He became one of the earliest casualties of a repression which was to consume the lives of over 4,000 Ogonis. We grew up together in Yeghe, part of present day Gokana local government area and shared our childhood days as cousins.
From our daily encounters with folks, to the playtime at St Peter’s Anglican Church premises and down to being children of “Mbiu” the mother masquerade who will take us round our community once in every 5 days, Uebari Nnah and I were not just folks, we were brothers and identified with each other.
My cousin, Uebari Nnah, was such an energetic and smart person, excellent in deeds and his acrobatic skills on the sand beaches we shared with the neighbouring village of Kaani was always a pride for us who came from the Yeghe axis. With Uebari, and a few others, Yeghe was always on the winning side.
My mum’s graduation from the School of Nursing caused our separation as I left home and lived in the nurses quarters in Omoku, Bori, Isiokpo, and finally in Port Harcourt. Uebari, in company of his father and elder brother, Baribie, relocated to Koro-koro in present day Tai local government area of Rivers State where he was to meet his untimely death on October 25, 1993. Koro-koro hosts one of Ogoni’s 6 major oil fields. The others are Yorla, K-Dere (also called Bomu), Bodo West, Ebubu, and Afam-Lekuma oil fields.
For residents of Koro-koro who witnessed the daily gas flares and crude oil spills that kill thousands of Ogoni people to this day, the launch of MOSOP and its profound impact in redressing the wrongs was quite exciting just as it were for all Ogoni people.
MOSOP meant a lot for an ethnic nationality whose identity and pride were lost, a people who had no hope for the future. It was not surprising to see the social movement for civil rights spread quite rapidly within Ogoni. Ken’s approach of documenting Shell’s alleged mindless atrocities had paid off and brought much awareness to the local population.
In oil magnets put out the Ogoni uprising, they got the Nigerian authorities at the time to roll out the security forces against the people and the first set of casualties included my friend and brother Uebari Nnah who was shot near the oilfield in Koro-koro on October 25, 1993.
Thirty years later, the death of Uebari is still strong in our memories. He is celebrated yearly on heroes day, November 10. That is not enough. What is even more important is to ensure that the goals of the struggle are achieved.
The Ogoni people need to invest their energy into civic education and strongly intensify the call for the operation of an Ogoni Development Authority (ODA) being an acceptable framework approved by the Central Committee of MOSOP. Our campaigns and community education conducted in all Ogoni villages led to the approval of the framework by the Central Committee of the movement and we are not only confident that it will bring peace, we strongly assure all stakeholders that the peace that will come with the ODA will be permanent.
I guarantee that the ODA is an opportunity to permanently resolve the Ogoni problem. Fundamentally, it sets the groundwork for a people driven development programme that will bring about peace, security, social order through it’s robust and well laid out plan on infrastructural development, job creation, security and more.
The ODA is an actionable plan to meet the expectations of the Ogoni people and will significantly pursue our long-term goals for economic and basic rights to function within the Nigerian state as Ogoni people – what some people call self-determination or political inclusion.
I remain confident that with the operation of the Ogoni Development Authority (ODA) the Ogoni people will find some consolation for a costly struggle and my friend and brother, Uebari Nnah and some four thousand Ogonis who have lost their lives in the Ogoni campaign to seek redress for decades of violations, persecution and state-backed marginalisation will finally rest in peace.
Until that becomes a reality, may God grant that both the living and the dead continue to support our struggle for a truly free Ogoni and a just Nigeria.
(Fegalo Nsuke is president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, MOSOP. He wrote from Calabar and can be reached via twitter at fnsuke.)