By PATRICK NAAGBANTON
DONU Kogbara, the veteran 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, 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 characterization, but as an Ogoni who hail 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 bloodcurdling Sani Abachaâ€™s tyranny 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 the Ogoni 4 and the Ogoni 9, hundreds of poor rural Ogoni folks were massacred in that sneaking Shell/State 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) funded by Shell, and first headed by an army officer who in those dark days would gather poor unarmed Ogonis in their village squares and boasted of over 200 methods of killing people.
After the army officerâ€™s tenure at the RSISTF, his successor, a sanguinary soldier and pastor 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 agonizing over our loved ones who were either killed, maimed, raped or tortured by Abacha/Shellâ€™s soldiers. Several years had passed and the truth of the matter should be known by now.
I am shell-shocked that D
onu 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 facts of the case of murders of our 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 stroking of Saro-Wiwa now.
Ken was just an innocent man; Saro-Wiwa while alive always argued that the struggle is 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 her infantile philippics 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 Donu Kogbaraâ€™s untruth about Saro-Wiwa, and the Ogoni struggle, if she is left unchallenged. Perhaps, Donu is naÃ¯ve about the RSISTF commanderâ€™s secret memo to Dauda Musa Komo, the military administrator of Rivers State then, when the Giokoo murders occurred.
In that memo, the commander had urged Komo to join him, to cash in on the divisions in the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), to actualize their evil agenda of silencing Saro-Wiwa and his MOSOP. This came 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 4. 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 kilometers away from Giokoo, to report the ongoing 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 Giokoo spread, later told the Autaâ€™s kangaroo tribunal of injustice, that Ken was not close to the scene of the murders, nor did he utter any negative words to encourage their murders. I learnt that when Ken heard it, he wept profusely. When Ken was alive, in spite of their differences, he never spoke ills 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 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€.
Her piece is gluttered with falsification of accounts about Saro-Wiwa, and how Shell reached the settlement deal with the plaintiffs. Shell didnâ€™t voluntarily dole out the paltry $15.5 million as a â€œhumanitarian gestureâ€ as she claimed. Shell settled the matter out of fear. Fear of defeat in court, and the kind of precedent that will trail several issues later in court. 13 years of intense legal battle against Shell has not been easy.
For those numbers of years, I offered my Probono legal assistance to help the case. The payment is an admittance of guilt by Shell for the atrocities they committed in Ogoniland. Donu should know that out of the Shellâ€™s $15.5 million, only a small amount will go to the plaintiffs for their colossal losses, pains and deaths which Shell and the Nigerian government inflicted on them. Some will go into Ogoni development â€“ the Kiisi Trust – and some to settle legal expenses. Disunity wouldnâ€™t help the Ogoni cause. Donu Kogbara should allow peace to return to a battered land. She shouldnâ€™t be acting as a catalyst for discord amongst the Ogoni people.
Naagbanton lives in Port Harcourt, Rivers State.