Friday, November 11, 2022
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Atlanta, GA, USA

Saro-Wiwa and children

“ I do not fear being executed. I expect it. The men we are dealing with are mindless Stone Age dictators, addicted to blood. They have been responsible for the African nightmare, afraid as they are of ideas and men of ideas. They are day light robbers who kill for money”. ( Ken Saro Wiwa- 1941-1995, Newsweek, May 29,1995).

r. Edwin Madunagu, The Guardian columnist, wrote of Ken Saro Wiwa and his ideas: “Saro Wiwa, an intellectual, thinker and writer, thus settled for the self -determination of all ethnic nationalities, including the Ogonis”. The (Nigerian ) Guardian October the 21, 2004.

Yes, the ruling cabal in Nigeria were afraid of Ken Saro Wiwa’s ideas- his ideas for an equitable restructuring of the Nigerian federation, his ideas for resource control, his ideas for fair treatment of the country’s minorities. They were also afraid of his ideas for environmental justice. The ruling cabal in Nigeria were so afraid of Ken Saro Wiwa’s ideas that they decided that he must be taken out. However, they took out the messenger but his message lives on . .

Today, across Nigeria , everyone is echoing MOSOP’s battle cry—self- determination, resource control, political autonomy. Yet, this was the reason Ken Saro Wiwa was hanged ! Back then it was regarded as heresy.

When the General Abacha led military junta decided to execute the “OGONI NINE”-Ken Saro Wiwa, John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Baribor Bera, Daniel Gbokoo, Saturday Dorbee, Paul Levura, Felix Nuate and Nordu Eawo ,they knew too well that those men were innocent of the trumped-up murder charges that were leveled against them. But the reason they were murdered was just to send a message-to warn similar communities like the Ogoni in the Niger delta that if they dare toe the Ogoni path, they too would be given the Ogoni treatment. So it was determined that the Ogoni must have their nose bloodied to deter others. However, the cabal failed, as the Ijaws and other Niger delta communities picked up the gauntlet and put the Niger delta, if not all of Nigeria on the boil.

Ogoni, led by its visionary leader Ken Saro Wiwa, was ahead of Nigeria in the 1990s, in the fight for environmental justice. And we are still ahead in 2022. Even today as the battle cry against climate change is reverberating across the globe Nigeria seem unwilling to capture the mood of the time. It has not yet awoken to the central issue of this generation. As recently as 2019, the Nigerian Senate voted down a bill aimed at phasing out petrol driven vehicles and in its place electric-powered ones.. The bill was reportedly sponsored by Senator Ben Murray-Bruce , representing Bayelsa East . In making the case for electric powered vehicles, Senator Ben Murray Bruce, brilliantly argued that it would be cheaper to use electric powered cars than petrol cars. Then, he landed with this super argument: “combustion engine cars have continued to cause death through uncontrolled pollution”.

Now, Senator Ben Murray Bruce has the full grasp of the matter, being someone from the Niger delta who knows what environmental pollution from petroleum products looks like. Contrast his argument with that of Senator Ike Ekweremadu who argued that “we cannot sit here as a parliament and a do a legislation to encourage sometime that will kill our own business as a nation”. However, Senator Ike Ekweremadu’s full explanation of his “something that would kill our own business” is as ridiculous as it is outrageous .His argument: “ Besides, in economic sense, we are an oil producing country. So, we should do everything to frustrate the sale of electric cars in Nigeria to enable us to sell our oil”. So why do we have people like Ike Ekweremadu with such a stale thinking in the Nigeria Senate?.

By the way, does Senator Ike Ekweremadu not know that crude oil is a wasting asset? Has he not heard of the term “dry well”? We have some dry wells in my native Kegbara Dere ,Ogoni, which by the way, houses the most concentration of oil wells in Nigeria. Oloibiri in Bayelsa State which in 1956 produced the first oil well in Nigeria has a dry well today.

In contrast, what we call Green energy today –wind, solar etal are renewables. Maybe, Senator Ekweremadu do not know that even the major oil companies in Europe and America are now investing in renewable energy as they position themselves to transition from fossil fuel, which they realize is no longer sustainable. British petroleum, BP has a wind energy farm in Indian, USA.

What is more, stories are told of how petrol-powered generators are causing air pollution in Nigerian cities today.

It is astonishing to note that in this 21st century, there are some people in the Nigeria Senate who have no clue of the environmental impact of the “uncontrollable” continuous burning of fossil fuel. I think someone needs to sponsor them to one of these COP summits, where the world gathers to discuss the most urgent crisis of our generation-the impact of climate change on life on earth: a situation that prompted the United Nations Secretary-General at the on-going COP27 summit in Egypt, to warn that “Humanity is on highway to climate hell”.

By the way, people like Senator Ekweremadu and Senator Jibril Batau and others in Nigeria who reason like them should understand that there is something called climate change that the whole world has now acknowledged . I do not know what is going on in Nigeria. However, I read in the newspapers of how flooding is devastating parts of the country, including the South-East. And these events have been attributed to the effects of climate change.

In an interview with the ABC News last year, our own very Amina Mohammed ,Deputy Secretary of the United Nations, attributed the drying up of Lake Chad to the effects of climate change. If Senator Jibril Batau does not understand what fossil energy related environmental pollution feels like in the Niger delta, he should at least be able to relate to the drying up of Lake chad.

Congratulations, Senator Ben Murray Bruce for your attempt to get Nigeria to move with the tide on climate change. I hope your colleagues in the Nigeria Senate would wake up soon enough and get behind you..

By the way, the global community has since acknowledged the contribution of Ken Saro Wiwa to the fight for environmental justice .As a result, he was awarded the prestigious Goldman Environmental prize by the Goldman Foundation in California , United States and the Live Livelyhood Award, the alternative Nobel prize, by the Swedish parliament.

Meantime, Ken Saro Wiwa deserves a posthumous National Honor Award from the Nigeria government for championing the fight for environmental protection in the country. This should be in addition to compensation for wrongful death as recommended by the UN fact finding mission of 1996. And of course, the Ogoni Nine should be exonerated from the trumped-up murder charges levelled against them.

And the Ogoni people led by MOSOP, must demand reparation from the Nigeria government for decades of stolen oil revenue from Ogoni land and restitution for the genocide committed in Ogoni.

General Sani Abacha may be gone, but some of those who actively participated in the Ogoni pacification campaign and their enablers are still around. It behooves the Ogoni leadership to ensure that justice is done to the memory of those martyrs of our struggle both by keeping the struggle alive and by pressing for the prosecution of those responsible for the genocide in Ogoni. There is no statute of limitation when it comes to prosecuting crimes against humanity. For instance, the Nazis who committed genocide against the Jewish people in the 1940s are being hunted for and prosecuted to this day.