Nov 12, 2007

Ogoni: 12 Years On, Saro-Wiwa Still Remembered

Executed 12 years ago by the Nigerian state, the legacy of environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa lives on amongst the Ogoni people.

Executed 12 years ago by the Nigerian state, the legacy of environmental and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa lives on amongst the Ogoni people. 

Below is an article published by The Tide:

Twelve years after the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight of his Ogoni compatriots by the Abacha Military junta, for daring to raise awareness on the lack of development in the oil rich Niger Delta, there are still unsettling questions in the Niger Delta nay Nigeria.

Contrary to the intentions of his tormentors to permanently put to rest his fiery advocacy against the forces of oppression and indigenous colonialism, Ken continues to hunt them from his grave with endless reverberations of the need for the Nigerian state to respond to the imperatives of justice. 

Ken, as he was popularly called, dusted up a hitherto docile Ogoni people through a peaceful non-violence campaign into an active anti-oppression voice. He came up with a simplicity and authority that struck the minds of his tormentors.

Like most great men of history who staked their lives for a cause in which they had implicit conviction, Ken Saro Wiwa chose to liberate his people with his blood and remained unbroken even in death. 

So when the news came on November 10 1995 that Ken Saro Wiwa had been executed, Nigerians knew that a gem of a citizen has been wasted.

Saro Wiwa was superhumanly bold, strong and imaginative. He was one of the greatest men of action Nigeria has ever produced. 

He maintained a symbolic significance which endeared him to his people and was not ignorant of the toil and pains that it will cost to confront a military dictatorship.

Perhaps Ken’s greatest annoyance with the Nigerian State was the despoliation of his once fertile Ogoni environment through oil exploratory activities, a gloomy situation which he openly resented without any iota of compromise. 

He decried the impoverishment of his people despite the fact that they stood on a pinnacle of wealth, and practically confronted their adversaries the Royal/Dutch Multinational oil giant Shell which had exploited the Ogoni environment over decades.

The awareness Ken raised in Ogoni thus made them the epitome of minority rights consciousness and the Ogonis no doubt received a punitive dose of brutality over that frontier role.

But Saro Wiwa encouraged them not to bow to persistent threats and persecution by state powers. Nigeria, however, paid dearly for the killing of Saro Wiwa among other Icons who were hurriedly sent to the great beyond to pave way for unfettered military rule [...].

Perhaps most of Nigeria problems today are because it hunted and killed its most patriotic and dedicated sons and daughters whose perception of the Nigerian state was grossly misconstrued.

Consequently, a society that kills its best brains over flimsy accusations and excuses remains bereaved and widowed till the end of the age, and for Nigeria it will take time to replace personalities like Ken Saro Wiwa. 

But Ken in death achieved most of the ideals he stood for. Like the American civil rights crusader Martin Luther King Jr said; “it is not the longevity of life but the quality that counts, so if you are cut down in a struggle designed to save others which death could be more redemptive”? Apart from been one of the few Africans celebrated in the international mainstream of martyrdom, Ken Saro Wiwa was virtually lionized among his native Ogoni people and the entire Niger Delta for his unwavering candour.

The virtues he stood and died for perhaps remains the determinant of peace and economic prosperity in the Nigerian nation. 

Although apparent deviations from Ken’s projections by many years of military oligarchy has escalated the development crisis in the Niger Delta, Ken’s peaceful measure remains the yardstick for sustaining Nigeria fragile federalism. However as Ken rightly stated, the choice of redemption depends on the individual.

Today, the neglect of the plight of the Niger Delta has turned the oil rich region to a threatre of unresolved crisis. Worse still, criminal elements have taken advantage of the situation to perfect acts of strategic deception. 

As we mark the 12 anniversary of the death of this great man of our times, there is need among every stakeholder to ponder over the most practical solutions to the development crisis in the embattled Niger Delta.

This no doubt will make Nigeria breathe the air of justice.