By Ibiba Don Pedro
Until July 20,1998, Timi Kaiser-Wilhem Ogoriba, was largely
unknown outside a few Izon circles in Port Harcourt and parts of Bayelsa
State. Also, his organisation, the Movement For the Survival of the Ijaw
Ethnic in The Niger Delta (MOSIEND) got a brief mention now and then alongside
other such activist groups when agitation in the Niger Delta communities
drew public attention. However, the events of July 20 when members of MOSIEND
in a commando style operation that had all the ingredients of a thriller,
freed him from detention at Yenagoa's Creek Haven Government House, before
the very eyes of the armed security operatives stationed there have changed
all that. Staff Reporter, Ibiba Don Pedro, who visited the Niger Delta
recently managed to track Ogoriba down in Port Harcourt after four days
of search, and got him to talk "very briefly" on his group's activities.
Could you tell us basically what MOSIEND is all about?
We found out that the elders in our communities in whose hands we reposed
our confidence tended towards a derailment in our march towards a total
emancipation of our people. Our group, the Movement For The Survival of
The Ijaw Ethnic Nationalities in the Niger Delta (MOSIEND), therefore prepared
to provide succour for the neglected Izons in the Niger Delta, knowing
that what the Federal Government gets from that area by way of resources
is what sustains the Nigerian economy without the people of the area getting
anything in return. We realise that not getting any part of these resources
in return means that we are an oppressed people. No one wants oppression.
MOSIEND's objective is to tell the powers responsible for this oppression
tostop perpetrating this. If they consider themselves invincible, hegemonic,
in the fullness of time, the down trodden, the righteous will take over
the earth. The Izons are moving forward, possessing their own possession
as stipulated in Obadiah chapter I, verse 17 "Nobody pays the price for
keeping us where we are and we will get to where we are gong without firing
one shot, I Isaiah 52."
For peaceful coexistence, (shifting forward on the hard backed chair
and gesticulating for emphasis), we implore the Nigerian government to
recognise that in the comity of nations, everybody is equal. No one is
a second class citizen in this country. In view of the many ills visited
on the Izons despite the enormous human and natural resources we provide,
which have always been exploited by the Nigerian government we would not
want any further marginalisation. Bodies like MOSELND, MORETO, ND-HERO,
CHICOCO and others are determined to address the issues at stake. Modern
amenities which have turned Abuja into a world class city should be provided
in the Niger Delta also and until these are provided, we shall continue
<P>How does MOSELND intend to compel the military authorities to address
these issues without a degeneration into violence?
We are all witnesses to what became of the agitation by the Ogonis.
Our major weapon is the power of persuasion. If that fails, because
we are not in control of all the groups which exist in the area, we will
not know what the next line of action will be like.
Are you carrying the generality of the people along in your struggle?
MOSOP succeeded as much as it did because most Ogonis and indeed, many
others in oil producing communities in the Niger Delta, identified with
Really, we do not consider the struggle a fight. The consciousness of
the generality of the Izon people has been so heightened that we do not
expect it to dwindle again until these oppressive laws and tendencies which
have kept our people in sorrow and poverty are abrogated. The perpetrators
of this oppression are themselves aware of the dangers imminent. That is
to say if the country is still expected to remain together, the contentious
issues would be addressed immediately. Nigeria is at a snapping point,
we want to remain together but if the otherwise becomes inevitable, the
Izons will never, ever regret it.
In particular, the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy which is fanning the embers
of disunity daily. And when you are disunited, you must part ways. We do
not want to re-enact the biblical injunction which stipulates "what portion
have we in the house of David? To your tents O Israel."
Can you give an account of the events surrounding your detention
and eventual release from Government House, Yenagoa?
Navy Captain Olubolade, the past administrator of the state, came and
tried to hold the people of Bayelsa hostage. Among human beings, not everyone
is docile in the face of intimidation. Those of us considered courageous
and who have access to the use of words and the wherewithal to defend what
we say, became critical and told the world what Olubolade was turning the
On June 22, after General Abdulsalami Abubakar became head of state,
we wrote a petition titled "Olubolade's profligacy in Bayelsa state" which
received the attention of the Head of State and which resulted into Olubolade
being invited to Abuja for questioning. He was angry over this and asked
how a bloody civilian could cause him such embarrassment. I was picked
up on 16th July at the Bayelsa state liaison office in Port Harcourt and
taken to Bayelsa and kept like Nichodemus locked up in a guest house attached
to Government House, Yenagoa. Later, news went out that I was being held
at Government House. Where? Members of my organisation did not know.
