We understand there is crisis in the MOSOP over the refusal of Ledum Mitee to relinquish his position. What is the present situation?
He has not officially communicated to me that he is not willing to relinquish his position. In good faith, I believe this election represents unity because those who participated and contested the election were from the former two factions of the movement. I believe at the end of the election, we have one MOSOP. Of course, there are people who may feel aggrieved. I take that as my challenge to see what I can do to bring everybody together. The former president is not completely out of the picture. I believe he has acquired some expertise after so many years in the movement. I will also do all I can to use his services, foster unity, advance the cause and work together, not only with him, but with all other people. He is a lawyer by profession and the constitution that guides the movement stipulates two years as a full tenure; and maybe under extraordinary condition, like if you are found competent or there is some serious agenda that the people want you to complete, you are then allowed to go for a second term. So far, in the past 14 years, we have not seen any credible election. This is the very first credible one done under camera, monitored and verified. I think if he were ever elected in the past, his tenure has expired.
Now that he is contesting your election, what is your next step?
The people have spoken. It is not my responsibility to take any next step. If those who gave me the mandate decide to take another step, of course, I would work with the people because I don’t see it as a personality thing. If the people really want change and I support change, the people have spoken.
One of the critical issues for you now is that the federal government has ordered Shell out of Ogoniland and a new company, probably Gazprom may take over from it. What do you intend to do about the relationship between Shell and your people?
The Shell issue is one of the things my new executive will definitely review. The reason why this is very important is that Shell has been in Ogoniland for a very long time. We will initiate dialogue with all interested parties. As far as I am concerned, I think there is still an unfinished business with Shell. Regarding the speculation that a new company will take over from Shell, I am not really aware.
Will you prefer Shell to stay so that you can dialogue with them?
What I have said is that we will operate an open door policy. We will welcome everyone as far as we think there are important issues to be resolved. This does not suggest we are making a choice as to who will not be here at this moment. As for Shell, I see it as an oil company that have unfinished business with the Ogoni people.
What kind of unfinished business?
Specific demands were made by Ogoni people that are yet to be addressed. That does not in anyway imply that I am throwing an invitation to Shell to come back and operate in Ogoniland. I think there should be room for dialogue, even with Shell for the outstanding things that we have not resolved.
What are the unresolved issues?
I would love to go into details but I would like to meet with my executive, so that we can prioritize what we are focusing on. But I believe we have an unfinished business with Shell.
Can you name some of the most pressing ones?
One of them will be the cleaning up of our environment which has been devastated by pollution occasioned by oil spillages. There are also specific financial demands due to the people as a remedy for the ecological and environmental devastation they have suffered. Let’s appreciate that these demands were not made on Shell alone, although you have singled out Shell. As it were, the demands were made on Chevron and the NNPC too.
There is a new security presence in Ogoniland with the establishment of the new mobile police squadron there, what does this portend for the MOSOP?
As far as I am concerned, I am not very familiar with the details but I remember that in 2007, when I came to resolve a four year conflict in some villages in Bua-Teyork community, where over 40,000 people were displaced, I proposed that there should be an increase of security in the area at that time. Basically, if you bring in a well equipped police force for the purposes of security, as long as they are not a burden on the people that is fine. I have also said that my executive shall handover any criminal element to the security agencies. This does not imply that we are calling for a new military installation as some people have suggested to me. Of course, without security the possibility of promoting development will not be there.
Anybody unfamiliar with the MOSOP struggle will say this is another Ken. This is another trouble maker?
Ken was not a trouble maker. I worked very closely with him. He was a man who believed in the truth as a weapon. He believes in arguments based on facts. In that sense, I would say that I will follow the footsteps of Ken. He never rushed to judgement. He takes into account modernity and the benefits that science, and technology can bring to mankind. We are not trouble makers. MOSOP will continue to operate as a non-violent movement. We will also continue to create avenues for dialogue and for peaceful resolution of conflicts.
What is the MOSOP’s place of in the Niger Delta struggle?
MOSOP will remain MOSOP; for Ogoni people. For our neighbours in the Niger Delta, we will work with them, particularly in the area of promoting unity. A lot of blood has been spilled in this region and it is not supposed to be that way. We will continue to give them philosophical support.
What is your agenda as president of MOSOP?
The primary thing is to be united. Unity in MOSOP will mean unity in Ogoni. We will also recruit 3,000 youths for leadership training. Some of the trainees will be attached to the elected leaders of the movement. Most of them will have offices in their localities, so that the training will spread to the grassroots; so that we don’t have a situation where I will remain in office for 14 years because I have not seen anybody to take over from me. The Ogoni Bill of Rights remains a big reference point. There would be a lot of restructuring. The changes will not alter the fact that the struggle is for the survival of our people.
What kind of MOSOP should we expect under your leadership?
A non-violent MOSOP, with preference for dialogue. A MOSOP based on community participation that is open and transparent, a MOSOP that will not see everyone as an enemy. There is nothing remarkably different from what we were in the past. The only thing that will be different is the style of leadership that will be more open and more indulging. a