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Saro-Wiwa: 13 Years 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 Nigerian state.

They include Chiefs E.N. Kobani, Albert Baddey, S.N.Orage and Thyeophilus Orage.

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 edifice.

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


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