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Niger Delta Shall Overcome!

Author: Comrade Sunny Ofehe
Posted to the web: 11/16/2005 2:30:07 AM

I am happy to join with you today in the month of the 10th memorial of our great Ken Saro-Wiwa in what will go down in History as the greatest demonstration for Freedom in the history of our Nation.

Ten years ago, a great Nigerian, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, began the liberation of our great Niger Delta from the hands of our military juntas. This great moment came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Niger Deltans who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But ten years later, the region still is not free – ten years later! The life of the people of Niger Delta is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination – ten years later! The people of Niger Delta live on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity – ten years later! The people of Niger Delta are still languished in the corners of Nigerian society, and find themselves in exile in their own land.

When the architects of our Republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every Nigerian was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men - yes, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. It is obvious today that the country has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of Niger Delta are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, Nigeria has given the Niger Delta people a bad check - a check which has come back marked 'Insufficient Funds'.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind the Nation of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of Democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of environmental and social justice. Now is the time to lift our Nation from the quicksand of social injustice to the solid rock of Brotherhood - now is the time!

It would be fatal for the Nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering heat of the Niger Deltan legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating harmattan of Freedom and Equality. 2005 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hoped that the Niger Delta people needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the Nation returns to business-as-usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in Nigeria until the Niger Delta is granted its citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our Nation until the bright day of Justice emerges.

There is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of Justice - in the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for Freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must not allow our creative protests to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with Soul Force. There are those who are asking the devotees of Civil Rights 'When will you be satisfied?' We can never be satisfied as long as the Niger Delta is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality - we can never be satisfied. I am not unmindful that some of us have come this far out of great trials and tribulations. Some of us have come fresh from narrow jail cells, and some of us have come from areas where our quest for Freedom left us battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. We have been the veterans of creative suffering. We will continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Odi, go back to Choba, go back to Ugborodo, go back to Escravos, go back to Odioma, go back to the slums and ghettos of our cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. So even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the biblical believes that we shall overcome. Deep in my heart, I do believe, we shall overcome. This Nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. Every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the Glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together! This is our hope. With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a Stone of Hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our Nation into a beautiful symphony of Brotherhood.

Oh, before the victory is won, some of us will lose jobs, but we shall overcome. Before the victory is won, some will have to get thrown in jail but we shall overcome. Before the victory is won, even some of us will have to face physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free our children from a permanent psychological death, then nothing shall be more redemptive. Before the victory is won, some would be misunderstood and called bad names and dismissed as rabble rousers and agitators, but we shall overcome.

And I tell you why: We shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. We shall overcome because Carlisle is right, “No lie can live forever.” We shall overcome because William Cullen Bryant is right: “Truth crushed to earth will rise again.” We shall overcome because the bible is right: “You shall reap what you sow.”

We will go out there and join the council of despair and bring new light into the dark chambers of pessimism. We will be able to rise from the fatigue of despair to the bullion filled hope and this will be a great Nigeria and we will be the participants in making it so. I am mindful that debilitating and grinding poverty afflicts my people and chains them to the lowest rung of the economic ladder. Therefore, I strongly believe that nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral question of our time – the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to violence and oppression.

Civilization and violence are antithetical concepts. The people of India have demonstrated that nonviolence is not sterile passivity, but a moral force which makes for social transformation. Sooner or later all the people of the world will have to discover a way to live together in peace, and thereby transform this pending cosmic elegy into a creative psalm of brotherhood. If this is to be achieved, man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love. I refuse to accept the idea that man is mere flotsom and jetsom in the river of life unable to influence the unfolding events which surround him. I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality. I refuse to accept the cynical notion that nation after nation must spiral down a militaristic stairway into the hell of thermonuclear destruction. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant. I believe that even amid today's motor bursts and whining bullets, there is still hope for a brighter tomorrow. I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men. I have the audacity to believe that people everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits. I believe that what self-centered men have torn down, men other-centered can build up. I still believe that one day mankind will bow before the altars of God and be crowned triumphant over war and bloodshed, and nonviolent redemptive goodwill will proclaim the rule of the land. 'And the lion and the lamb shall lie down together and every man shall sit under his own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid.' I still believe that we shall overcome. This faith can give us courage to face the uncertainties of the future. It will give our tired feet new strength as we continue our forward stride toward the city of freedom. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds and our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, we will know that we are living in the creative turmoil of a genuine civilization struggling to be born. Comrade Sunny OfehePresident & FounderHope for Niger Delta Campaign, HNDCThe Netherlands.

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