INSURGENT CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA:
OGONI ENCOUNTERS WITH THE STATE, 1990 - 1998
O. Okechukwu Ibeanu
Department of Political Science
University of Nigeria, Nsukka
Research Report for ICSAG Programme of the Centre for Research and Documentation (CRD), Kano
INSURGENT CIVIL SOCIETY AND DEMOCRACY IN NIGERIA:
OGONI ENCOUNTERS WITH THE STATE, 1990 - 1998
From 1990 to 1998, the Ogoni were at war with the military-authoritarian state in Nigeria. In that period, the Ogoni, an ethnic minority of half a million people living in the Niger Delta, mobilised themselves into numerous popular organisations led by the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) to confront the state. At issue were environmental degradation, resource control and equitable participation in the governance of Nigeria. Niger Delta, the world’s largest mangrove swamp, is Nigeria’s oil belt. This 14,000 square miles of wetland, creeks, tributaries, thickets and lagoons that drain the River Niger into the Atlantic contains most of the country’s hydrocarbon deposits. By implication, the delta holds the bulk of the economic resources that sustained successive military regimes in Nigeria. Yet, years of neglect and ecological devastation have left much of the Niger Delta desolate, uninhabitable and poor. Given the position of crude oil as the lifeline to the military regime, any dissent in the Niger Delta had to be brutally repressed. By the same token however, the Niger Delta was destined to become a rallying point for the democratic struggles of civil society against military rule in Nigeria in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Ogoni struggle symptomatized the popular discontent of the peoples of the Niger Delta with military rule. This discontent saw frequent seizure and destruction of oil installations, hostage taking, popular dissent and mass anti-government action across the delta for over a decade. In July 1981, 10,000 villagers in Rukpokwu blocked the routes to 50 Shell oil wells, while the inhabitants of three villages in Egbema seized Agip installations at Ebocha. In October 1989, angry villagers in Oboburu destroyed drilling equipment worth millions of dollars belonging to Elf Oil Company. Among 22 persons seriously injured were two expatriate engineers. In November 1991, over twenty villagers of Umuechem were brutally murdered by para-military forces in an early morning raid on the village sequel to their protest against Shell. Beginning from mid-1998, youths belonging to the Ijaw ethnic group have incapacitated scores of oil wells and flow stations belonging to multinational oil companies like Shell and Chevron. Well into 1999, they still battle government forces for control of the oil installations in what has been called the Egbesu wars (Ibeanu, 1999a). In September 1999, the people of Bonny in a mass demonstration occupied the multi-billion Naira Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas project, stopping construction work for weeks and delaying its takeoff date. However, the Ogoni struggles stood out because of the level of mobilisation and effectiveness it achieved under the direction of MOSOP. In deed, the Ogoni approach became the model for other oil producing communities and their organizations in the struggle against military authoritarianism.
The conflictive encounter of the Ogoni with Nigeria’s militarist state is very important because it raises a number of crucial conceptual and empirical issues about insurgent civil society and the democratisation process. It also raises these issues in the context of the environment, which though important has not been a major focus for the democratic struggle of civil society organisations in Africa. First, the Ogoni story raises the issue of security, especially the relationship between state security and human security in state-civil society encounters. This is important in understanding the struggles of civil society as well as the response of the state. Second, it raises the issue of popular civil society movements, their internal organisation, resources and strategies. Finally, the Ogoni story raises the issue of the future of insurgent civil society in the post-authoritarian era. This chapter seeks to address these cardinal issues.
The growing academic interest in civil society-state encounters reflects the reframing of the raison d’être of the nation-state in a globalising world. Clearly, globalisation is having a cathartic impact on the nation-state as we have known it since Westphalia. This impact has been twofold. At one level, globalisation is having an aggregative/recompositional effect on the nation-state. This has led to more peaceful coexistence and cooperation among states at the international level and among constituent parts of the nation-state at the domestic level, a trend linked to growing aggregative, transnational and supranational articulations. These aggregative processes have also made it possible for collective solutions to be found for shared problems. At another level however, globalisation is having a disaggregative/ decompositional effect on the nation-state. This is epitomised by increasing disputations about sovereignty, citizenship, nationality, human rights, political participation and access to resources. In the process, many contradictions embedded in the state formation project have been unearthed, particularly so in Africa where the nation-state is of relative recency (Ake, 1997).
