Ogoni and Ijaw Translations:Nonkilling Global Political Science

Translations in Ogoni and Ijaw languages of the Nonkilling Global Political Science, written by Professor Glenn D. Paige will be out in November 2009. Work has been on since November 2008 under the coordination of Fidelis Allen, founder and President of the Centre for Global Nonviolence Nigeria. It is believed that the concept  the theory of “Nonkilling” will move a step further into the minds of people of the Niger Delta as they explore the concept in their languages. The Ogonis and Ijaws are core oil bearing groups in the Niger Delta. A killing free Niger Delta is possible. In 2006, Fidelis arranged and published an economical English edition of the book . Since then, 1000 copies have been distributed free to schools and individuals, especially to  participants  in seminars organised by the Centre for Global Nonviolence Nigeria.

Seminar on Nonviolent Struggle and Social Change in the Niger Delta

The  seminar, which lasted two days, started at 8 am on the 7th of August, 2009, with registration of participants.  Following directly was an opening session that included remarks by Fidelis Allen and ken Henshaw-representative of the Centre for Global Nonviolence Nigeria and Programme Officer of Social Action respectively. In his  opening speech, Allen explained that, the seminar sought to redirect energies of activists, leaders of nongovernmental organisations and  community based organisations from violent struggles to nonviolent methods of engagement with power; develop and share ideas about nonviolent struggle against neo-liberal politics and economics among individuals and groups in the Niger Delta;  strengthen and widen existing consciousness  for utilisation of nonviolent methods and practices among individuals and groups in the region; and to facilitate appreciation of the Nonkilling Theory as an approach to conflict transformation. He thanked Social Action for its cooperation and role in making the seminar a reality. Over 50 persons representing different organisations participated in the seminar.

Speaking concerning the seminar, Ken Henshaw, welcomed participants and reiterated that the seminar was part of Social Action’s Political Education programme in which training in nonviolence is central. He noted that Social Action’s collaboration with the Centre for Global Nonviolence Nigeria  and several other organisations  has  been very rewarding in achieving the goal of  this project.

The seminar was basically interactive. It utilised group discussions  where participants contributed and   responded to issues raised in papers presented by facilitators.  For each sessional paper, groups of 3-4 persons were constituted, after initial general discussions on the issues raised in relation to emerging questions, with specific mandate to discuss and identify how to apply knowledge gained from the sessional papers in real life struggle for social change.  It allowed Individual experiences to reflect in the discussions and by simple logical extension deepened understanding of the issues around the theme of the seminar.  The seminar was less of conventional academic sessions and dwelled more on practical aspect of nonviolence, except for the theoretical framework, in which participants also contributed through a frame of grounded theory to expand conceptualisation of the issues.

Presentations

Breakfast was served before the first paper was presented.  It was a paper titled “Introduction to Nonviolent Struggle: Theory, History and Successes” presented by Fidelis Allen. Allen addressed three questions pertaining to the meaning of nonviolent struggle; how it works; how activists, leaders of civil society and community based organisations should organise effective nonviolent actions for social change without killing; and finally, extent of suitability of nonviolent struggle for social change in the Niger Delta. He proceeded by explaining the theory of power upon which the practice of nonviolent struggle rests and went on to examine the theory of nonviolence, arguing that  it is basically a cluster of techniques intended to undermine support and continuity of a status quo characterised by injustice and oppression without killing or eliminating the opponent.  Gene Sharp was massively quoted in his paper on the consent theory of power that informs the practice and usefulness of the theory. Nonviolent weapons of waging conflict or addressing issues of injustice which Allen drew from Gene Sharp are broadly: nonviolent protests and persuasion; noncooperation; and nonviolent intervention.

Examining the principles of nonviolent struggle, Allen identified a three-step approach, namely: setting the right goals, assessing resource availability and the opponent’s defencelessness. He charged that social movement leaders should expect repressive reactions from the opponent as they undertake nonviolent actions.  Allen buttressed his arguments on the usefulness of nonviolent struggle by drawing examples from far and recent history and contemporary cases across the globe.