However, on July 20, some members of my group marched on to Government
House, on information that the man they were looking for was there. They
divided themselves into four platoons made of 12 people each and stormed
Government House. They got to the gate and dislodged the security men,
arrested them and took their guns, then headed towards the quarters unharmed.
Naturally, security operatives noticing an insurgence will definitely
fire to quell it. They fired at these boys but not one was harmed. When
the boys got to any of the security operatives, they brought them down
and removed their guns without any blood spilled.
Then, they got to the Milad's lodge, disarmed the men stationed there
and began looking for me without knowing where I was. They ransacked the
whole premises and when the guards, guarding their leader (myself) saw
the boys approaching where I was incarcerated, they fired at the boys without
a single one of these boys being injured. The boys got the people firing
at them and locked them up in a room there. By this time, I had come out
on hearing noise and commotion. When they saw me they became jubilant and
with the guns they had seized from the security operatives, we marched
out. Government House, Yenegoa became naked.
We marched majestically out of the road and had an Ogele procession
to the waterfront arranged from boats and went downstream. We went through
many towns and finally returned the seized guns to them through Peremabiri,
at the police station there. We handed over the guns to the Inspector we
met there, one Frank Bassey, who took them to the D.P.O. at Oporoma. It
was a miracle. People who were not there may disbelieve but it did happen.
The story of your release definitely has all the elements of a fantastic
tale. Since your release there have been all kinds of stories about Juju,
Egbesu and so on.
Ogoriba cuts in, "I must say to those carrying all sorts of stories
that there is no one among our group called an Egbesu boy. Nobody. Everybody
has a deity or deities in his domain and it all depends on how you service
your deity. The Izons have serviced theirs to the point where they assist
them in their moments of need. So, if any tribe has failed to service theirs
to assist them in time of need, nobody should be sarcastic about that of
the Izons. And also, those (looking angry) persons who take delight in
coming into our rank and file to cause squabbles within the Izon territory
will definitely be brought to book. We are a peace loving people and will
continue to be that until pushed.
Who really is T.K. Ogoriba?
Ogoriba (smiles, then looks meditative for a while and finally says)
A common teacher. I teach, chemistry at an International School in Port
Harcourt. I read Chemistry and graduated in 1983. I am an Odi man from
Kolokumo Lopokumo Local Government area in Bayelsa state, married with
three children. That's all.
There is a new security outfit in Bayelsa "Operation Salvage" which
was launched with the brief among others to protect oil installations in
that part of the country. Do you foresee the possibility of the heightening
of tension within the oil producing communities with the presence of this
outfit among the people.
(Agitated) Operation Salvage is an instrument of oppression to intimidate,
to cow us and make us appear sheepish so that they can gloss over our rights.
We want government to tell the oil companies to pay their dues to the host
communities in order not to allow the situation degenerate into an
imbroglio that might transform into conflict.
If every one is alive to his/her duties, there will be no cause for
alarm. Self discipline, they say, is the best form of discipline. We
do not want an imposed form of discipline. Some of these security operatives
are indisciplined and overzealous and if this becomes clear, resistance
is bound to follow. MOSELND is trying hard to keep the peace and I think
peace will reign. Our roles must be seen as complimentary.
Reports indicate that some youths in the oil producing areas hold
up the activities of oil companies in their areas with demands for cash,
not development. How do you view such acts?
We are aware of such activities but there are plans to reduce such incidents.
We have a plan in the pipeline to organise between now and the end of November,
an all Izon youth organisations conference where the activities of groups
in the area will be streamlined. A coordinating body is expected to emerge
from that conference. It aims to put on course, the struggle without dissipating
How would your describe the relationship between your group and the
present military administration in Yenagoa?
It may be too early to talk about our relationship with the new administration.
The ways of military men are usually unpredictable. If you take the new
Bayelsa milad at face value, you might be tempted to say he is nice and
has come to salvage Bayelsa people. Still, I think he is hundred times
better than Olubolade.
Does MOSIEND have a political agenda?
We are a political organisation. Within the present political dispensation,
we are not involved. Suffice it to say that we are in
support of the transition to civil rule so that Nigeria can get democratized.
Our group will never, ever serve as a cog in the march towards genuine
democracy in Nigeria which is what we desire, ultimately.
Return to Nigerian Groups and MOSIEND