Sweet and Sour

June 19, 2009


By Donu Kogbara
LAST week, some relatives and supporters of Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni activist and writer, secured a historic $15.5 million settlement from Shell, the international oil company they have persistently blamed for Ken’s November l995 execution.

In last Sunday’s edition of Vanguard, I wrote an article in which I said that I was also an Ogoni and that I knew a lot about Ken and the events that led to his death and remembered his good side fondly and regretted his execution but felt that he did not deserve the saintly reputation he has acquired because he was, in my opinion, partly responsible for the brutal murders of four moderate Ogoni elders – Edward Kobani, Albert Badey, Sam Orage and Theophilus Orage – who were falsely accused of treachery by violent Ken loyalists and slaughtered in broad daylight.

I complained about the fact that these victims of dangerous radicalism had been largely forgotten by a world that constantly refers to Ken as a blameless hero.

My article was reprinted in two other newspapers this week and I have been pleasantly surprised by the reactions it has generated.

I thought that I would be widely vilified for daring to criticise a man on whom so much unconditional praise has been lavished in so many countries and media outlets.

But I have, instead, received several partially or totally supportive calls and emails.

Some of my friends were worried when they read the article because they thought I might be lynched! But you know what?

I even received some friendly reactions from the Ken camp; and they have restored my faith in human nature and reminded me that we are all capable of remorse.

Here, for your information, are some of the emails I got. I have kept them anonymous because most readers of the article don’t wish to be identified.

Dear Ms. Kogbara,

I READ your piece. It is not a popular or widely accepted view of events. But, I agree entirely with you and the premise of your well-articulated opinion.

I had hoped someone would come forward to offer a factual, balanced perspective to the Ogoni issue. Shell had absolutely nothing to do with the arrest, trial and murder of Ken Saro Wiwa and others.

The pay-out is, in my view as much the fruit of blackmail as it is a product of Shell’s desire to re-enter Ogoni and resume production.

It is altogether unfortunate that the Abacha regime rightly chose to pursue justice for the slain (and presumably, for good order) – but through a controversial means. The tribunal (like the regime that appointed it), was not a credible vehicle for justice delivery and it was so percieved world-wide.

I am not sure we have heard the end of this story. I do, however, hope that it brings a happy, balanced and prosperous ending for ALL Ogoni people and all others who are oppressed simply because of the resources on their land.

Convinced them beyond reasonable doubt to convict and execute Ken & co. Oh yes, and Shell too, their story will be nice.

Finally, I must say sorry for your loss, pain and heart felt suffering for over 14 years. How ever it happens, may the truth surface someday.

Dear Ms. Kogbara,

The piece titled above authored by you I must confess is indeed a beautifully and well-written one.

I for one have always wanted to know what the “other side” will have to say. A man I used to know used to say “nobody can be completely good or bad”; there has to be an element of both in every human being…Ken can not be an exception.

Unfortunately, the manhandling of the whole situation I understand gave birth to the uprising experienced today in the Niger Delta. It is wondered how the present military action would end.

I would like to say more, but I prefer listening than talking. Would you please write a book or a journal so that history will have notes to compare and perhaps ‘judge’ …even if judgment is probably not what is sought, but just the ‘righting’ of history.

It will also help in balancing the equation if a member or members of the tribunal come out with their own journals too, letting us know what happened.