Allen’s presentation was followed by Dr. Idumange John Agreen who addressed the issue of global crisis of capitalism and its connection with strategies of addressing conflicts arising from its social, economic and political effects. He argues that the crisis of capitalism is real and self-destructive. Examining how this relates to Nigeria, he blames capitalism for the oil and environment related violent conflicts in the Niger Delta. However, he submits that nonviolent strategies of addressing these conflicts  is strategically significant for ensuring lasting peace and justice in the region.

Dr. Steve Nwosu presented a paper on the topic, “Nonviolence and Social Democracy in Nigeria: Lessons from Rosa Luxemburg.”  He examines Rosa Luxemburg’s view on nonviolent tactical political change for social democracy and the lessons for Nigeria.  He began by explaining Nigeria’s capitalist formations in the light of ideas proposed by Rosa Luxemburg’s alternate social democracy project.  A key argument of relevance is the agreement that capitalism is faulty or problematic as a universal socio-economic system with universal laws of progress in society. The paper provides an important contribution to academic knowledge on Rosa Luxemburg, whose ideas, up to date, are not sufficiently known by students, scholars and activists. A clear lesson from Rosa Luxemburg is her position on strategies for engendering collapse of exploitative capitalism. While she argues for an evolutionary process devoid of killing, centralisation of party organs and dictatorship, traditional Marxists hold the contrary view. A reformist agenda in which social democracy is a goal in the writings of Rosa Luxemburg was captured in Nwosu’s paper.

Ikalama Charles’  paper, entitled “Models of Nonviolent Civil Disobedience in the Niger Delta,”  examined specific models of civil  disobedience in the Niger Delta of Nigeria.  The aim was to highlight these cases in order to better understand how it has been utilised and even how it works. He dwelled on the case of Movement for the Survival of the Ogonis (MOSOP). He also identified women groups with great capacity for nonviolent civil disobedience.  What seems clear in Ikalama’s paper is the depth of explanation given to instances of nonviolent civil disobedience among groups in the Niger Delta. The paper attracted arguments, with divergent views to MOSOP being a good case of nonviolent group in the fight for justice in the Niger Delta.

Group Discussions

General discussions, questions and comments were taken after each presentation on the two days.  Facilitators responded accordingly.

In the last session of the seminar participants split into three groups, namely: Martin Luther King Jr.; Mohandas Gandhi; and Glenn D.Paige.  Each of these groups was give specific task to undertake. The Martin Luther King Jr. group was given the assignment of discussing and recommending strategies and solutions to the Niger Delta crisis. Mohandas Gandhi group looked at the best way to address the issue of amnesty granted militants or freedom fighters in the Niger Delta as a nonviolent initiative of the Federal Government. The last group, Glenn D.Paige, addressed how activists and leaders of civil society should organise effective actions for social change without killing.

Each of the groups had a leader and a rappateur.  Outcome of discussions on the tasks given to each of the groups were presented by their rappateurs in a plenary session.

Reports by groups

Martin Luther king Jr. Group

Following extensive deliberations on the task of discussing and making necessary recommendations on strategies and solutions to current crisis in the Niger Delta, and having given the background of how politics of oil production and degradation of the environment by oil companies in the region have shaped the nature of conflict among key actors in the crisis, the group made the following recommendations:

  1. That a sovereign national conference of all ethnic groups in Nigeria to decide Nigeria’s federal system  is  over-due;
  2. Repeal of all obnoxious laws, such as the Land Use decree in Nigeria;
  3. Creation of employment opportunities  for youths of the region;
  4. Massive clean up of  the  environment  polluted by oil company activities in the Niger Delta;
  5. Gas flaring  should be stopped forthwith in the region;
  6. Groups in the region should utilise nonviolent methods in their struggle for justice in Nigeria;
  7. Social democracy should be the goal of groups in their quest for social change in the region. As such, provisions of “recall” in Nigeria’s constitution should
  8. Be utilised to regulate representatives who fail to adequately represent their constituencies;
  9. Use of regular rallies by oil bearing communities;
  10. Use of constructive nonviolent public speeches;
  11. Use of letter writing and campaigns.

