PRESS RELEASE::::::::::::::::: JANUARY 4, 2021


Monday, January 4, 2021 marks the 28th anniversary of historic “Ogoni Day” first celebrated in 1993 popularly known to have been used to oust Shell and stop oil production in Ogoniland till date. That enviable feat of nonviolently declaring Shell persona nongrata in Ogoniland in 1993 was easily achieved because the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) was united in leadership to the Ogoni indigenous peoples and spoke with one voice and as we attempt to find lasting solution to the crisis in MOSOP, there is the need to delve a little bit into the backgrounds to the current leadership crisis for the benefit of those who may not know or understand better before judgment.

From 1990 when MOSOP was formed and Ogoni Bill of Rights (OBR) presented to the Federal Government up to 1995 when Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were killed, MOSOP made great impacts under a united leadership, leading to the local and international recognitions that an average Ogoni man enjoyed and became proud of around the world. This fame lasted partly up to 2012 when Barr. Ledum Mitee stepped aside after about 17years in office as MOSOP President and he set up a Provisional Ruling Council (PRC) headed by Prof. Ben Naanen to conduct election that Chief Legborsi Paygbara won and assumed office as MOSOP President in 2013. As typical of elections in Nigeria and around the world, the election that produced Chief Legborsi Pyagbara as MOSOP President like recent ones was not without crisis, dissenting voices, rejection, condemnation and eventual acceptance. In fact, the crisis was so serious that it took many days after election and intervention of some other Ogoni leaders before Chief Legborsi was allowed to assume office for a 3-year renewable tenure if re-elected according to MOSOP Constitution. After then, Chief Legborsi Paygbara’s first tenure expired on December 31, 2015 and he was re-elected for another three years final term in office which expired on December 31, 2018 according to the provisions of MOSOP Constitution. It would be recalled that throughout the periods of Barr. Ledum Mitee and Chief Legborsi Paygbara, MOSOP and the Ogoni People had only one significant factional President in person of Dr. Goodluck Diigbo who eventually gave way through the efforts of many people for Chief Legborsi Paygbara to enjoy and run almost a total hitch-free six years administration. However, when Chief Legborsi Paygbara’s tenure expired in 2018 and he failed to initiate transition process and conduct election but instead decided to elongate his tenure in office by extra one year and went to court with a view of legalizing the illegality of tenure elongation; an all time serious leadership crisis burst out in MOSOP till date! At this juncture, his former spokesman, Fegalo Nsuke accepted that their tenure had expired and as Chief Legborsi failed to conduct election; he went home, mobilized people and enthroned himself as president of what I now, for proper analysis called the “Downstream MOSOP” also with associated crisis. On the other hand, some members of the “Upstream MOSOP” that Chief Legborsi Paygbara had led; formed their electoral committee that saw Bari-ara Kpalap emerged as president, also with associated crisis. Besides, there was yet a “Midstream MOSOP” of Barr. Naabulobari Naazigha-Lue that had bought form under the Fegalo Nsuke factional platform to contest for president but was screened out and why laying claim to MOSOP leadership, he also went to court to seek redress for his ‘violated’ fundamental human rights. While all these were going on, another group in Ogoni under the auspices of “Kingdom Coordinators” also went to court, laying claim to MOSOP leadership and by last quarter of 2020, conducted election and another MOSOP President, Lazarus Tamana emerged as winner.

Thus, by that singular act of Chief Legborsi Paygbara failing to conduct election when his tenure expired but decided to elongate his tenure by extra one year; between December 2018 and November 2020, MOSOP had at least five (5) factional Presidents including Chief Legborsi Paygbara. So, by December 2019, Chief Legborsi Pyagbara had exhausted the extra one year he took that was running concurrently with those of four other factional presidents and with the intervention of other Ogoni leaders, on January 4, 2020 he announced the formation of an 8-man National Transition Council headed by Chief Keeper Gbaranor and comprising of his leadership structure including those of Bari-ara Kpalap and Naazigha-Lue with a mandate of reconciliation and conduct of election before the end of 2020. Sadly, again, Chief Keeper Gbaranor, like former MOSOP President, Chief Legborsi Pyagbara also failed to conduct election on the expiration of his tenure, after setting up electoral committee and attempting to single-handedly extend and elongate his tenure in office beyond his one-year mandate. Fortunately, some democrats within the system who are determined to protect the MOSOP Constitution on the conduct of election in December and for a vacuum not to be created with the expiration of the tenure of the National Transition Council headed by Chief Keeper Gbaranor, etc decide to work with the existing electoral committee headed by Mr. Oluka Jonathan in defense of the MOSOP Constitution and restoration of sanity in MOSOP by conducting election. The electoral process and election held on December 31, 2020 and saw the emergence of Chief Prince Biira as the new MOSOP President and just like the election of Chief Legborsi Pyagbara in 2012 and subsequent ones were greeted with rejection and crisis; that of Prince Biira is now also facing the same fate with Chief Keeper Gbaranor whose tenure and mandate had expired, making himself a new faction of MOSOP and continuing to speak for MOSOP and threatening to conduction new election and create additional new factions from the upstream MOSOP leadership exist pari-passu with those of Lazarus Tamana and Fegalo Nsuke respectively. If that happens, we shall have at least 4-MOSOP factional Presidents in 2021.

To avert this and put an end to the repeated shame in MOSOP, first, Chief Keeper Gbaranor’s one-year mandate which had expired and lacking in legitimacy should not be allowed to further speak for MOSOP or conduct any new election, having failed to do so for the 12-Months he was given on January 4, 2020. It is against these backgrounds that I think those who conducted election on December 30, 2020 to rescue upstream MOSOP from another attempted tenure elongation and ushered in new MOSOP leadership led by Chief Prince Biira as MOSOP President should be commended despite some usual associated dissenting voices. As a way forward, other Ogoni leaders should work with the Prince Biira-led upstream MOSOP, reach out to the Fegalo Nsuke-led downstream MOSOP and bring in Lazarus Tamana-led now midstream MOSOP for a total, comprehensive and holistic reconciliation for a single MOSOP leadership for the Ogoni people.

Youths and Environmental Advocacy Centre (YEAC) call for unity in MOSOP because it is only a united MOSOP under a single leadership as it was in the days of Ken Saro-Wiwa that would move Ogoni forward at the pace it deserves. Congratulations to the good people of Ogoniland as they go about celebrating the 28th anniversary of “Ogoni Day” today. I sue for peaceful celebration and call for COVID-19 preventive measures to be observed.


Ogoni-born Environmental Justice Activist, Human Rights Defender and

Executive Director, ADVOCACY CENTRE.

JANUARY 4TH, 2021.

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