At both levels of this dialectical impact of globalisation on the nation-state, civil society has emerged as a central force in reframing political, economic and social relations both within and between states. At the transnational level, the increasing transnationalisation of NGO activities and cross-national contacts among civil society organisations are contributing immensely to the reshaping of thinking and discourse about the nation-state and citizenship. Moreover, at the national level in many countries, civil society organisations are raising issues and championing causes that challenge political authoritarianism, economic deprivation and social exclusion.
It is not therefore surprising that relations between the state and civil society have become of central concern to intellectuals, social activists and policy makers in this global ferment. Generally, two views are predominant in the characterisation of state-civil society encounters. The first sees the state as reactionary and resistant to progressive change, while civil society represents progress and development. Consequently, the relationship between the two is inherently conflictive and tense. This viewpoint has a lot to do with experiences associated with authoritarian regimes in the Third World, where the tasks of democratisation and protection of human rights have become the central preoccupation of civil society. However, whether this state-civil society articulation is necessary and fundamental, rather than incidental and fleeting, is an issue that is not resolved by this perspective. It does seem to us that the generalisability of this characterisation of state-civil society encounter is suspect. Not only have some sections of civil society played patently reactionary roles in the struggle for democracy, but also in many cases the impetus for democratisation have genuinely and independently come from within the state.
The second characterisation of state-civil society relation sees it as cooperative and complementary. This is the common view from the North. Undergirded by Western pluralist conceptions of politics, this viewpoint portrays the state, in a sense, an extension of civil society. State structures and policies are the products of the activities of a parallelogram of autonomous, coordinate powers (civil society). These powers act as countervailing forces both to one another and to the state, producing an equilibrium which is expressed in political structures and state policies (Poulantzas, 1978: 265). Thus, in discussing the relations between the state and civil society in Europe, Gidron, Kramer and Salamon (1992) speak of a “collaborative agent partnership”. Taylor and Lindsay (1992) speak in terms of “market pluralist and welfare pluralist” arrangements, while Kramer (1981) posits a “pragmatic partnership” (see Taylor and Bassi, 1998).
Pluralist analysis generally and the cooperative-complementary thesis in particular have been criticised as inapplicable to non-European settings. For one thing, their equilibrated notion of society flies in the face of constant social disequilibrium, crises, change and discontinuities. For another thing, the parallel-coordinate view of social actors masks the division of society into dominant and subordinate classes with contradictory interests. Indeed, not all sections of society are part of civil society. It is only those interests that are part of the political conjuncture through organisation are, strictly speaking, within of civil society. Thus, Ake argues that the peasantry in Nigeria is external to civil society (1985a: 25). Above all, the portrayal of a Gesellschaft, associational society has been argued to have very limited application to the African situation in which communalism and mechanical solidarities are still very predominant. In fact, whether a civil society in the classical, Hegelian form exists in Africa is debatable. Even if it exists, it is debatable as well whether the bulk of Africa’s people, who are essentially non-urban and non-associational (in the pluralist sense) are part of it (Mamdani, cited in Pillay, 1998).
A flaw that both characterisations of state-civil society relations share is the monolithic portrayal of the state and civil society. There is need for an approach to state-civil society relations that deconstructs and disaggregates both. Deconstructing them means understanding how their various facets and structures articulate at given historical conjunctures; and by disaggregation we mean fathoming the various levels of structuring of the state and civil society, as well as their encounters. What should then become clear by pursuing these lines are twofold. First is that state-civil society encounters are not uniform (antagonistic or complementary) but multiform, therefore the need to study them in specific historical contexts. Thus, an ideographic approach aimed at understanding the particularities of each case, as a means of arriving at unifying characteristics of the general (nomothetic) is imperative. Secondly, there is need for an approach that is diachronic rather than synchronic. Within this approach, we should undertake periodised analyses of the forces that determine the historical development of the state, civil society and their encounters. Consequently, a transactional approach looking at the exchanges between civil society organisations and the state becomes very useful.
