourse. Furthermore, creating resistance within this absurd system might however be the only way forward in resisting this highly centralized system that has relegated its own people in to perpetual poverty with no hope for the ordinary citizen.
I will also like to say that if the northern givernors continued to resist change,history will judge them as failures just like their predecessor that forms political parties along the ethnic and sectional lines,southern included.

Write about secession and revolution NOT literature

Pls Ogaga,U and Okey N. shud write about how to secede or confront d Nigerian political system. D latter is almost impossible as there will be divergent interests inimical to mass action. However, secession is possible. Unlike 1967, pple have become wiser. Finance nd intelligence more than ever before play cardinal roles in warfare that might arise. To this, the North or any other combination will have no answer to the South South & South East alliance.

It is arrant self deception for anyone to think that Nigeria will progress when its Northern parasites move exactly in d opposite direction 2d South in every facet of development index. Finally, I advise u to stop writing d history of d problems (which we already know) nd concentrate on writing about practical solutions via civil disobedience, revolution(armed or spiritual)etc.

The Military

They certainly will fight to 'unite' Nigeria, as former IG of Police was talking tough on NTA against state police. Then you have the 'public figures' across wide sections of the country who keep arguing in favour of unity. Many of them are either pretenders or they are gaining massively from the present arrangement. What we need as you have stated is a loose federation of six coequal geopolitical zones, and then, Nigeria will make progress.


The center is about to crumble, I can see a disaster coming like a tales of the tortoise who borrowed feather from his friends Birds and fly with them to an invitation in heaven. By reaching there, he told his friends that they will bear a name. As you know tortoise is the cunniest and greedy animal, he looks for a suitable name for himself.wait to hear the name he gave himself. (YOU-ALL). So when the party begins the name of the tortoise begin to materialized, because every food brought to them, was declared for YOU-ALL. which is the name of the tortoise.Because of his greedness, he takes all forgeting that he borrowed feather to fly.At last all his friends were angry and collected their feathers and fly home leaving tortoise alone.To cut the story short. this made the tortoise to crash land on the ground. so Nigeria is about to crash land like the tortoise in this story.Ethnics group that made up nigeria is about to withdraw their support.


The power elite of the Hausa-Fulani are full of deception and double standard in their political deeds,they rejected rotational presidency and the geo-political to the in the constitution in Abacha constitutional conference,later in 2011,same people said presidency has been Zoned to the North,same people introduce unconstitutional sharia,now shouting about Anthem and logo backed by law by Bayelsa state,No to state police,they have sharia police(HISBAH),No to fiscal federalism but Northern state governors are asking for more revenue,want to control commissioners of Federal police,U can only control what have and finance by law.Indigene/settlers discrimination in all state of the North wants settlers to be indigenes in Plateau State


The summary of this article is 'confused write-up by a confused writer'
These stereotypes by ill-educated elites must stop for Nigeria to develop.
What has the north to do with Ogoni declaration to the exclusion of the south?
Why must an article on a group of people's right be a platform to attack another group, especially by some one who should have been educated?
Why is the article delibrately 'abusive' and devoid of any FACT or referrence to FACTS?
These ill-educated elites CANNOT develop any country be it Nigeria or Ogoni.

Ogoni Autonomy Declaration:

The Ogoni people are right to declare what ever they want. I said it before and i will continue to say it here that had it been that the Northern part of Nigeria was geographically and naturally endowed with oil/gas, by now, noe of them will agree to have "One Nigeria".Never! They will always talk about using groundnut oil money to sponsor the first oil exploration in Nigeria,yes, correct and for more than 30 years, the presidency was given to them on am platter of gold.If I may ask, where is the groundnut pyramid in the North? Have they abandon agriculture only to sit on thousands meetings to deliberate how to rule Nigeria for ever and control Niger Delta oil money that does not belong to them? Sooner or latter all regions will leave Nigeria for those who want it to remain"one" through Bomb and barrel of guns!!!

we no gree!

It baffles me sick, that with such affront, the so called leaders in the rest of the country are playing ball. We the pple want out, and that, IMMEDIATELY! DIVISION OR WAR! Yes, WAR!

