By Denrele Animasaun
‘The writer cannot be a mere storyteller; he cannot be a mere teacher; he cannot merely x-ray society’s weaknesses, its ills, its perils. He or she must be actively involved shaping its present and its future’.
It was 25 years ago on November 10, 1995, those nine members of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) hastily taken and executed by the Nigerian military dictatorship under General Sani Abacha.
The nine prisoners were indicted for the 1994 murder of four pro-junta chiefs, who were lynched by Ogoni youth. None of the defendants were actually present at those killings—they were punished for their political activities. In the final weeks before the executions, worldwide protests failed to budge the junta. Royal Dutch/Shell rebuffed pleas from Amnesty International and other human rights organizations to pressure the junta, declaring it had “no right to interfere with the legal processes of a sovereign state such as Nigeria
It was no surprise to many that the Junta did not have any credible proof but they knew that they did not need any, they are known to the judge, jury, and executioner and they made their mind up November 8 and ordered the executions under the increasing global condemnation.
This was done under the cloud of darkness and after they were done they refused that family the opportunity to pay respect to their dearly departed .
‘I tell you this, I may be dead but my ideas will not die’- Ken Saro-Wiwa.
They often say that you have not lived until you discover your purpose for living;
‘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… I think I have the moral victory’.
Saro-Wiwa and his comrades were determined to shine a light on the under bellying of corruption and pollution in the Niger Delta. At the time, Shell and Chevron had extensive oil exploration operations in the Niger Delta region, where the 500,000 Ogonis lived.
“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower other”-
The report indicates that it will take $1 billion and up to 30 years to clear up of polluted areas. Talking about his father, Ken Jr., said; “My father went to the gallows an innocent man. He loved his country but refused to remain silent while his land and his people were being exploited. His real “crime” was in exposing the double standards of Shell, who had been quietly drilling oil for years in Nigeria, earning good profits for its shareholders but leaving the host community wallowing in levels of pollution that he described unflinchingly as “devastation”, pointing out that the operations in Ogoniland betrayed Shell’s own global standards”.
‘Ken Saro-Wiwa is an international figure and prize winner and whoever will murder him is advised to weigh the repercussion. What I find curious is the fact it did not take judicial notice of the published fact that Ambassador E A Azikiwe and Professor A H Yadudu appeared before the Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) on August 10 and 11, 1995. Ambassador Azikiwe was reported to have pronounced Saro-Wiwa guilty of murder – a fact which Professor Yadudu, Legal Adviser to General Sani Abacha, was reported to have corroborated. There has been no refutal from official quarters about the proceedings and it cannot be that these officers of Government are blissfully unaware that their assertion can be prejudicial to the case of the accused. There is a civilised norm about justice: it is never to pronounce an accused guilty until courts has found so. —Kola Animasaun.
We lost a hero and a true Nigerian along with his comrades, but they will not be forgotten. No, you kill the man but you cannot kill the ideal. It has been the legacy that we leave and others take on the mantle.
For those who do not know the man, ken 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, 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’.
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.”
Excerpt from: Requiem for Ken Saro-Wiwa I am not surprise at the verdict of guilty returned on Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogonis last Tuesday. I had foreseen it as clearly indicated in my column of Sunday 8 January 1995 and Sunday 24 September 1995 respectively as reproduced below: “This is not requiem yet for Ken Saro-Wiwa. But you wake up one day to find the inimitable writer and social conscience picker has been murdered. The pity of it is that it would be late to do something about it and the world again will modify, by many notches up, its contempt for all of us. But then Ken would have left his footprints on the sands of time. We shall always remember him as a playwright, as a novelist; as the man who made us laugh at our foibles; as a man who directed our gaze and our attention at the plight of the oppressed majorities and at the game played by multi-national companies’ game that does not recognise our dignity as human beings. Or as anything at all. The ground is being prepared for murder. We have now been officially informed that Ken and some others will appear before a tribunal on the charge of murder. Murder trials are too common place to be unique. Outstanding, upstanding and wicked men and women have featured in famous trials. What would make the Ogoni trial unique would not be because Ken is famous (and rich!)
Justice does not die and it will always live on in the hearts of the good and the just and the fight will always come from the champion of the oppressed and unheard and as always it will always the voice of the unheard.