“As of this moment, I found that the Ogoni people are going extinct . No hospitals, no schools. There is nothing. And yet, this is a very rich area. I cannot accept that paradox … I have perceived a great injustice being done to this people and as a writer, I have decided that I am going to fight. I want justice for the Ogoni people, I want self determination for the Ogoni, I want autonomy for the Ogoni people.”_
Ken Saro Wiwa ( The Hangman 1993).
Ken Saro Wiwa spent all of his adult life fighting for justice for
his Ogoni people, and indeed the rest of the ethnic minorities of the Niger delta region of Nigeria. As a writer, Ken Saro Wiwa exposed the dirty deals of the transnational oil corporations in the Niger delta. On this mission Ken Saro Wiwa took the battle to the dirty oils on their home turf, with a view to mobilizing public opinion against them. This according to Ken, is because ,the crimes committed by Shell and other oil corporations in the
Niger delta are hidden from their home countries.
In course of his crusade against what he described as environmental
devastation, economic strangulation, political marginalization and genocide, he became a target of the slick allies, Shell and the Nigerian ruling cabal. Ken Saro Wiwa was not oblivious of the threat to his life . And he knew where the threat to his life was coming from. In an interview with Africa Today magazine (September/October 1995) he disclosed:
“On January 4 ( 1993 when 300,000 Ogonis marched on Shell and the Nigerian government ) the alarm bells rang in the ears of Shell”. “I was to know no peace from then on . I became a regular guest of the security agencies. I was stopped and arrested at airports, seized from my office and questioned repeatedly”. But Ken Saro Wiwa was undaunted by the dangers he faced as he said: “ When you are fighting for the right of a people you cannot begin to wonder if you are going to be killed or to be sent to jail.
Right is right and it must be fought for.” And on November 10, 1995, Ken Saro Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Dr.Barinem Kiobel, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dorbee, Daniel Gbokoo, Paul Levura and Nordu Eawo were callously hanged by the Nigerian government with the shadow of Shell lurking in the background.
The barbaric murder of the Ogoni Nine provoked international outrage. The United Nations and other world bodies condemned the murders. The Ogoni Nine murders prompted a special United Nations Fact-finding visit to Nigeria in April1996. After noting that Ken Saro Wiwa and his fellow Ogoni compatriots were wrongly executed, the United Nations Fact-finding mission recommended among others : “ The Government of Nigeria should consider establishing a panel of eminent jurists nominated by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, to establish the modalities to determine who and to what extent financial relief could be accorded to the dependents of the families of the deceased”.
The UN report also recommended the constitution of a committee to comprise of representatives of the Ogoni community and other minority groups in the region to be chaired by a retired judge of the High Court for the purpose of introducing improvements in the socioeconomic conditions of these communities, enhancing employment opportunities , health, education and welfare services and to act as ombudsman in any complaint/allegations of harassment at the hands of the authorities.
Sixteen years after the United Nations Fact-finding recommendations on Ogoni hangings, the Nigerian government has yet to implement the reports. There are also a plethora of other recommendations on Ogoni from various international bodies which have not been implemented. While these acts of contempt on the part of the Nigerian government should not be shocking given the nature of what passes as government , in that part of the world, a bunch of outlaws . However, the onus rests on the leadership of MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, to take the battle to the Nigerian government and its slick ally, Shell.
Ken Saro Wiwa paid with his life, seeking justice for the Ogoni people. Now, MOSOP leadership must do justice to the memory of our late great leader and all other Ogonis who were murdered during the course of our struggle for justice. MOSOP should wait no further to institute a class action law suit against the Nigerian government and Shell for the genocide they have committed in Ogoni, and to insist that the numerous recommendations by the United Nations with Ogoni specifics are
implemented. What is more, MOSOP leadership must ensure that no Ogoni oil leaves the ground until all our demands have been met. And these include the environmental clean up which the UNEP estimated would take 30 years to complete. At the end of thirty years we can begin to negotiate when and who can drill for oil in Ogoni, based on very stringent environmental and revenue sharing based conditions that would be acceptable to the generality of the Ogoni people.
Ken Saro Wiwa died seeking justice for the Ogoni. Now it behooves us his survivors in the MOSOP struggle to ensure that he gets justice, which he was so brutally denied. We must explore all avenues within and outside Nigeria to see that justice is done to the memory of Ken Saro Wiwa.
Leburah Ganago | Atlanta, USA | Nov. 18, 2012