–Blank NEWS Online (NIGERIA) –By Azua ALONU:
KEN SARO-WIWA had to follow the path his late compatriot Timothy Paul Birabi, a famous Ogoni nationalist inspired and formed the movement for the survival of the Ogoni people (Mosop) to fire up the flame of self determination for his Ogoni people.
Timothy Birabi had “dreamt of the Ogoni man ruling himself like our forefathers did and that dream cannot die”. In 1990, the Ogoni bill of rights was circulated to the armed forces ruling council under President Ibrahim Babaginda. Ken Saro – Wiwa has soaked himself into the oil of the struggle and was ready to be lit and combust for people to see. At a conference in Geneva in 1992 he noted that “my people are the object of genocide in which environmental degradation is a lethal weapon in the war against them. Oil exploration has turn Ogoni into a waste land”.
The war was been drawn to the pain and plight of the ogoni people and ken Saro –Wiwa was spear heading, moving from place to place speaking about the agony of the ogoni people. In 1999 in a rally to mark United Nations year of indigenous people” he said “we have come to the sacred ground to affirm our determination to fight with every drop of blood in our vein that the ogoni man can no longer be slaves. The country has no right to allow ogoni people to live in the pristine condition they lived today without electricity, health and education.
But on October 31 1995, ken Saro-Wiwa was sentenced by Ibrahim Auta . He was sentenced with eight other ogoni men (Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine) to death. Ten days later, on 10th day of November 1995, the nine men were hanged in Port Harcourt prison. It was the end the confrontation between General Sani Abacha that represented the Nigerian state and the movement for the survival of ogoni people (mosop). But before the death of the ogoni nine, four of the chiefs of ogoni (Edward Kobani, Theophilus Orage Sam Orage, and Albert Badley) were murdered on May 21 1994 during a riot in ogoni and the military administrator Dauda komo of rivers state accused mosop of killing the four chiefs. Ken Saro- Wiwa was arrested and detained for nine months. During this detention, no charge was brought against him while been tortured and subjected to all sorts of indecent treatment.
Lieutenant colonel Dauda Komo ploted. Sani Abacha was angry. Shell was not happy. Protest went on against shell, asking them to pay back the rent and clean up the environment in which they have polluted, nothing happened. Lieutenant colonel Dauda Komo did not see ken Saro – Wiwa as genuine activist. He is a spoilt child just playing to the gallery, he said “just because Ken Saro – Wiwa speaks the queen’s English everyone applauds, but he is just a spoilt child who will not know the road to his village”. He was only trying to diminish the importance of the struggle and the personality of ken Saro – Wiwa who was a well known novelist, poet and environmentalist before the struggle. He was a former national president of association of Nigeria authors. He has also written 25 books and his face was a regular face in conferences and seminars. He wrote pamphlets like the “ogoni questions in Nigeria: The reality of the situation. The book genocide in Nigeria was part of his weapon of struggle apart from the articles he wrote in news papers and magazines. In the height of the face off between him and the government, government countered his books and articles with acerbic propaganda. This did not deter him from absolute commitment to the course. It was painful that the oil companies in Nigeria were getting huge profit while the people and the land they explored and exploited suffered. He said” the flame shell emit is the flame of hell” It was a metaphor of the suffocating hell fire that the oil companies had put the oil bearing communities.
Twenty six years after, nothing has happened to the people he fought for, his message is still resonating. He has said before he died “said you can only kill the messenger but you cannot kill the message”. The agitation has not ceased.
Owen Wiwa said he should be exonerated. He does not believe in clemency.
There is a lesson for all of us citizens. If we choose to be silent in the face of violent abuse of power by rulers for fear of being molested or killed, assault will meet us at the far corner of our hiding place. The collapse of our system will not spare anyone. The vocal and the silent majority will suffer. Why will they suffer? They will suffer because when corrupt and tyrannical rulers are not stopped, they become hitleric and one can imagine the final hell on the citizen. There are a lot of Ken Saro – Wawa’s in our country who choose to die than allow Nigeria to go down.
We must choose to fight injustice in our country not just because of us but because of our children. Like Ken Saro- Wiwa, we must get tired of our decadent system. This month of November is stirring memories of extraordinary possibilities of our country. And the only way for the flame of the brought future to remain undying is to join in the reengineering of our country.
* AZUA ALONU Writes from Asaba
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