25 years later, Ogonis insist on exoneration of Wiwa, others

Barikwame Saro-Wiwa, only surviving son of Ken Saro-Wiwa, presenting a poem in memorial of his father at the event

…lament injustice in environment

By Blessing Ibunge, Port Harcourt

Twenty-five years after the execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other eight Ogoni activists in Port Harcourt by the then Nigerian military government led by General Sani Abacha, the Ogoni people have insisted that the federal government should exonerate their heros from the crime they were accused of.

It would be recalled that the nine activists, Ken Saro-Wiwa John Kpuinen, Barinem Kiobel, Felix Nuate, Saturday Debee, Nordu Eawo, Paul Levura, Daniel Gbokoo and Baribor Bera were sentenced to death by a tribunal led by Justice Ibrahim Auta in 1995.

It was gathered that during their trial, they were allegedly denied opportunity to exercise their right of appeal, even when their offence was demand for justice for the Ogoni people. They demanded for fairness and equity in natural resources gotten from their land.

As the Ogoni people, Niger Deltans, and world at large marks the 25th memorial of the executed, the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni people (MOSOP), called on the federal government of Nigeria currently led by President Muhammadu Buhari to exonerate Wiwa and eight others.

They also stated that they will “continue to oppose Oil exploration and exploitation in Ogoni until Ken Saro-Wiwa and 8 others are exonerated, and the clean up and environmental mitigation of Ogoniland is completed as recommended by the United Nations”

As part of activities marking the memorial of the Ogoni martyrs, on Tuesday, November 10, 2020, Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation, an organization focus on the continue struggle of the activist, officially opened Ken Saro-Wiwa Memorial Park in his home town, Bane, Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State.

Speaking on behalf of the foundation at the event which witnessed the presence of people from across Nigeria and abroad, Dum Syl Aminikpo explained that “the Ken Saro-Wiwa Memorial Park is a project of the Ken Saro-Wiwa Foundation. It is funded by the Wiwa family, with contribution from FOWA-USA. The park had the burial site of Ken Saro-Wiwa and when completed, will extend to the nearby river with a mangrove forest and wetland area”.

He further disclosed that Bane Community donated the site were the park was constructed.

However, there were several goodwill massages in commemoration of the Ogoni eight.

Hon Uche Onyeaguche, former Member, House of Representative, narrated his encounter with Ken while he was still in the prison awaiting the later execution.

Onyeaguche who was a former SSG to the Imo state government, said as a junior lawyer working with Chief Gani Fawehinmi, the then counsel that represented the Ogoni eight in the tribunal, he witnessed Ken stood for the right of his people.

He said: “25 years is not a small thing but this story must be told and continued to be told.

“I was one of the Junior Defence lawyer with Chief Gani Fawehinmi during the trial of Ken Saro Wiwa. I remember in those days as soon as you start approaching the State Secretariat where the trial was holding in the then old Rivers State House of Assembly complex, the intimidation of army and police was massive and all you needed to change the atmosphere was to raise your hands and sing the Ogoni Anthem and you see too many hands and heads showing through the window at the state Secretariat.

“Ogoni people taught Nigerians how to fight, how to unit and courage to fight. And one of the encounters I had with Ken Saro Wiwa was when Dr (Chief) Gani Fawehinmi sent me to him to get a note, and he said to me ‘Uche you can see how short I am and these people want me to bow to them, if I bow to them how tall will I be. I am determined because they are determined to hang me and I am determined to die for my people’.

“There are not many Nigerians who have that kind of courage. He was never intimidated or afraid of dying but the question we asked ‘how many of us are prepared to die today’. Don’t take it for granted that the struggle has been won, it has not been won.

“Nigeria is worse today than when Ken Saro Wiwa won the battle. So if Nigeria is worse today than when the battle was wage in 1990s, that means you had to double your effort, that means there is still a lot more to be done, that means we need many more Ogoni people who should be like Ken and many more Nigerians who should have the courage to die like Ken” Hon Onyeaguche advised.

In his goodwill massage, Rev Nnimmo Bassey, the Executive Director of Home of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) recounted how the Ogoni martyrs were unjustly executed and advised youths to always stood for what they struggle for.

Bassey said, “Ken Saro Wiwa was proud to be an environmental activist. The day he was executed, by that time I was the secretary of the Nigeria Authors, we were debating how to approach Gen Abacha: whether to beg him or to dam him and while the debate was going on, the dastardly act had already done.

“And today, my advise to the young people, if you have opportunity to make a demand, make a biggest demand possible, ask for the impossible is the way to be reasonable.

“Ken Saro Wiwa was a man of ideas, a man of peace, a man who believe in intellectual militancy and this is what I believe Ogoni youths should enbibe. If you want to be a militant, be an intellectual militant. Is a biggest way to struggle and ideas can never be killed and that is why today we can proudly agree with Saro Wiwa. He said ‘I tell you this my ideas will not die.

“There is alot of hope for Ogoni people because you can see from all the activities marking the 25th anniversary, point one fact that Ogoni people are getting united and that their differences are being put aside because of the sacrifice paid by Ken Saro Wiwa and the others who were killed by the Abacha Nigerian government, the sacrifice will not be in vain.

“The fact is that the state killed our leaders but they were not able to kill the massage. Things have not changed as expected but things will change, this is the hope we have and this is why these organising is all about. The people are not giving up, the state is not going to get away with this and the demand of the Ogoni people incasolated in the ‘People of Bill of Right’ will be validate and implemented eventually”.

Also speaking with The AUTHORITY at the event, Rt Hon Kwane Leyii, former Deputy Speaker, Rivers State House of Assembly, said “Saro Wiwa died in his effort to bring justice and fairness to our people and and it stands today, the struggle is still on because we are still very far away from justice and fairness.

“Until all the factors that led to stoppage of oil exploration have been fully addressed, there will be no exploration and exploitation of oil in the land. You can see the level of poverty and deprivation currently in the land”.

On his part, Chief Gani Topba, leader, Conscience of the Ogoni People, warned that “we are giving 30 days ultimatum to the federal government to declare Ken Saro Wiwa and other martyrs innocent or Ogoni people will reach out to the Ijaw brothers and shutdoff oil exploration and exploitation in the entire Niger Delta’.

Barikwame Saro-Wiwa, only surviving son of Kenule Saro-Wiwa, who presented a poem in memorial of his father, lamented that “I was only one year old when they killed my father. His only image I have is his memories from pictures, stories and books.

“That his dream hasn’t achieved isn’t a failure yet, his struggle is not in vain but he has brothers and sisters, community relations who have same dream and will continue until there is success”.

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