|Thursday, November 18, 2021|
Atlanta, GA, USA
“I harbour the hope that in founding the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, in empowering the Ogoni people to fearlessly confront their history and their tormentors non-violently, that in encouraging the Ogoni people to a belief in their ability to revitalize their dying society, I have started a trend which will peacefully liberate many peoples in Africa and lead eventually to political and economic reform and social progress"-( Ken Saro Wiwa -1941-1995)
n November 10, 1995, the Nigerian state ,at the behest of Shell, murdered Ken Saro Wiwa and eight of his fellow Ogoni campaigners – John Kpuinen, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, Daniel Gbokoo, Paul Levura, Nordu Eawo, Saturday Dobee, Baribor Bera, Felix Nuate- ( Ogoni Nine) for daring to protest the environmental destruction of Ogoni. Shell has longed expressed displeasure over what it called a high profile international campaign by Ken Saro Wiwa, which the eco-terrorists claimed, was muddying its image. Shell went on to plot to take out Ken Saro Wiwa. In Ken’s own words: “On January 4, 1993, (the day the Ogoni people marched and formally declared Shell persona non grata in Ogoni land) the alarm bell rang in the ears of Shell. I was to know no peace from then on. I became a regular guest of the security agencies. I was stopped and arrested at airports, seized from my office and questioned repeatedly”.
There is a symbiotic relationship between the transnational oil corporations that operate in Nigeria and the successive corrupt rulers of the country. The oil companies drill the oil that lubricates the pipelines of corruption. So any attempt to obstruct the flow of oil is viewed as a threat which must be crushed with the full weight of the federal might. While the oil companies produce the oil, the Nigerian authorities provide “security” to take out anyone who stands in the way of oil production.
But Ken Saro Wiwa had argued : “ We cannot sit idly by while we as a people, dehumanized and slowly exterminated and driven to extinction, even as our rich resources are siphoned off to the exclusive comfort and improvement of other Nigerian communities and the shareholders of multinational oil companies”.
The Ogoni people have been living in the shadow of death since 1958 when oil drilling started on our land. Shell continued to pollute and degrade the Ogoni, environment-exposing our people to incalculable health crisis .
A study done by Human Rights Watch on the Ogoni environment in 1997, reports as follows; " In many villages near oil installations, even when there has been no recent spill, an oily sheen can be seen on the water, which in freshwater areas, is usually the same water that the people living there use for drinking and washing. In April 1997, samples taken from water used for drinking by local villagers were analyzed in the USA, and it showed 18 ppm of hydrocarbons in the water, 360 times the level allowed in drinking water in the European Union, EU.”
The worst oil blowout in Nigeria history took place in my hometown of Kegbara Dere in 1970. The blow out was so powerful that the wellhead (the Christmas tree) was uprooted and blown away. Earth tremors associated with the blow out were felt in the town, some four miles away. Granite rocks from the earth crust rained on rooftops. And acid rain that has been our menu since Shell shattered our hitherto serene nature in 1958, became exacerbated.
For years no farming activity was possible in the affected areas, as our farmlands became oil logged . However, more than ten years after that monumental blowout, and farming activities were attempted, surface soil remained porous as water could not percolate the soil. Also, our rivers and creeks were flooded with crude oil, destroying both marine lives and mangrove vegetation, our major source of fish supply. Prior to the era of oil exploitation Ogoni used to be the bread basket of Rivers State. Today, we go out to buy food items from neighboring communities due to poor yield, as environmental degradation renders our soil infertile. The name is CLIMATE CHANGE.
During the Cop 26 conference, ABC News interviewed Amina Mohammed UN Deputy Secretary-General. Ms. Mohammed was asked to discuss the impact of climate change in her home country, Nigeria. In response, Amina Mohammed who correctly declared that she is from North Eastern Nigeria cited the drying up of Lake Chad as an example of the impact of climate change in Nigeria. She also pointed to " terrorists" operating in that region; although she did not explain how the activities of those "terrorists" is as a result of climate change. By terrorists, I suppose she meant Boko Haram and other Jihadist groups operating in the North. However, it smacks of gross ineptitude or a case of selective amnesia for Ms. Mohammed to omit to mention the Niger delta, which is the gold standard as a test case of the impact of climate change in Nigeria.
Take the Ogoni situation for instance, gas flaring had been going on in the area for 35 years, day and night-365 days a year. As a result, the ecosystem of the area has been completely altered. This is not to talk of the incessant oil spill that takes place there. The combination of gas flaring and oil spill has decimated not just the environment but the flora and fauna .
Be it the fight for environmental protection or ethnic self-determination, the Ogoni people with the leadership and inspiration of Ken Saro Wiwa, have been ahead of Nigeria.
The late MOSOP President took the campaign for environmental justice beyond the shores of Nigeria, up to the United Nations. For his efforts he was recognized with prestigious Prizes like Live Livelihood Award ( The Alternative Nobel Prize) from the Swedish parliament in 1994; the Goldman Environmental Award, California, USA. In 1995, among others.
When Ken Saro-Wiwa was agitating for self-determination for the Ogoni people the Nigerian authorities foolishly accused him of plotting secession . However, today, "self-determination” has become the battle cry for ethnic agitations across Nigeria-North to South, East to West.
Meanwhile, those who are clamoring for resumption of oil production in Ogoni are like Alhaji Lateef Jakande, former governor of Lagos State, would say, “ living in the atavistic cocoon of the past”. Now, "Read my lips" THERE WILL BE NO MORE OIL PRODUCTION IN OGONI, period. 35 years of reckless oil drilling has done enough irreversible damage to our environment and our way of life. Indeed, we in MOSOP, Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people, join our global community of environmental rights activists protesting in Glasgow, in demanding an end to fossil fuel extraction in Nigeria and for a swift embrace of renewable green and clean energy sources.
The reason the Nigerian state murdered Ken Saro Wiwa was to prevent MOSOP inspired protests from spreading to other parts of Nigeria. However, they failed, as the MOSOP message, which he bore, has been spreading like wildfires, first in the Niger delta, and then to other parts of Nigeria and beyond. They killed the messenger but could not kill the message. KEN SARO WIWA LIVES ON!