An Encounter a child will never forget by Mtamabari Torbira
The Spirit of Ogoni says NO to Genocide! I remember my first shocked encounter with this poster which graced d glass doors of Ken Saro Wiwa’s office in Tejuosho, Lagos in 1991. Shocked because I had thought that everything about MOSOP can only be seen at Bori or as far-most in PHC, but the man who took me there laughed at my naivety and ignorance (but not to scorn) and told me that MOSOP was formed in Overseas before it was formed in Ogoni hence it is an International Organization by status, orientation, operation & outlook, that Ogoni is just the field. He added that the final selection of MOSOP as the operating name for the Ogoni non-violent struggle was done in 1989 at the African Peace Research Institute (APRI) Lagos, MOSOP was selected out of the initial eleven suggested tittles/nomenclatures.
Ken's equipment packed office offered me an opportunity to see, for the first time, a Laptop computer (Toshiba brand) & a fax machine. I also saw British Pound notes for the first time in my life as he brought some from a drawer and instructed the driver to go and change it into Naira notes at the Ikeja Airport so that the CNN & BBC film Journalists who were his guest can go eat lunch at the Eko Hotels, Lagos. While in his office, a former Governor of the old Anambra state also came visiting him. I was a school cert then and that was d first time I saw him one-on-one. An Ogoni Engineer who worked with d NNPC in Lagos had taken me along just for a stroll to his office. I had always watched him from a distance while on stages addressing crowds. There in Lagos, he was ebullient and exude carefree confidence. All his discussions with the Engineer centered on Niger Delta, Ogoni people & their environment, Shell atrocities and the criminal military Junta of Sani Abacha.
I was so afraid when he told my Oga, banging his table with his right hand, that he will fight all dis injustices meted on the Niger Delta people with his life if that will be the will of God. I saw a Fearless, Determined, Sincere man. He loved d Niger Delta & Ogoni to a fault. While in his office, I felt so proud, protected & happy as an Ogoni boy then. I saw him as a big canopy under which am well covered, shielded and protected from external bigots. He speaks Ogoni to my Oga all thru as if he is not the same person who wrote and speaks all the English I have been reading and listening in his books, in Newspapers and on TVs. I thought in my heart then that I will one-day love to be like him. Even though I was not fully aware of d dangers he faces in his shoes.
My 2nd and the very last time I saw him was on the 21st May 1994 (the day he was arrested), from a very close range, at a community called Sogho where he had gone to talked the rural people. This time he looked frailer, more careworn, but his usual indefatigability hadn't entirely deserted him. While he pleasantly and continuously said thank you all, thank you, thank you all, thank you (using d Ogoni language) to the d cheering crowd, a local woman ran towards him and handed a big broom to him and boldly told him to use that broom to sweep Shell out of Ogoni-land. He thanked and assured the lady, entered his vehicle while waving continuously at the people and his entourage drove straight to Gokana to address the people there. I learned he was turned back from entering Gokana by the Nigeria army stationing everywhere in Ogoni at the time when there is no Army base in Ogoni land, and he was later arrested.
What would Ken have said today if he were here to see the depth into which Nigeria has sunk? Today Shell and the Federal government are lurking about seeking ways to sneak back into Ogoni, over d bones of the murdered to drill oil in the ruins of homesteads they burnt. As Niger Delta boils, as black soothes filled the air, nose, lungs, ear, eyes, and mouth; the black soothes are also affecting the roofs & floors of our houses, the streams, rivers, and our farmland which Ogoni people depend on for survival. Everything, including plants and animals turned black and lifeless with crude oil spills.
In addition, cultism has come to stay, as kidnapping has become the order of the day, with all treacheries from ROBOMICHAEL, even prior treachery like that of BELEMA OIL, as the demands of the Ogoni long before Shell was declared persona non-grata in 1993 remain unattended to, as the Ogoni environment remains one laboratory ground for Shell and the Collaborators or center of degradation. So as politicians sent the youths they should empower & protect to go and kill and get killed, as federal government and their soldiers’ lunches series of threatening operations polo shield, crocodile smile just to name a few instead of solving the main problems facing the people of the Niger Delta. As President of MOSOP Ken-Saro Wiwa labored so hard to build a divided mind in the Niger - Delta region into one formidable force; and as an Ogoniman he painstakingly unites and war against one another. Today, all the DOGS, the VULTURES, and HYENAS now gather around what was once a descent struggle, as he lost his first Son, as the cleanup of Ogoni environment is being used to canvass votes by politicians alike. Saro Wiwa must be winking wistfully in his grave.
Written by Mtamabari Torbira
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