June 18, 2009

OGONI NINE: ‘Shell’s compensation can cause friction in future’

By Jimitota Onoyume
FIRST son of late Albert Badey, one of the four prominent Ogoni  chiefs that were killed in Giokoo, Gokana local government area on May 21st, 1994, Mr. Swaga Alex Badey, in this interview with Vanguard described the recent decision by Shell to pay compensation to families of late Ken Saro Wiwa and the other eight that were hung as sad and divisive. Instead of compensation, he said,  Shell should have shown sincere resolve to address the devastation and degradation caused by its operations in Ogoni land.

He observed that the environmental pollution and pain brought about by the operations of the oil giant in Ogoni area culminated in the birth of MOSOP which later had a leadership crisis that finally consumed his father, three others, and later the Ogoni nine.

He lamented that the family has been  living with the agony of not seeing  the corpses of the father and the other chiefs, fifteen years after they were murdered. According to him, the media only opted to play up the stories of the late Ken Saro Wiwa because he was a writer and by extension a journalist. Excerpts:

What has it been like in your family circle since the brutal murder of your father and three others in the last fifteen years?

Late Ken Saro-Wiwa

Late Ken Saro-Wiwa

If I cast my mind back to May 21st 1994, just like what I read in the Times magazine, Michael Eliot described it as an unsettled issue. Particularly when you are not sure of event that is so tangible. Since May 21st 1994 till now it’s painful that we have not seen the corpses of my father and the other three chiefs.

I remember Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) under Ken Sarowiwa introduced violence in the later part of the struggle which culminated in the death of my father and three others. Ledum Mitee later became president of MOSOP; he severally called on the government to bring the remains of the Ogoni nine. My question to Ledum and to MOSOP is why have they never thought of the remains of the four?

Is it that they are not human beings? They deserved to die?  Were they not Ogoni patriots? These questions need to be answered. Most times everything about the four is down played for reasons best known to them. My analysis is that the media has ostracized the four because Ken Sarowiwa was a writer, a journalist by extension. And so he enjoyed the sympathy of the media.

That in my thinking is not too fair on the part of the media. They should be objective and see the other side of the story.  We have gone through serious challenges. Our mums are faced with this trauma all the time

The recent payment by Shell to the Ogoni nine has just re awaken the entire episode because most of us, I in particular,  want to let the world know that we don’t believe in money.

We are not interested in any monetary gratification or payment from Shell or even the government because there is no amount of money you will give to us that will bring our fathers back to life. This brings us to the moral questions of why did the Ogoni nine accept such compensation. I hear Ledum Mitee hailing the payment, I heard Ken Junior saying the same thing. My question is, is that enough?

These men died, we don’t want to go into the nitty gritty of how they were killed. These men died for the cause of Ogoni land because they wanted to bring change to the place, to be completely cleaned up the land, get our children good education, give the elderly good health care, and raise the standard of living of the people.

These were what our fathers asked for. And I think that any right thinking Ogoni person should have looked at these issues if an opportunity came for them to negotiate out of court. What I think they should have done was to look at the larger picture, the Ogoni question which  would have ensured that the issue did not just end with Shell thinking about payment for the victims of the crisis. But more importantly they should be looking at how it affect the entire people.

Were the families of Ogoni Four parties to the suit in New York ?

We were not part of those that want to court but we heard of it. There was a mock reconciliatory move. We had thought it was time to put the past behind and work for the future. When this Ogoni Nine thing came up in New York  i.e. a case against Shell, we had expected that Ken jnr, the leader of the team should have recognized that other people were also murdered in this crisis. So presenting a case like that you should have shown the pains of the Ogonis from all angles. Coming back to your question, it was just Ken jnr and the other Ogoni nine.

Did you make any overtures to them while the case was on?

We just decided to watch.

Since you were not party to the case do you think you have any moral justification to condemn the Shell monetary compensation?

Well, yes. I am not saying I am interested in the money. But I am disappointed not just in the family of the Ogoni nine being represented by the Wiwa family but more importantly I am disappointed in Shell, particularly because they know what happened in Ogoni.

And they should be better informed to know how to go about such an issue. The bottom line is that it was not a decent negotiation.

Do you have any peace of advice for Shell?

Shell should realize  the pains they caused  Ogoni. They should be very objective in all they do.  You don’t say you are paying people. How much can you pay? What we need in Ogoni is human and capital development.

If Shell has taken oil from us for about thirty years. And they did not put in anything then they should put enough in the area as compensation. . They should come up with a road map that will not bring friction in the future.

What is your comment on the crisis in MOSOP?

As far as I am concerned Ledum Mitee has not been a true leader for the Ogoni people. Leadership comes up with a lot of responsibility. They seem to have forgotten the collective interest.

I cast my mind back to when my father was told not to accept government appointment or else NYCOP and MOSOP will burn his house. But I have lived to see Ledum nominated his brother for appointment in Rivers State government as a Senior Special Adviser to the governor and he is also part of MOSOP. You can see a lot of insincerity.

In your own view what is the way forward in MOSOP

There should be a  proper election. Since the formation of the group there has never been any election.