Literature on state-civil society transactions focuses mostly on encounters between insurgent civil society and the state (Nzongola-Ntalaja, 1987; Wamba-dia-Wamba, 1996; Momoh, 1996; 1998). A common starting point is the notion of the second independence or liberation. The first independence, that is decolonisation, turned out to be a ruse. It failed to achieve neither democracy nor development, the two planks on which the masses of Africa waged the nationalist struggle. Consequently, a second independence struggle waged from below by the democratic organisations of the people becomes a desideratum. Mass movements in the South are taking up this challenge. Indeed, the failure of the state and the private sector, representing the two developmental paradigms of socialism and capitalism, to engender democracy and development has led to the insurgence of civil society in its mass form (Wignaraja, 1993: 13; Ibeanu, 1998: 11-12). Wignaraja aptly argues that:
. . . as the poor and vulnerable groups in the South deepen their understanding of their reality, they also, through greater consciousness-raising and awareness, action and organisation, can bring about changes both in their lives and in society that the same time contribute to economic growth. The deepening of their understanding can begin with collective protest against some form of social injustice or with a positive development action undertaken by a group (1993:5).
In Nigeria, these groups include student movements, peasant organizations, workers unions, as well as more recent pro-democracy organizations pushing for an end to military rule, such as Democratic Alternative and National Democratic Coalition (NADECO). (Momoh, 1996; 1998). Pan ethnic organisations have also been involved in pushing for democracy. Nevertheless, as we have indicated elsewhere (Ibeanu, 1999b) the role of these organizations in the transition to democracy has to be deeply and empirically studied by case because of the reactionary tendencies of ethnic organisations. We also think that the analysis of the relationship between civil society organisations and the state should begin with a characterisation of the state. This is important in order to understand the complex articulations of the state with social forces of which civil society organizations form part.
Our theoretical departure point in characterising the Nigerian state in its encounters with the Ogoni is the rule of the militariat. By the militariat we designate a social category, which though related to the Nigerian military, is not coextensive with it. The starting point in deciphering the militariat is the military’s domination of the Nigerian state. Since its establishment by the British, the Nigeria military has undergone three main stages of transformation propelled essentially, but by no means exclusively, by politics. From its nascence in the last years of colonial rule until independence, the Nigerian army was a career for educationally under-achieving young men. Nevertheless, by the first five years of independence, a growing number of educated young officers had emerged. Mostly trained abroad, many of them had perceived the inevitability of an increased political role for the army. This role was itself fuelled by ethnic politicians whose calculation was to raise a crop of officers from their ethnic homeland who would be loyal to the ethnic group and, by extension, to them, the ethnic leaders. At this stage, the Nigerian military transformed from a mere career into a prop for ethno-political factions.
However, the strategy of the ethnic leaders soon backfired because of a sub-transformation that occurred in the military at this stage. Although initially a prop for ethno-political factions, the military quickly transformed itself into a contender for power. In doing this, soldiers adopted the ethnic calculus to which ethnic leaders had exposed them earlier on. Therefore, initially ethnic political factions enlisted the military, now military political factions enlist ethnicity. This stage came to a head in the civil war (1967-1970), which pitted soldiers of the North dominated by the Hausa-Fulani against those of the East (Biafra) dominated by the Igbo.
The military’s “successful” prosecution of that war under its own political direction, rather than that of civil authorities, served to establish the army from 1970 onwards as a very important political force. Among other things, it further undermined civil-political control of the military. Huge personal wealth acquired by individual officers from war contracts underscored the demise of civil control over the military. Officers began to feel that they were not only masters of violence, but also masters of politics as well as important business entrepreneurs. A political future for the military became guaranteed.
The final transformation of the military occurred from around 1986. From being a political faction, the Nigerian military, particularly its upper echelons, became the core of an emerging social category. It was precisely the military’s “specific and over-determining relation” to political structures, which was occasioned by its politicization that constituted it into a social category (see Poulantzas, 1978: 84). However, the final impetus to this transformation came from the extensive economic and political reforms of the mid-1980s. The military by destiny or design led the technocracy that implemented those reforms.
As a social category, the Nigerian military was inserted with pertinent effects at all the levels of structures - political, economic and ideological. Consequently, it became not only a political force but also a social force. We characterise this military-based social category as the militariat. Until recent political changes that saw the inauguration of an electec government, the militariat was Nigeria’s dominant, though not hegemonic, social category. It has a specific terrain of interests and draws its “membership” from various segments of society. This means that although the long period of military rule in Nigeria facilitated the dominance of the militariat the social category is not exclusively military. As a social category, the militariat has three component strata, consisting of both military and civilian agents. These are the business class (comprador), middle class (petty bourgeoisie) and foreign capital. For the first two, their strongest defining interest is the use of the state for private accumulation, through public works contracts. Consequently, they support the “strong” and economically interventionist state. Historically, the business and middle classes in Nigeria have used the state to serve personal and sectional interests, especially ethnic and other communal interests. The third stratum of the militariat is foreign capital, notably those investing in the petroleum sector. The bulk of foreign private investment in Nigeria is in that sector, involving most of the big names like Shell, Total, Mobil, Agip, Elf and Chevron.
