SARO-WIWA: 13 YEARS AFTER
BY ANAYO ONUKWUGHA
On Monday, November 13, 2008, it will exactly 13 years since renowned
environmental rights activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa was hanged to death along
with eight other prominent sons of Ogoni in Rivers State.
Others who were hanged with Saro-Wiwa on November 10, 1995 by Nigeria’s
former maximum ruler, late General Sani Abacha were John Kpuinen, Dr.
Barinem Kiobel, Paul Levura, Nordu Eawo, Barobor Bera, Saturday Dobee,
Daniel Gbokoo and Felix Naute.
Environmental rights activists across the globe observe November 10 each
year as a day of remembrance for this great son of Africa, who paid the
supreme price to liberate the people of Ogoni from environmental
degradation occasioned by the activities of oil exploration and
exploitation firms in Ogoniland.
Also in Ogoniland, November 10 each year is marked by the Movement for the
Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in honour of four prominent leaders of
Ogoni, who were also murdered though on May 21, 2004, at Giokoo village in
Gokana local government area of Rivers State in a ploy traceable to the
They include Chiefs E.N. Kobani, Albert Baddey, S.N.Orage and Thyeophilus
Ken, as Saro-Wiwa was popularly called and his compatriots were killed by
the Abacha military junta for daring to raise awareness on the
developmental neglect in the oil-rich Niger Delta region.
As the second President of MOSOP, the internationally acclaimed literary
icon dusted up the hitherto docile people of Ogoni through a peaceful
non-violence campaign into an active anti-opposition voice.
Saro-Wiwa decried the impoverishment of his people despite the fact that
they stood on the pinnacle of wealth and practically confronted their
adversaries, Shell Petroleum Development Company, which had exploited the
Ogoni environment for several decades.
Thank goodness that at the end of the day, the exploitative Royal Dutch
oil giant has been forced out of Ogoniland by the people themselves with
commendable support from human and environmental rights organizations as
well as organized civil society groups.
Even in death, the withdrawal of Shell from Ogoniland is a dream come true
to the late Saro-Wiwa.
The awareness raised by Saro-Wiwa in Ogoniland thus made the people the
epitome of minority rights consciousness and the people no doubt received
a punitive dose of the brutality over their frontier role.
It is widely believed that in death, Saro-Wiwa achieved most of the ideals
he stood for.
According to Martin Luther-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?”
It is unarguable that the virtues Saro-Wiwa stood and died for remain the
determinant of peace and economic prosperity in Nigeria.
Though, the people of Ogoni have succeeded to force Shell out of their
land after preventing the oil company from operating its facilities in the
area for more than 14 years, the near absence of peace among the people of
Ogoni may turn out to be a log in the wheel of both socio-political and
economic growth of Ogoniland.
This absence of peace, especially among the elites could be traceable to
the refusal of the powers that be in Ogoni to democratize the people’s
supposedly most vibrant socio-political group, MOSOP, 13 years after the
death of its second President, Saro-Wiwa.
MOSOP, an organization that was, during the days of Saro-Wiwa, at the
forefront of the struggle for emancipation in Niger Delta region is not
expected to stay for a whole 13 years without a duly elected leadership. A
leadership that is chosen by the down-trodden people of Ogoni, who for
year suffered brutality because of the wealth in their land.
It is disheartening to note that the Ogoni Peace and Freedom Monument,
located at Bori, headquarters of Ogoniland is yet to be completed after
more than four years since its ground-breaking ceremony was done by former
President Olusegun Obasanjo.
One cannot be made to believe that the Monument, which is expected to be a
symbol of peace and unity in Ogoniland was abandoned because of funds as
both Rivers State government under Dr.Peter Odili and Bayelsa State
government under Dr. Goodluck Jonathan as well as prominent sons of Niger
Delta made meaningful contributions towards the construction of the
Having openly canvassed for funds for the construction of the monument,
which it got, one expects that MOSOP’s commitment to good leadership and
the course of the people of Ogoni should have reflected in the speedy
completion of the Ogoni Peace and Feedom Monument.
Onukwugha is a journalist, based in Port Harcourt, Nigeria