Mohandas Gandhi Group

This group faulted the amnesty concept as being applied by the Federal Government in Nigeria.  For instance, it notes that effective state pardon for crimes committed requires clarity on the specific offenders.  The current case in the Niger Delta is vague and fails to clarify or make any significant distinction on those on whom amnesty is targeted. Besides, the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria fails to accommodate amnesty as understood by the government. The group therefore notes that the so called amnesty is political, a temporary measure and will not address the real issues of injustice in the Niger Delta. The group made the following recommendations:

  1. Convene a sovereign national conference of all ethnic groups in Nigeria to discuss the future of Nigeria;
  2. Resolutions of such a conference must be fully implemented;
  3. Use of civil disobedience by groups in the region in seeking justice;

Glenn D.  Paige Group

Having noted that killing, on the part of the government and the non-state actors in the Niger Delta is wrong and should be consciously avoided, the group made the following recommendations:

  1. Leaders of civil society should form a movement , beginning with a conference, where they could draw up a charter or code of conduct  to check excesses of government officials;
  2. Leaders of civil society should create a training centre to prepare themselves for massive use of nonviolent civil disobedience;
  3. Mobilisation of rural communities for a nonviolent struggle for development in the Niger Delta;
  4. Groups should seek legal means to address issues affecting them in the Niger Delta;
  5. Groups should use methods of lobby at the local, national and international levels to address the world to the issues in the Niger Delta;
  6. Establishment of independent media outfits by the civil society for unadulterated voicing of conditions of the oppressed.

Participants were unanimous in considering the aforementioned recommendations of the three groups at the plenary, which should form the basis of a communiqué. A five-man communiqué drafting committee, comprising  leaders of the three groups and representatives of Social Action and the Centre for Global Nonviolence Nigeria was then constituted to draft a communiqué.

Communiqué

Following deliberations based on issues raised in papers presented by facilitators in a 2-Day seminar on “Nonviolent Struggle and Social Change in the Niger Delta,”  organised by the Centre for Global Nonviolence Nigeria and Social Action at number 33 Orominike Layout, D-Line, Port Harcourt on 7-8 August,2009, participants note that violent conflict in the Niger Delta require commitment of the governments at the various levels of local, state and federal to the development of the region.  We therefore state as follows:

  1. That nonviolence is useful for resolving the crisis in the region by the government and aggrieved groups in the Niger Delta;
  2. That a sovereign national conference of all ethnic groups in Nigeria to decide Nigeria’s federal system  is  over-due;
  3. Repeal of all obnoxious laws, such as the Land Use decree in Nigeria;
  4. Creation of employment opportunities  for youths of the region;
  5. Massive clean up  the  environment  polluted by oil company activities in the Niger Delta;
  6. Gas flaring  should be stopped forthwith in the region;
  7. Groups in the region should utilise nonviolent methods in their struggle for justice in Nigeria;
  8. Social democracy should be the goal of groups in their quest for social change in the region. As such, provisions of “recall” in Nigeria’s constitution should be utilised to regulate representatives who fail to adequately represent their constituencies;
  9. Use of regular rallies by oil bearing communities;
  10. Use of constructive nonviolent public speeches.

Communiqué  draft committee

  1. Ken Henshaw- Social Action
  2. Fidelis Allen
  3. Wuke Chidi
  4. Ndorbu Brown—OSF/PAC
  5. Romeo Need

SEMINAR ON NONVIOLENT STRUGGLE AND SOCIAL CHANGE IN THE NIGER DELTA