From the above characterisation of the militariat we may deduce that its rule balanced on three props namely, military dictatorship, communalism (especially in its ethno-religious form) and petrobusiness. By petrobusiness we mean social ensembles that control Nigeria’s petroleum industry. They include major foreign and local investors in upstream and downstream activities in the petroleum industry, including exploration, contracting, consulting, and marketing. These three props respectively capture the major political, social and economic moments of the rule of the militariat. First, military dictatorship involves the continued military domination of the political space, limiting the democratic aspirations of the popular masses of Nigerians. This is achieved through the systematic use of state violence against individual opponents and targeted groups, which are defined as constituting a threat to state security. A necessary correlate of military dictatorship is the diffusion of a culture of militarism. Derived from the military organisation, this culture favours violence and force over persuasion; order over discussion and bargaining; exclusion over inclusion and coercion over conviction.
Second, communalism, especially in its ethnic and religious forms, is also a defining moment of the rule of the militariat in Nigeria. To be sure, communalism, especially ethnicity, predates the militariat, being a constitutive element of Nigeria-type states as they emerged from colonialism. This is widely recognised in the literature, albeit differently formulated (Ake, 1985b; Ibeanu, 1993; Mamdani, 1996; Nnoli, 1978). However, the rule of the militariat has maintained and deepened communalism. In the first place, in the absence of institutionalised means of political mobilisation under military dictatorship, communalism has burgeoned as pan-ethnic organisations fill the space vacated by political parties and pressure groups. Furthermore, various factions of the military have found in communalism a means of legitimising their seizure of power. Appeal to their co-ethnics for support against threats from other ethnic groups has been a common strategy of successive military regimes. Finally, civilians have also found in communalism a means of pursuing their interest under the military. For one thing, military regimes tend to give more access to economic resources to ethnic in-groups, that is, ethnic groups supporting or appearing to support the military regime. For another thing, ethnic out-groups find in ethnicity a means of mobilising the ethnic homeland against “marginalisation”.
Third, while military dictatorship and communalism provided the political and social props of the rule of the militariat, foreign capital bankrolled it. The principal expression of the interest of foreign capital in the militariat is petrobusiness. Petroleum exploration in Nigeria dates back to the first few years of this century. Organised marketing and distribution started around 1907 by a German Company, Nigerian Bitumen Corporation. In 1956, the Anglo-Dutch group Shell D’Archy discovered oil in commercial quantities at Oloibiri, a town in the Niger Delta. By February 1958, Nigeria became an oil exporter with a production level of 6,000 barrels per day. Other multi-national oil companies, such as Elf Aquitaine, Mobil, Total and Chevron, have since joined Shell (now Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria - SPDC). At peak production in the 1970s, Nigeria’s output was two million barrels of crude oil per day. The second area in which the interests of foreign capital find expression in the militariat is the huge foreign debt of Nigeria. It stood at $32.5 billion in 1996, with a repayment arrears of over $15 billion. The rule of the militariat ensured that this debt, accumulated mostly in profligacy, was not be repudiated. By 1998, Nigeria was spending N44billion (about $500 million) annually in servicing this external debt.
The ideology of the militariat is authoritarian liberalism. To be sure, neither the individualist liberalism of Adam Smith and Gladstone nor the social liberalism of Keynes and Lloyd George is implied here. The militariat is liberal only as far as it is a servant of capitalism and neo-liberalism. But its capitalism is the “prehistoric” form characterized by brute force with neither social responsibility nor individual freedoms. That is why the ideology of the militariat is authoritarian and petty bourgeois. This petty bourgeois ideology is concerned principally with getting access to economic opportunities. Its hallmarks are power fetishism, political instability and tendency to support the strong, interventionist state, myth of social advancement, aspirations to bourgeois status, and revolts taking the form of petty bourgeois Jacqueries (see Poulantzas, 1973: 37 38 and 1978: 335). It is patently conducive to authoritarianism and communalism.
