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Remembering Saro-Wiwa by Anayo Onukwugha



On Saturday, November 10, 2007, people from the all the five kingdoms that make up Ogoniland as well as human rights activists and madia practitioners converged at the Ogoni Peace and Freedom Centre, Bori, Rivers State, for an event.

The memorable event, held at the instance of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP)was the 12th anniversary commemoration of the hanging of renowned environmental rights activist, Kenule Saro- Wiwa and eight other Ogonis.

Others, who were hanged along with Saro-wiwa on November 10,1995 by former military ruler, late General Sani Abacha were John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Paul Levura, Nordu Eawo, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Daniel Gbokoo and Felix Naute.

November 10 each is also marked by the people of Ogoni in honour of four prominent Ogoni leaders, who were also murdered, though on May 21, 1994 at Goikoo village in a ploy traceable to the Nigerian government.

They include Chief E.N. Kobani, Chief Albert Baddey, Chief S.N. Orage and Chief Theophilus Orage.

The 12th Anniversary commemoration featured a memorial service where special prayers were said for the Ogoni struggle as well as for the deprieved and suffering minorities in the Niger Delta region.

Eulogizing the late Saro- Wiwa, a cleric, Rev James Needom in his sermon at the church service said that God used the slain environmetal rights activists to fight for the survival of peoples of the Niger Delta.

Ken, as Saro- Wiwa was popularly called and his compatriots were killed by the Abacha military junta for daring to raise awareness on the development neglet in the oil- rich Niger Delta.

As the second President of MOSOP, the literary icon dusted up the hitherto docile Ogoni people through a peaceful non-violence campaign into an active anti- opposition voice.

Ken decried the impoverishment of his people despite the fact that they stood on a pinnacle of wealt, and practically confronted their adversaries, Royal Dutch oil giant, Shell, which had exploited the Ogoni environment over the decades.

The awareness raised by Saro -Wiwa in Ogoniland thus made the people the epitome of minority rights consciousness and the people no doubt recieved a punitive dose of the brutality over their frontier role.

It is believed that in death, Saro -wiwa achieved most of the ideals he stood for.

According to Martin Lurther King Jr, "it is not the longevity of life but the quality that counts, so if you are cut down in a struggle designed to save others which death could be more redemptive?".

The virtues  Ken stood and died for perhaps remain the determinant of peace anbd economic prosperity in the Nigerian nation.

Though, the people of Ogoni have been able to stop Shell from operating in the environment for close to 14years now and had stoood their ground that the oil giant remains persona-non- grata to Ogoniland as far as it refuses to yield to the demands of the people, the near absence of peace among the people may, perhaps, be 'a log in their desire' to achieving their demands from both the Nigerian government and Shell.

The low turn -out of Ogoni people at the 12th anniversary commemoration clearly indicated that there is need for the people to seek genuine peace and reconciliation among themselves before making efforts to fight Shell.

The aviodable absence of notable first class traditional rulers in Ogoniland at the event speaks volume of the leve;l of disunity in Ogoni.

Suffice it to say that the absence of the Gbene- mene Tai and Chairman of Ogoni Council of Traditional Rulers, King Godwin Gininwa, the Gbene- Mene Babbe Kingdom, King Mark Saro Igbara, the Onne eh Eleme, King Ejire as well as the Monarchs of Gokana, Ken - Khana and Yor- Khana Kingdoms were not unconnected to the non-acceptance of the leadership of MOSOP in Ogoniland.

Also, the frequent calls for genuine reconciliation among the people,being made by notable Ogoni indigenes including the President of MOSOP- USA, Mr.IkpoBari Senewo,Deputy Speaker of the Rivers State House of Assembly, Charles Befii Nwile indicate that there are factions even within the MOSOP,despite claims by its President, Ledum Mittee that there are no longer factions in the organization.

According to Senewo and Nwile, the struggle has been derailed due to lack of unity and continued infighting among the people of Ogoni.

Many Ogoni people are of the believe that MOSOP has to be blamed for the disunity in the landas it has lost its focus and has become a non- governmental organization (NGO).

It is regrettable that an organization,which was, during the days of Saro- Wiwa, at the forefront of the struggle for emancipation in the Niger Delta has become a laptop organization.

The lingering disunity in Ogoniland, 12 years after will certainly make the arrest, detention, subsequent trail and hanging of Saro - Wiwa and his Compatriots be in vain.

Let this unfighting stop.



Onukwugha, a journalist writes from Port Harcourt


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