The year 2016 ran through so rapidly. And just as well. It had a store of horrors – extreme exploitation of nature’s re-sources, wars and repression, massive pollution, deforestation and unconscionable climate inaction. Will these let up in 2017?
While you ponder on what we must do as individuals and as collectives, we serve you another loaded edition of your Eco-Instigator. We share reports, statements and articles hoping that you will get sufciently instigated to step up and speak up as sons and daughters of Mother Earth.
As this edition was going to bed, we received news of the renewed aggression against our partner group, Accion Ecologica by the government of Ecuador. We note the tremendous global solidarity exhibited by individuals and groups from around the world in support of Accion Ecologica. This group is probably one of the foremost environmental justice organisations in the world today and deserves our support. They celebrated 30 years of existence in October 2016 at a grand ceremony held in the Che Guevara Auditorium of the Central University of Ecuador. At that event, several awards were given out to grassroots activists, journalists, academics and others. Yours truly was included in that exalted list in the category of calalysts of the defence of Nature. Here is the list for this category: Ricardo Carrere (late), from World Rainforest Movement (WRM) in Uruguay; Vandana Shiva, of Navdanya of India; The Corner House, of England; Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network of North America; Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria; Silvia Ribeiro from Mexico and Alberto Acosta from Ecuador.
From all of us at HOMEF we bring you the best wishes for a just 2017.
The second quarter of 2016 was a roller-coaster season. Highlights include the continued struggles to save our last remaining rainforests in the Cross River axis of Nigeria. Threatened communities (Edondon, Okokori, Old and New Ekuri) as well as non-governmental organisations have worked to ensure that the proposed Superhighway does not decimate community forests, displace communities and lock in poverty in the resource-rich territory. HOMEF spent three days (9-11th June 2016) in some of the communities, facilitating dialogues and offering training on Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) as advocacy and ecological/forest defence tool. The collaboration of NGOCE, Peace Point Action, GREENCODE, Lokiaka Community Development Centre and Rural Action for Green Environment was invaluable.
May 10, 12 and 14 were special days for us within the Global Breakfree from Fossil Fuels mobilisations. HOMEF marched and held teach-ins at Oloibiri (Bayelsa State), the site of the first oil well in Nigeria, Bori – Ogoni (Rivers State) and Ibeno on the Atlantic coast of Akwa Ibom State. Nigeria. The events sent strong calls for the clean-up of the Niger Delta and reiterated our call to Keep the Oil in the Ground. Actions in 14 other countries underscored the vital importance of these climate actions. The Breakfree events succeeded because of the strong support of 350.org, Chief Nengi James Foundation, Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Social Action, Peoples Advancement Centre, Kabetkache Women Development Centre, Peace Point Action and several others. We bring you reports and photos from the events.
For three days, environmental experts and stakeholders met in Abuja to strategize on what would be the policy direction for environmental governance in Nigeria. We bring you a report from that gathering.
A dark blot on our horizon has been the granting of permits for Monsanto Agriculture Nigeria Ltd to introduce GMOs in Nigeria. We bring you a report from a major Biosafety Conference we co-hosted with the African Faith and Justice Network and other groups in Abuja in May 2016. We also bring you statements and essays on the GMO debacle and the continuing struggle to keep the risky, needless, technology off our lands.
In addition, Our Sustainability Academy #07 held at the University of Abuja on 15th June and at LUFASI Nature Park, Lagos on 17th June 2016. We as as Instigators, Hilma Mote of Africa Labour Research Institute and Ruth Nyambura, ace eco-feminist. They examined the climate change COP21 with the perspectives of the youths, geo-politics and continental challenges. Both instigators became HOMEF Fellows at a ceremony at LUFASI Nature Park, with foremost environmentalist, Desmond Majekodunmi, presenting their fellowship plaques.
The clean up of Ogoni and the Niger Delta was flagged off on 2nd June 2016. That date became a clear milestone in the struggles for the remediation of our extremely polluted Niger Delta. HOMEF was there when it happened. And we are keeping a deeply interested watch over developments in that direction.
As usual we serve you poetry, book reviews and books we suggest that you read. And, do not forget that we are always happy to hear back from you.
The turmoil in the world has continued with increasing sites of environmental and political conflagrations. As this edition of your Eco-Instigator was going to bed, the world was shocked to hear of the assassination in Honduras of Berta Caceres, the outstanding, inspiring, courageous human rights and environmental campaigner, Founder of the Civic Council and Indigenous Peoples of Honduras Association (COPINH). Her murder was compounded by the shooting, and detention of Gustavo Castro, a comrade and leader of Otros Mundos, (Friends of the Earth Mexico). HOMEF joined all people of good conscience to condemn these atrocious actions, demand for justice and, of course, call for a halt to these and similar acts around the world.
Two unfolding scenarios in Nigeria are of great concern to us and we have beamed our spotlight on them in this edition. First is the resolve of biosafety regulators in Nigeria to promote the entry modern agricultural biotechnology into the country. When officials saddled with regulating a sector act as promoters of the very thing they should regulate you can imagine what the tendencies would be. Soon after a deeply flawed National Biosafety Management Bill was hurriedly signed into law by the immediate past president of Nigeria, Monsanto Nigeria Agricultural Ltd rushed two applications for field testing of genetically modified maize and the commercial release of genetically modified cotton in Nigeria. Public notices on these applications were published on 25 February and HOMEF in concert with 99 national organisations sent objections to the National Biosafety Management Agency (NABMA). A short advisory on our objections is published in this issue. We also publish an open letter sent by a collective to Nigeria’s president on why genetically modified organisms should not be permitted in Nigeria.
