The Day Ogoni Nine Rejoiced In Grave | Independent Newspapers Limited
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The Day Ogoni Nine Rejoiced In Grave

Posted: Jun 10, 2016 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (0)


 By Chuks Osuji

Personally, I knew Ken Sarowiwa. Both of us worked together between 1987 and 1993 as Director in the then Directorate for Social Mobilization, self reliance Economic Recovery and Social Justice (MAMSER). He was based in Abuja as one of the Executive Directors of the Board of the Directorate, while I was based in Owerri as the State Director in old Imo and Anambra States. From time to time, Ken and I discussed national issues together, particularly whenever we had Directors meeting at Abuja.

It was at that time that I published my first novel, The Ugly Citizen. The book was a characterisation of a typical Nigerian business man who wanted the entire country for himself and his children. Ken as a novelist, shared my perspective in the book particularly at Agura Hotel, where both of us preferred to stay.

For the years we were together in MAMSER, I found Ken a very soft-spoken person but with transfixed ideas. Although not a man with imposing figure, he had lofty ideas about our country. He believed that the lumping together of hundreds of ethnic nationalities together in one country was bound to create unmanageable challenges in future. Honestly, he was not an inspiring admirer of the Igbo ethnic group, whom he thought had dominated the country in all facets of the economy then. Although he did not hide his reservation for the Igbo nation, he spoke persuasively of the injustices which his people, the Ogonis were subjected to.

In any conversation, Ken must bring to the fore the ongoing environmental degradation of the Ogoni land. From the intensity of his hatred for the oil companies and the Federal Government, it was clear that he was bound to begin a revolution of a kind. So when it became a matter of public record that he had founded an organisation known as Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People MOSOP, I was not surprise.

Unfortunately, this movement which began on a very high ideological stance soon became preventable violence. While the movement was agitating of the level of neglect by the oil companies in Ogoni land particularly Shell, incidents of clandestine activities and killings of those whom the group thought were on their way from achieving their set objectives.

From my several years of studies as a social Scientist, Politics and History, I have come to know that there are three types of persons that could start a revolution. A highly idealist person, one with traits of group mobilisation and one who is extremely quiet with heavy hearts full of anger and venom. Ken was calm, reserved but highly an idealistic person. His love for his people drove him, probably, to the frenzy of violence, but silent revolution at a wrong time when the Military was in power. MOSOP formed in 1990 by the Ogoni elites with the mandate to campaign non-violently to protect the environment of the Ogoni land and its people; seeking social, economic and physical development for the region. Although with other objectives, silent killings became rampant either due to zealousness or driven by deep-rooted venom against the oil companies. Owing to series of protests and report missing persons, Shell withdraws from Ogoni land citing hostile attitudes of the host communities. Consequently, Ken Sarowiwa and some members of the movement were arrested, detained and finally found guilty and summarily executed on the order of the Federal Military Government.

Thus, the killing of Ogoni Nine which was seen to be a plot to silence the Ogoni agitation for environmental justice and economic inclusion, triggered in international condemnation. Paradoxically, this gave the Ogoni land more impetus to fight on for justice.

Thus, when the President, Muhammadu Buhari, represented by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, launched the Ogoni clean up on June 2nd, 2016, there was no doubt, although long delayed, that the development  must have given the Ogoni Nine killed several years ago in a moment joy in their grave. After all, they have been vindicated