The militariat and conflict in Ogoniland
The rule of the militariat has been responsible for the conflicts that have dogged the Niger Delta, especially those involving the Ogoni. The most fundamental basis for conflict between the Nigerian state and Ogoni people is the contradictory conditions of security privileged by Ogonis on one hand and the militariat (particularly petrobusiness and state officials) on the other. For the militariat, security means an uninterrupted production of crude oil at “competitive” (read: low) prices. This is its paramount concern irrespective of the impact on the local inhabitants and environment, or the economic irrationality of the process. For example, the militariat is willing to destroy renewable natural resources, such as arable land and aquifers, for continued extraction of a non-renewable, finite resource like crude oil.
On the part of Ogoni people, the condition for group security is the maintenance of the carrying capacity of the environment. Security for them is a recognition that an unsustainable exploitation of crude oil, with its devastation of farmland and fishing waters, threatens resource flows and livelihoods. Therefore, protection of the environment is invariably linked to this perception of security. When livelihoods are threatened, a feeling of deprivation ensues. A people that feel deprived also feel anxious about their livelihoods. Such people are insecure. Consequently, a condition of security for the Ogoni is the elimination of deprivation through a just distribution of resources. This, for them, means that a good part of wealth generated from their land should return to them.
The response of the militariat to this contradiction of securities between it and the Ogoni is to unleash state violence through militarism. State violence against the Ogoni clearly illustrates the tendency of the militariat to privatise the state, in this case using its coercive apparatus to pursue the private economic interests of petrobusiness. Thus, although conflicts in the Delta appear to be between social groups, this is only an illusion because it is actually the violence unleashed by a state privatized by the militariat that is the cause of conflicts. Ake et al (nd) therefore argue that what is happening for the most part is violent aggression by the state rather than conflict. This is because:
Those who are aggressed, communities, ethnic groups, minorities, religious groups, peasants, the poor, counter elites, are often not in any dispute or even systematic interaction with the people who aggress them. The aggression often occurs in the routine business of projecting power, carrying out policies without consultation or negotiation with other parties or spreading terror to sustain domination (Ake et al, nd: 8 - 9).
We agree that state aggression is very important in understanding the Ogoni crisis. However, we do not accept that the aggressor has to be the direct user of the instruments of violence for conflict to be said to exist. What one has to do to be an aggressor is to exercise control. That means that the aggressor has the capacity to call those instruments of violence into use. When Shell called in the 2nd Amphibious Brigade (or caused them to be called in) to shoot unarmed villagers of Biara in Ogoni, including women and children protesting the destruction of their crops by Shell contractors, it was not the soldiers who were the aggressors but Shell and government officials.
Our thinking is that state violence is an important aspect of state-civil society encounters in Nigeria, perhaps a special characteristic of it. This characteristic exists because of the private appropriation of the state in Nigeria by the militariat. Consequently, the coercive apparatuses of the state, which should be above the specific interests of conflicting parties and employed sparingly to maintain internal security, are used brazenly to aggress, repress and suppress opponents.
Environmental pollution and deprivation in Ogoniland
There are numerous negative environmental impacts of crude oil mining and refining. Pollution arising from oil spillage destroys marine life and crops, makes water unsuitable for fishing and renders many hectares of farmland unusable. Brine from oil fields contaminates water formations and streams, making them unfit as sources of drinking water. At the same time, flaring gas in the vicinity of human dwellings and high pressure oil pipelines that form a mesh across farmlands are conducive to acid rains, deforestation and destruction of wildlife.
In addition, dumping of toxic, non-biodegradable by products of oil refining is dangerous to both flora and fauna, including man. For instance, metals that at high concentrations are known to cause metabolic malfunctions in human beings, such as cadmium, chromium, mercury and lead, are contained in refinery effluents constantly discharged into fresh water and farmland. They enter the food chain both by direct intake via food and drinking water, and indirectly. For example, fish is known to be able to store mercury in its brain without metabolizing it. Man in turn could eat such contaminated fish (Nwankwo and Irrechukwu, nd).
Specifically in Ogoniland, it has been recorded that 30 million barrels of crude oil were spilled in the area in 1970 (Earth Action, 1994). According to Shell, this was because of sabotage by the Biafran Army after the civil war (1967 - 1970) (Shell, 1995: 8). Shell figures also claim that “in Ogoni from 1985 up to the beginning of 1993, when we withdrew our staff from the area, 5,352 barrels of oil were spilled in 87 incidents”. However, other independent sources give much higher figures. According to Earth Action (1994) there had been more than 2,500 minor and major oil spills in Ogoniland between 1986 and 1991, including a major one in which Shell dallied for forty days before patching a ruptured pipeline. However, rather than take responsibility, state officials and oil companies are quick to blame oil spills on sabotage by local communities. For instance, Shell claims that out of 87 oil spill incidents in Ogoniland between 1985 and 1993, sixty (about 70%) were sabotage, 44 using hacksaws. This agrees with the picture that the government wants to paint. According to the Rivers State government, out of 11 incidents in Ogoniland in 1990, 8 or 73% were sabotage (Ezeanozie, 1991).
