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I repeat, we all stand before history – Ken Saro-Wiwa

By Denrele Animashaun

Yes, October 1, 2012. Independence Day came and went in my household, without a muster or fanfare. I vowed two years ago, that future Nigeria’s Independence Day at least, in my household, is not a time for whimsicalities but one of quiet contemplation.

So true to my  word, my  family  and  I celebrated  the achievements of   great Nigerians who  have truly contributed positively to the  lives of  our people.

One such luminary is Ken Saro-Wiwa. He was a writer, artist, journalist, and television producer and became the President of the Association of Nigerian Authors for three years until 1991, when he decided to devote himself entirely to the nonviolent struggles of his fellow Ogoni people. He was born Kenule Benson Tsaro-Wiwa in Bori, in 1941, the son of Jim Beesom Wiwa, a businessman and community chief and a farmer.

Mr Saro-Wiwa,( I feel I  cannot use his first  name) was  a larger  than  life  character, with trademark pipe and safari  top, you could  not  miss  him, he was engaging and erudite and  truly  a  man  of  the  people. His   son, Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr, in his book of his father, In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son’s Journey to Understand His Father’s Legacy (2001), described him as truly special that “he walked at seven months, and his parents doted on him because he was, for the first seven years of his life, their only child.”

I   picked  up Mr Saro- Wiwa’s novels  like  many  other  young  Nigerians, every page came  to  live  and  you cannot fail to  warm  to the characters. You felt you knew them or you wanted to know   these characters and my favourite of his novels, was Sozaboy.

Sozaboy was written in Pidgin English, (that was unique!) liberally splashed with graphic and flawless English. My copy is no longer with me but it was well worn. I also was one of  many  who  rushed home   to  watch  Basi  and  Company  which  Saro- Wiwa wrote  and produced  more  than 150 episodes.  This showed the genius of the man.  We laughed and cackled and rolled   with laughter at  the  exploits  of  the  lead  character, Basi.

Ken was more than that. In 1990 Saro-Wiwa founded the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP). A more radical youth movement, also founded by Saro-Wiwa, was reputedly engaged in sabotage against Shell. The company decided to cease operations in Ogoniland in 1993. Saro-Wiwa highlighted the corruption and condemned Shell and British Petroleum.

He brought the international environmental attention to the cause.The   Nigerian government   disbanded the movement to stifle Ken, but the  tinder box was lit. They   killed many of  their  supporters at Giokoo  and  it  ultimately  led  to his arrest and the  senior  members  of  the  movement.

He said that “The most important thing for me is that I’ve used my talents as a writer to enable the Ogoni people to confront their tormentors. I was not able to do it as a politician or a businessman. My writing did it. And it sure makes me feel good! I’m mentally prepared for the worst, but hopeful for the best. I think I have the moral victory.”

Ken was right and maintained his  belief   to  the end ,”You cannot destroy an idea like mine…Even if I were to die tomorrow; even if I were to be locked up in prison…You can’t destroy an idea like mine.” And he wrote to the end.

Couple  of years  ago, my dad  mentioned   that  Mr  Saro-Wiwa  wrote to  him  while  in  prison. My  dad knew him and of   course  I was  told by my   dad  that he  was  a  thoroughly  amazing   man.

“History is on their side. God is on their side.

For the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41:”All those that fight when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the oppressor.

He was hanged with   rest of the Ogoni 7 on the 10th of November, 1995. On  the   10th  of  October ,2012  he  would  have  been  71.

Mr. Kenule Benson Tsaro-Wiwa Ken, I salute   you, a truly incredible Nigerian.


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