By Patrick Naagbanton
DONU KOGBARA, the veteran media writer and daughter of the late Chief Ignatus Vibel Kogbara, the prominent Ogoni elite, is a courageous woman. Courage can be displayed when one either is doing good or evil, but itâ€™s always good to demonstrate courage for good, for the health of society.
Reading Donuâ€™s convulsion in the Vanguard newspaper of Sunday, June 4, 2009, page 2 under the title, â€œThe Forgotten Fourâ€, stirred my mind. Same article was lavishly reproduced in the Tell magazine and Nigeriaâ€™s Guardian newspaper of same week.
I am not a member of the Saro-wiwa fans club of the Donu Kogbaraâ€™s characterisation, but as an Ogoni who hails from the same Bodo community with Donu, in the Gokana Kingdom of Ogoni, I am worried at the high level of misrepresentation of facts in her piece.
Several years had passed since our four illustrious elders – Edward Nna Kobani, Albert Badey, Theophilous Orage and Sam Orage were murdered. I have always condemned their brutal death at Giokoo, the traditional and spiritual headquarters of the Gokana people. I have always commended their (Ogoni-4) contributions to the progress and development of Ogoni land.
Those who allowed themselves to be rented by the tyrannical Sani Abacha regime in connivance with Shell, the Anglo-Dutch dragon to murder our eminent elites to provide the pretext for the barbaric hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa and others (Ogoni-9) will know no peace. Apart from Ogoni 4 and Ogoni 9, hundreds of poor rural Ogoni folks were massacred in that genocide of the 1990s.
Several years had passed when the heinous happenings took place. It was the darkest period in Ogoni history we shouldnâ€™t be reminding ourselves. Though, I canâ€™t also forget about it completely.
It was Abacha that unleashed a terror gang called Rivers State Internal Security Task Force (RSISTF) allegedly funded by Shell, and first headed by Major Paul Okuntimo who in those dark days would gather poor unarmed Ogonis in their village squares and boasted of over 200 methods of killing people.
After Okuntimoâ€™s tenure of terror at the RSISTF, Major Umahi Obi, a sanguinary soldier and pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God took over, and continued with the wasting operation of the Ogonis. Ogoni was soaked in blood of its poor women, children, youths and men.
While Donu was in the cozy and peaceful atmosphere of London, the home of the Queen, we were in Ogoni agonising over our loved ones who were either killed, maimed, raped or tortured by Abachaâ€™s soldiers. Several years had passed and the truth of the matter should be known by now. I am shell-shocked that Donu told this same story 15 years ago, and is re-telling it with a refreshed Goebbelian adroitness.
For several years, I have been following the case of the murder of ourÂ four chiefs. Sincerely, if I have found Saro-Wiwa in any way responsible for their death I would have been at the forefront of the condemnation of Saro-Wiwa now.
Ken is just an innocent man; Saro-Wiwa while alive always argued that the struggle was about social justice and not a struggle for power. Donuâ€™s piece exhibits a hidden hatred for the personality of the late Saro-Wiwa and his literary and journalistic legacies, and herÂ hatredÂ cannot make Saro-Wiwa posthumously guilty of an offence he never committed, or damage his well-deserved reputation.
Several years had passed, and misrule and corruption in our polity have assumed a complex form, and such anomic situation is breeding unreason and superstition amongst our population.
The gullible ones will surely swallow Donuâ€™s untruth about Saro-Wiwa, and the Ogoni struggle, if she is left unchallenged. Perhaps, Donu is naÃ¯ve about the Okuntimoâ€™s secret memo to Dauda Musa Komo, the Military Administrator of Rivers State then, when the Giokoo murders occurred.
In that memo, Okuntimo had urged Komo to join him, to cash in on the divisions in the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), to actualise their evil agenda of silencing Saro-Wiwa and his MOSOP. This is when his first strategy of inciting Ogoni neighbours like Andoni, Okrika and others against Ogoni failed to achieve any result. This preceded the gruesome Giokoo murders.
At the Justice Ibrahim Auta Kangaroo tribunal which sentenced Saro-Wiwa and others to death by hanging, the late Kemte Giadom, the seasoned Ogoni politician and elder statesman accused the government of having a hand in the killings of his compatriots – the Ogoni Four.
Kemte hinged his accusation on the fact that himself and the late I.S. Kogbara, Donuâ€™s father, were on their way toÂ the Giokoo meeting on that tragic May 21, 1994, and were intercepted and briefed by Kobaniâ€™s personal driver, Friday Dooh who escaped the murders by the whiskers.
At that point, the duo (Giadom and Kogbara) braved the metallic hell of the road to Kpopie junction, some two kilometres away from Giokoo, to report the on-going murders to a band of heavily armed soldiers stationed there.
The soldiers, Kemte lamented, were drafted into the area to secure them following complaints of insecurity to the Rivers State administrator, Komo. However, to Kemteâ€™s external chargrin, the soldiers rebuffed their appeal for intervention.
Saro-Wiwa was not in Giokoo contrary to Donuâ€™s insinuation, neither were our respected chiefs murdered by a pro-Ken mob.
Even Stephen Hasso, the honest police officer sent to arrest Saro-Wiwa when the sad news of the Giokoo murders broke , later told the Justice Ibraham Autaâ€™s Kangaroo tribunalÂ that Ken was not close to the scene of the murders, nor did he utter any negative words to encourage the murders. I learnt that when Ken heard it, he wept profusely. When Ken was alive, in spite of their differences, he never spoke ill of the murdered chiefs.
Understandably, Donu is not happy about the settlement out of the United States District Court of the Southern District of New York where Shell, a company that Donu literally work for, agreed to pay a â€œwhoppingâ€ $15.5 million (about 2billion) to 10 plaintiffs.
She wrote â€œBut I didnâ€™t participate in the widespread jubililation because I happen to be an Ogoni who knows a lot about Ken and the events that led to his death; and I hate to offend his traumatized family and well-intentioned fans club but feel morally obliged to say that I have long felt; a) that Ken doesnâ€™t deserve the near canonization that has been unconditionally lavished on him and b) that his so-called adversaries have been unfairly demonized, disrespected and disregardedâ€.
Mr. Naagbanton,a commentator on national issues, writes fromPort Harcourt, Rivers State.