As conversations over the return of oil exploration activities to Ogoniland deepen, most Ogonis are urging the Rivers State Governor, Barrister Nyesom Wike, to participate fully in ongoing talks with the Federal Government.

The invitation extended to the Governor, according to what we have learnt, derives from growing public confidence, particularly among the Ogoni elite, that Wike would bring a lot of value to the table and possibly tilt negotiations in favour of the mineral bearing communities that are linked to OML 11.

The Federal Government, which has embarked on a cleanup campaign to salvage what is left of the degraded Ogoni environment, commenced discussions recently with prominent leaders from the area.

Although information is not available on how soon the Ogonis would return to the dialogue table for such high level talks with the Federal Government, many who hail from the ethnic nation believe it is time to involve Governor Wike and the Rivers State Government in the evolving conversation.

“Wike is demonstrating strong leadership. He has proved to be an astute negotiator, a bargainer and a protector of Rivers interests”, the Publisher of the Port Harcourt Telegraph, Chief Ogbonna Nwuke noted.

“It is not surprising that the Ogoni are asking him to lead their team in an unfolding discussion with the Federal Government”, the frontline journalist and former member of the House of Representatives added.

Interestingly, the Rivers State reportedly has huge stakes in OML 11.

Ogoni leaders think that they are more likely to secure a better deal now that a new framework is being drawn up, if they were to drag Wike into the negotiations at this stage.

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This would mean that the interest of the Rivers State as well as that of the Ogoni people who have been fighting an economic war of survival would be properly aligned.

However, the nomination of Governor Nyesom Wike by Ogoni stakeholders to lead the discussion with the Federal Government on the planned resumption of oil production in OML 11 is raising some controversy, especially among Ogoni rights campaigners.

While Comrade Celestine Akpobari is vehemently opposed to the nomination of Governor Wike by the Ogoni elite, Solomon Lenu, an Ogoni human rights activist sees nothing wrong with the idea of involving the Rivers Governor.

“Anybody can champion this movement for as long as it will lead to the desired end”, Okafor Ofiebor of The News quoted Lenu as saying.

“If we’ve found a stranger who genuinely wants to bail us out”, Lenu continued, “then we have to be humble enough to accept such help without pride.”

On the other hand, Akpobari, an environmentalist, is arguing that there are prominent and eminently qualified Ogonis who can be trusted to lead the multi-consultative discussion with the Federal Government.

“Those Ogoni leaders who went to Government House to adopt Governor Wike are also those the younger Ogonis look up to lead them.

“We have Senators who were Chairmen of Senate Committee in the Upstream and Downstream sector of the oil industry who are experts much more than Wike, why can’t they lead? Why Wike?”

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Lenu who appears to have an answer for Akpobari explained, ”Truth is that, if you are an Ogoni man who has means of livelihood; and who moves around Ogonis at the lower echelon of life; then you’ll see how badly things are with us.

“And the need to end this protracted oil loggerhead, and the disservice of Ogoni elites to the people through their lack of patriotism and disunity”.

Akpobari nonetheless accused Wike of being an interested party, saying that the State Government had acquired 45 percent share of Oil Mining Lease, OML 11.

“Governor Wike had earlier told the world that he had bought OML 11, so why adopt an interested party to lead you in that kind of discussion with the federal government”, Akpobari asked.

The purported acquisition of 45% of OML 11 by the Rivers State Government, some analysts insist, even strengthens the argument in favor of Wike’s participation in the discussions.

“When you add this to the Governor’s capacity to galvanize public support for any cause he chooses to fight, then you would understand how open and transparent the Federal Government is likely be on the issue because of his mere presence”, one analyst said.

Former President of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Ledum Mitee, told journalists in Port Harcourt that the decision to involve the governor is aimed at preventing saboteurs who may want to adopt divide and rule tactic to cause crisis in Ogoni at the detriment of the people.

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Besides, the Ogoni delegation to Abuja discussed quite a number of issues and it was important to brief Governor Wike on those issues, Mitee revealed.

“We reviewed the outcome of that meeting and we, as a people resolved that, the issues that were discussed are such that required partnership with the state government.

“In other words, we felt that the Government of Rivers State and Ogoni people would work together to pursue some of those issues that were raised as outcome of that meeting, specifically on the issues of OML 11.

“We felt that it required some sustained and painstaking consultation process which must involve the State government as partnering with us and its leadership on how we will go together to work. So that, some divide and rule will not be exploited to the detriment of our people.”

In his reaction, Senator Lee Maeba disclosed that the Ogonis have decided to cue behind the leadership that Governor Wike would provide, pertaining to the establishment of a multi-consultative forum.

Maeba sttessed that since President Buhari had issued directives relating to do the OML 11 whose licence has been granted to NPDC, there is need for the NNPC to consult and dialogue with the Ogonis.