A 20 kilometres right of way for an about 100 metres highway must hold the record for government land grabbing for the “overriding public interest’ to satisfy deep private interests.
The second obnoxious drama unfolding on our shores is Superhighway Project that is proposed to lead from a proposed deep sea port on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean and cut through pristine community forests to the Nigerian hinterland. Forest communities in the Cross River axis of Nigeria where this so-called Superhighway is to be built have managed their community forests so well that a community like Ekuri has been awarded the Equator Prize for community forest management. The government of Cross River State has commenced the bulldozing of forests and farms in defiance of the fact that the project is yet to receive an approved Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and the people have not given free prior informed consent as required by ILO article 169.
One of the highlights of this 264km long Superhighway is that the Cross River State government has claimed land stretching 10 km on either side of the road. A 20 kilometres right of way for an about 100 metres highway must hold the record for government land grabbing for the “overriding public interest’ to satisfy deep private interests.
We serve you a menu of poetry, reports and, of course, books you must read. As usual, we like to hear back form you.
Sinsibere is a Bambara word, meaning the support that one needs to start something. This poem was inspired by contrasting the active work of the women in the Sinsibere Cooperative at Bougoula to the urban poor extending empty bowls for alms. Written in a car on the streets of Bamako – 01.03.2016
The word militant elicits a certain meaning in Nigeria and like the word insurgents people often link it with violence. Another word that has taken on peculiar meaning in Nigeria is restiveness – a descriptive word assigned to agitated Niger Delta youths totally radicalised by fossil fuels extraction pollutions and unwilling to stay civil in the face of oppressive injustice.
Patrick Naagbanton, a man of many parts – journalist, environmental/human rights activist, poet, etc. – has just added two important books to the Nigerian literary scene. One is a collection of poems titled Fury of the Fisher Woman and the other is The Last Militant – A biography of Comrade Cheta Ibama Ibegwura – and the struggles for workers’ rights in Nigeria, justice and self-determination in the Niger Delta region..
Furious Fisher Woman
The poetry book is loaded with anger, death and defiance. Poignantly, except for when the writer mentions “other unsung comrades (dead or alive) whose stories are not yet told,” both books are dedicated to persons who have departed from the physical plane. They nudge you to closely study Nigeria’s tragic post colonial history – an history that current political leaders would rather sweep under the carpet.
Writing for the victims of the Umuechem massacre of 1st November 1990, the poem titled The Script opens with these lines:
Clad in black on the precarious pipelines
Demanding to drink from it along the
Bush paths of Umuechem
On the sad day on which Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8 were murdered, Patrick wrote under the title Hangmen:
Their banter of blood shall soon end
And I shall sing our funeral songs
They shall weep as we are weeping
With the troubled tribe
Militant to the core
As Patrick states, “the story of Cheta Ibama Ibegwura, popularly called ‘Wati’ and later ‘Comrade Che’ is the story of Nigeria.” And the book, “The Last Militant, though a biographical work, also takes us through a whole range of issues such as the histories of great organizations and movements– their successes and failures in Nigeria.”
One is tempted to ask: why Patrick chose to label Comrade Che a militant? Synonyms for militant include: activist, confrontational, aggressive, radical, revolutionary, belligerent, combative, pugnacious. Within the array of words, the closest in meaning to the legend we all know as Comrade Che would be radical and revolutionary. He is a gentle, uncompromising militant. At 83 years, Apostolic Comrade Che remains resolute in the struggle for human and environmental justice as well as for community rights.
Through the book we learn of his militancy in political actions, pro-democracy activism and in inspiring trade union consciousness. A freelance revolutionary, as Patrick terms him, he continues unwaveringly in the pursuit of militant causes.
Comrade Che before Comrade Che
Here is an extract from the foreword I wrote for the book: This is a story of courage, love, commitment and passion. It is a story that shows the triumph of the human spirit even in the most hazardous situations. It is a story of a survivor. He indeed survived many detentions, false imprisonments and assassination attempts. He admired his late friend, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and the Ogoni people for ‘being true to the struggle in the naked face of mass arrests, killings, government and crude oil induced bribes.’ Unfortunately, he could not say the same for the organising ability and fidelity to causes by his own immediate people.
Apostolic Comrade Che, as I call him, is a very inspiring man. His simplicity is unpretentious. He is a man of ideas and is always willing to share such ideas. This book reveals much that is not readily known of this great man. I have known Comrade Che and benefitted from his friendship and fatherly counsel, from the mid 1990s. However, reading this book brings me face to face with him as though I only just knew him for the first time. In fact, until I read this book I always thought that Cheta Ibama Ibegwura was named Comrade Che after the famous Argentine internationalist. Behold, he was already Comrade Che before he ever heard of the other Comrade Che.
Not a Book Review
This is not a book review. It is a tribute to my mentor and teacher, Comrade Che. It is also a thank you note to Patrick for penning these powerful books. The books published by Creektown Books (Lagos) will be presented at a public event in Port Harcourt, Nigeria, on 5th March 2016. Get the books and review them yourselves!