Still, apart from oil spills there have been other far-reaching environmental damages in Ogoniland. For instance, in the 1960s Shell constructed a narrow road through the town of Dere to link its oil wells. This destroyed the drainage system of the town leading to sever flooding. To date, the community is still seeking compensation for thirty-nine years of suffering. In Gbaran, Shell also constructed a road to link its installations with a major road from Yenagoa to Mbiama. Consequently, water flow to a large section of timberland was cut leading to the atrophy and death of 1,000 acres of forest (Mitee, 1997: 6-9). In addition, gas flaring by major oil companies like Shell, Agip, Mobil and Elf is said to release 35 million tonnes of carbon dioxide and 12 million tonnes of methane into the atmosphere annually. In November 1983 alone, Shell flared over 483 million cubic metres of gas from its oil wells. In these gas flares, temperatures reach as high as 1,400oC. Such tremendous ecological damage led the Ogoni to accuse petrobusiness, especially Shell of genocide.
Massive ecological damage has gone hand in hand with resource scarcity in Ogoniland. Consequently, local communities have come to associate the two, sometimes unjustifiably. For instance, there is no doubt that the general economic situation in Nigeria has deteriorated tremendously in the last decade. Inflation has risen in leaps and bounds and the value of the national currency (the Naira) has fallen dramatically from about $1 = N3 in 1986, to $1 = N80 in 1996. Under an IMF imposed Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP), public spending was widely cut, employment in the public sector was frozen and state subsidies to mass consumption goods such as petrol have been withdrawn. Thus the pump price of petrol, the major energy source, has risen from N0.75/litre in 1986 to N20 since 1998, with recurrent periods of serious scarcity. These have drastically affected standard of living and resource availability across the country, including oil-producing communities. It is not surprising that the resentment of oil-producing communities like Ogoni escalated at the height of SAP. Evidence shows clearly that although there had been conflicts before 1980, the situation worsened since the second half of the 1980s and into the 1990s.
However, because oil exploration by multi-national oil corporations has dominated the lives and livelihoods of people in oil-producing areas for four decades, and being increasingly aware of the contradiction of riches between themselves and petro-business and government officials on the other, local communities are holding oil companies and the government responsible for their deprivation. This has shown in the demands that are being made: roads, schools, hospitals, employment, support for farming, indeed everything to improve their livelihoods. Oil companies and government insist that these claims are exaggerated. Still the point is that they reflect a strong feeling of deprivation in local communities.
The “Ogoni Bill of Rights”, which the Ogoni presented to the government and people of Nigeria in October 1990, claims that their land has provided Nigeria 30 billion dollars in oil money since 1958. In return, Ogoni people have nothing. For instance, there is no representation whatsoever in all institutions of the Federal Government of Nigeria, no pipe-borne water, no electricity, no job opportunities for the Ogonis in , and no socio-economic projects of the Federal Government. The Bill of Rights further insists that:
. . . the Ogoni languages of Gokana and Khana are underdeveloped and are about to disappear, whereas other Nigerian languages are being forced on us. . . . That the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigerian Limited does not employ Ogoni people at a meaningful or any level at all, in defiance of the Federal government’s regulations. That the search for oil has caused severe land and food shortages in Ogoni one of the most densely populated areas of Africa. . . . That Ogoni people lack education, health and other social facilities. That it is intolerable that one of the richest areas of Nigeria should wallow in abject poverty and destitution (MOSOP, 1992: 10 - 11).
Some of these claims have been challenged by Shell, the government and even neighbouring oil producing communities like Asa-Ndoki (Shell, 1995; Daily Champion, 26/8/94; AM News, 12/10/85). But, it is the sense of relative deprivation, the gap between expectation and actualization, congealed in these claims that is important for it is why men rebel (Gurr, 1974). It is also this sense of deprivation that is sucking more and more oil-producing communities into the whirlpool of conflict with the state and oil companies in Nigeria.