BY PATRICK NAAGBANTON
I FORGOT completely that the returning and repulsive month called November, is around the corner again. The agony of a nation descending into a deeper crisis, and the death of Kingsley Baridilo Kpea, the Ogoni-born petroleum engineer and Comrade who died recently in an Indian hospital, are troubling me, to forget the nauseating month November.
I am glad that I was not born in November, I was born in August. Sometimes August tramp like November. November goes and comes in several seasons either like our JP Clark’s or Wole Soyinka’s Abiku. Four scenes in the November drama make me to hate her.
Anytime I move closer to her, I feel sad and angry. November heightens my blood pressure. November is a nasty nefarious note. It was on November 1, 1990, that a special police gang allegedly acting on the orders of an oil giant, seized Umuechem, that serene agrarian village in the Etche community north of Port Harcourt.
The police squadron smoked the distressed locals, leaving in its trail blood, raped women, looted and
blundered properties belonging to them, many maimed for life, while some were arrested, tortured and disappeared in custody.
November 10, 1995 was the culmination of the extra-judicial killings, rape, looting, maiming, arrests and detentions of poor Ogoni natives, and eventually, the savage hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, distinguished satirist, writer and activist, and his compatriots.
On April 21, 1993, Lt. Col Dauda Musa Komo, then military administrator of Rivers State allegedly acting for the said oil giant and the Nigerian State under the authoritarian Sani Abacha’s junta had issued the infamous secret memo which was leaked.
The document code-named, “Restoration of Law and Order in Ogoniland; Operation order 4/94”, which charted the plan of a wasting military operation to be led by Major Paul Okuntimo, the Ogbom, Kogi State-born commander of the Gestapo Rivers State Internal Security Task Force, RSISTF, applied the orders to its letters. Ogoni was worse than Umuechem.
After Okuntimo’s sway at the RSISTF, Major Umahi Obi, who hails from Asaba, the capital of Delta State, a devotee of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG, took over, and continued from where his predecessor, the Ogbom masquerade stopped.
The killings, disappearance, maiming, rape, arrests and torture were abhorrent and offending. I narrowly escaped when his troop stormed my Port Harcourt residence then in search of me. Bariara Kpalap, a committed Ogoni activist was not as lucky as I was. He was taken into custody.
Kpalap spent nearly a year in RSISTF’s torture chambers. The young man suffers permanent impairment from the whippings in Afam area of Oyigbo Local Government Area. President Goodluck Jonathan just rewarded Ibrahim Auta, the judge who sentenced Saro-Wiwa and others to death. Auta is now the president of Federal High court in Nigeria. The Nigerian judiciary is in a horrid mess.
While travelling with Uche Okwukwu, the tall and effulgent Ikwerre lawyer to Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, to mobilize students, academics, youth and workers, to celebrate the first anniversary of the hanging of Saro-Wiwa and others, we were kidnapped by agents of the Nigerian state.
We had stopped over at the University of Uyo to meet with leaders of the student union government, SUG, to solicit for their participation in the anniversary events.
We didn’t know that Asuquo, the president of the SUG, a lofty and dark man, with wide chest, loose lips and widespread noses, was an agent of the infamous State Security Services, SSS, when he strolled around the SUG’S massive office with his coterie of aides (all students) they would cheer and shout “Sultan”.
Asuquo or Sultan after discussing with us, accepted to mobilize students of the institution to participate in the event. He later sneaked into his inner room. Few minutes later, over 40 SSS operatives had infested the vicinity of the institution to track Okwukwu and me. As we boarded a wobbling bus bound to Calabar, we were seized and taken to several places unknown to us.
My co-traveler (Okwukwu) and I were later transferred to a grubby and congested cell at the police headquarters in Uyo. We were in the same cells with inmates whose crimes range from robbery to murder, and without food and water.
Though, the cell mates were quite welcoming and showed much solidarity for our cause and case. We had barely spent two days there under callous conditions when in the dazzling morning of November 6, 1996, one inspector Okoro who had showed genuine solidarity to our cause since our abduction, held the rusty iron bars that doored our cell room, shouting, “Uche and Patrick”.
He brandished a clean copy of The Punch newspaper which displayed the catastrophic news of an ADC plane crash, and beneath the headline, was the mention of Professor Claude Ake, world legendary political economist as one of the victims.
The news spread in our cell and beyond. We wept and mourned, and pointed accusing fingers at the blood thirsty dictator Abacha for killing Ake. November is not good for me. Fare thee well, November.
November, the month I hate, is here again. I am just reminded. It was a Nigerian, Lagos-based journalist and friend who I had courted during those days of military gangsterism in the country, who drew my attention to a report in The Daily Trust, an Abuja-based national newspaper of October 5, 2011, which was written by Hope Abah, the Bayelsa State reporter of the paper.
