The Ogoni people are one of the many indigenous peoples in the Niger Delta region of southeast Nigeria. They number about a half million people and live in a 404-square mile homeland which they also refer to as Ogoni, or Ogoniland.
The Ogoni speak the related, but not mutually intelligible languages of Khana, Gokana, Tai (Tẹẹ), Baan and Eleme, part of the linguistic diversity of the Niger Delta. The spelling 'Khana' is common, but incorrect, Suanu Ikoro's 1996 grammar shows. The Ogoni languages are usually considered to be part of the Cross River group of Benue-Congo, although the evidence for such a grouping remains tenuous. They constitute a very cohesive group, with common lexemes often shared between all five lects. This suggests that the break-up of the group is relatively recent, perhaps roughly coincident with early European contact, although there is no direct documentation for such an event. It is striking, however, that they are lexically and morphologically very distinct from their alleged nearest relatives, the Central Delta languages. This rather suggests that the ancestral language was isolated for a long period of time and underwent an expansion some centuries ago.
The Ogoni were integrated into a succession of economic systems at a pace that was extremely rapid and exacted a great toll from them. At the turn of the century, “the world to them did not extend beyond the next three or four villages,” but that soon changed. Ken Saro-Wiwa, the late president of MOSOP, described the transition this way: “if you then think that within the space of seventy years they were struck by the combined forces of modernity, colonialism, the money economy, indigenous colonialism and then the Nigerian Civil War, and that they had to adjust to these forces without adequate preparation or direction, you will appreciate the bafflement of the Ogoni people and the subsequent confusion engendered in the society.”
The National Union of Ogoni Students (NUOS International) USA is an independent, non-profit organisation that functions as the students unit of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). NUOS strives to enhance and enrich the quality of life through Educational, Charitable, Socio-cultural, Scientific and Environmental purposes for all indigenous students. NUOS provides Research, Advocacy, and Enlightens minority / indigenous students and the public on the plight and educational barriers that face indigenous and minority students. NUOS USA sent a petition to U.S. President George W Bush in July 2006 seeking his intervention in relation to the actions of the Nigerian government and the activities of Shell in Nigeria.
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Ikoro, S.M. 1996. The Kana language. Leiden: CNWS.
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