question to northern parasitic elites

Junaid mohd,can you tell us why you can not take your illusionize 60% and move back to desert where you belong and form your islamic republic of 60% you think we are afraid of your illusionize n demented anarchy. 60% that doesn't contibute to the national purse. Just destructive parasites feeding fat on another man's backyard and still demanding for more,even wen the owner havnt eating as much as they av stolen for 52yrs. We are all waiting for 2015 is either everyman to himself or you bring your anrchy to the table let's see who bleed first. Imagaine bello changings his seccessionist mindset, cos of yoruba's seaport.infact all of them are born parasitic. Very lazy o work but still pesting everywhere in south begging with bowl in hand. Some even demanded that fashola allow them there right to beg.don't even know what lugard was thinking before he commit this great genocidal decision.born beggers

d house is falling already

Everyone with great sense of history knows north have always wanted to seccede from this mess of a country, before the advent of petro dollars.they are now glued to the carcas of the widering country because they have become a great parasite to the south resources, with there oliver twist baboons govnor and arid elites demanding for more petro dollars that they doesn't know how it's been mallam tunde bakare who is inlove with dame jonathan n more interest about jona not doing anything concern ogoni right of freedom, than the monstrous BH ravaging d whole northen part and decimated his whole xtain people.for me ogoni have done the right. Everyone have to right to its God given resources and environs. And for those day dreaming that jona will role in tAnks, they better wake up from reality cos bit by bit they lugurdian tragedy must fall.

Ogoni declaration

Nigeria is one indivisible entity but every one knows his father's house. Nigeria and indeed Nigerians are no longer compatable, what is required is the redefinition of our unity, how best can we path way since the unity is not workable with dominance by one region? Interestingly nigeria has already redesign the structure through creation of geo political zone. Why not think toward that direction and let each zone be on its own? Northern and Southern Sudan has been together like Nigeria, but today is another story. Nigeria need disintegration no two way about it.

The Ogoni Land Claimer

Nigeria is really heading to a jungle political retrogression and economic backwardness.All these allegation that the north is this or that is becouse of present economic advantage of south-south over north.The dedication,determination,zeal and commitment of an ordinary northerner have been eroded since 1975 when oil was discovered in commercial quantity in Nigeria.south-south,south-west and south-east are united ONLY IN newspapers because north is their common enemy. I am wondering why a south easterner with virtually no land and natural resource will look at a northerner as parasite!How i wish Nigeria will disentigrate the way southerners wants it to be and see who will suffer.Crude oil is not a blessing to Nigeria.What south-south leaders are doing with their 13% derivation.


The general perception amongst progressive Nigerians from all regions is that the stance of the northern political class and thier tendency to oppose every initiative aimed at achieving an equitable society where equal opportunities and reward for hard work and enterprise in a free market economy is the norm is harmful to the Nigerian "unity".The north's unrealistic insistence on the "military documents" drafted by dictatorships of the past will never go down well with the other regions whose perpetual subjugation is assured so as long as these obnoxious dictatorial documents still hold sway.
Census figures,lopp-sided state and local government configuration,clandestine federal character,application of sharia law,fake normadic education,systematic monopoly of the armed forces etc all aspects of the unacceptable status-quo forced upon us by the military must be eliminated.


The issue is not "unity",the entity called Nigeria does have the endorsement of most Nigerians,rather the conditions for that "unity" remains the treacherous puzzle.The original articles establishing the Nigerian state recognised the complexity of the country's make-up hence the enshrinement of true and fiscal federalism in that article.The faliure of the Nigerian state to implement basic fiscal federalism since independence has led to numerous bouts of percieved disloyalty including a bloody civil war laced with genocide.
Self determination is a natural phenomenom,its suppression by any means hardens the resolve of those who seek it,in our case it constitutes a threat to that "unity" which the dishonest and corrupt political class claim to protect.The preservation of our nationhood will depend on the wisdom of providing a forum where honest and peaceful deliberations will happen.


You tried by expressing your opinion. That is democracy the game of sentiment as well.

SS: A den of hypocrites

A leading Ijaw elder in the 9ja delta claims that the ijaws have already dumped GEJ as according to him, GEJ does not favour the Ijaws outright but is giving undue preferential treatment to his minority Ogbia clan over the mainstream Ijaw! He further stated that GEJ's Ogbia is a minority and not even mainstream Ijaw. Wonders shall never end.

Hahaha. I de laugh o!

Ogaga you have truly gone GAGA!

My dear writer, your fellow crumb catchers on SR, @deri, @ify-liar4ever, @OC, @stanley igwe have all reminded those who cared to listen that it is the north that conspired to make the 9ja delta what it is today.

However your claim that even though a son of the 9ja delta is president nothing will change goes a long way in showing us the kind of hypocrites these crumb catchers are. And you as well.

If having your own son as president cannot douse your calls for 'SNC' or fiscal federalism, then your claimed oppression under northern rule is nothing but a ruse.

It is a well known fact that 9ja has made more money from '99 to date, than it has made since independence to '99.

We know you don't want to be called greedy selfish bastards who are only interested in money that is why you paint yourselves as freedom fighters and not the gluttons for oil money that you actually are.



Confronted by a stone deaf government that loves to play dumb and blind as well, we must all begin to withdraw group loyalty to the centre. It is already happening, anyway, what with all the ethnic platforms and militias, so why not make a declaration of it?

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