The newspaper ran the story conspiratorially, “Why Saro-Wiwa was Hanged-Bayelsa SSS Boss”. According to the report, “Late Ken Saro-Wiwa was hanged because he had concluded plans to cede the Niger Delta region from the rest of the federation and to create a separate country of his own, Bayelsa State Director of State Security Services (SSS), Andrew Iyayi, has said”.
“The SSS director made the revelation yesterday (October 4, 2011) while delivering a lecture at this year’s Bayelsa Nigerian Union Journalists (NUJ)’s press week held at the council hall in Yenogoa.
Iyayi disclosed that the late Saro-Wiwa and eight others had acquired a standing army, designed a national flag, a national anthem and other security items that were to be handed over to the United Kingdom for a declaration of a federal state” other online news outfit like The Bayelsa State News Online, The Nigerian Mail Online, Naija News and Events Online reproduced The Daily Trust report.
November is here again, and we should expect more of such fabrication and untruth. I am not related to the late Saro-Wiwa in any way. What I do for him (defending) I also do for others who don’t a voice like him. I don’t do it for a fee. I do it because I have a good conscience. We are in a world where twist, treachery and fraud hold sway.
In my several articles I have dealt with those allegations against Ken Saro-Wiwa such as killing his elder brothers (Ogoni 4 ), raising army to breakaway and other lies against him. Read Saro-Wiwa; In Memoriam, The Guardian on Sunday, November 14, 1999; That Agaba Dance on Saro-Wiwa’s Grave, The Guardian Sunday, November 30, 2003, page 17; A Saro-Wiwian Nightmare?
The Guardian Sunday, February 8, 2004, page 51; Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Mother; A Tribute Ogoni Star, February 14-27, 2003, Page 10; Anatomy of Terrorism in the Delta, The Niger Delta Channel magazine June, 2001 edition, page 39;
The Silence of The Irish Farmers, The Midweek Telegraph, August 31-September 6, 2005, The Come Back of Professor Ibrahim Gambari, The Midweek Telegraph June 11-17, 2008, Kogbara and The Anti-Saro-Wiwa Scheme, The Guardian on Sunday, July 12, 2009, Fawehimi; End of An Essential Episode, The Guardian, Wednesday, September 9, 2009, page 51; Foreword To Okuntimo’s Book on Saro-Wiwa’s Ogoni, Sahara Reporters, New York, USA, February 4, 2010; Keen for Journalist Chris Ikwunze, The Midweek Telegraph, February, 2009; and Saro-Wiwa and Daminabo’ Book,The National Network, January 30, -February 5, 2006, page 7.
I have read that thrilling espionage novel, The Spy who came in from The Cold (1963) written by John Le Carre. The name, John Le Carre is a pseudonym name of David John Moore Core well, a former senior Spy for M15 and M16, both British intelligence networks.
I read that classic novel not because of its subject matter, its characters and style charmed me. Andrew Iyayi is not John Le Carre’s Spy who came in from the cold, but The Spy Who Came in from the Sea. I pity this country. This is how top undercover agents and security chiefs cock up stories and reports, to mislead us.
The SSS which was founded on June 5, 1986 by the Babangida’s dictatorship following it’s reformation of the National Security Organization (NSO), its thematic responsibility should have been domestic policing, peace and security, the SSS operates like Frederick Forsyth’s The Dogs of War (1974).
The Dogs of War is another espionage fiction that interests me a lot. SSS chief and operatives are enmeshed completely in the seemingly unending corruption, endemic to the Nigerian systems and state. The SSS is an apparatus of political repression, blackmail and instability.
Poor Dele Giwa, one of those who inspired, me to be a journalist, that son of very impoverished parents of Edo State origin, who rose to prominence through hard work, commitment and passion for his heavy barrel of pen would have been alive today.
Then deputy Director of SSS, Colonel A.k Togun and Colonel Halilu Akilu, director of military Intelligence had lied like the Bayelsa Spy master that the harmless, handsome and brilliant Dele Giwa, was planning a revolution and was smuggling into Nigeria arms, to prosecute it.
On October 19, 1986, Giwa was bombed. Togun, Akilu and Babangida shall know no peace until they travel your path, Oh Dele Giwa!
Iyayi should support his accusations with facts, and not to flutter his tongue hysterically on Saro-Wiwa, I was a round character in that Saro-Wiwa/Ogoni tragedy. I was not a spectator. Andrew Iyayi Saro-Wiwa rebukes you. I am tempted to deduce all sorts of conspiracy theories from the SSS director’s flare-up.
Why have there been more organized attacks against the personality and legacies of Saro-Wiwa under the Jonathan administration. Is this the new direction?
The Saro-Wiwa family should as a matter of urgency and utmost importance institute criminal deformation suit against Andrew Iyayi, that silly Spy who came in from the sea, who speak out of appalling ignorance, self-interest, and dished out sadly second hand lies. Saro-Wiwa rebukes you.
Naagbanton is an independent journalist and activist based in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria