Today marks the 20th anniversary of the execution of Ken Saro Wiwa and eight other activists: Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine –
The 20th anniversary was to be marked by the presence of the “Living Memorial” bus created by Nigerian artist, Sokari Douglas-Camp in 2006, [Audio] in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, home to the Ogoni people.
I remember speaking with Sokari a few years ago in London when she explained it was her hope that Platform London could raise the funds to take the bus back to Nigeria as a way to educate and raise awareness of the Ogoni people in Nigeria. Instead the Memorial Bus has been detained by Nigerian authorities on the order of the Comptroller-General of Customs, Colonel Hamid Ali. Ali was a member of the tribunal that sentenced the Ogoni 9 to death by hanging on this day in 1995. He was also an appointee of General Abachi. His appointment by President Buhari is evidence that this present Nigerian government is a continuation of the military mafia of dictators. Another chapter in the mythical creation story of Nigeria as a democracy!
“I made the bus in good faith as an educational tool and to raise awareness of the plight of the Ogoni people. It’s a deep shame that the Bus has been seized. I urge for the release of the ‘Living Memorial’ to Ken and the other Ogoni 8 so that this gift from allies in the UK can create a space to reimagine the future of Nigeria. This is a call for freedom of expression to both honour the people who have fought for justice in Ogoniland and the people struggling for justice today.” – Sokari Douglas Camp
“We have a right to mark the anniversary of the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa . We have a right to erect a remembrance for the many dead and for the suffering we have been forced to exist in. The Bus belongs to the Ogoni people and it is illegal for the Nigerian authorities to seize it for no reason. We have waited and asked them to do the right thing and release our property to us, all to no avail. Now we are forced to use the only option available to us. On the expiration of this ultimatum, we will mobilize Ogoni people and our friends to block the East West road and cripple every economic activity in that axis.” AkpoBari Celestine Nkabari, National coordinator for Ogoni Solidarity Forum-Nigeria (OSF)
It has always been my contention that the Niger Delta has been and remains in the far recesses of Nigerian consciousness. The region holds the wealth most of which has been stolen by a few elites and successive military and civilian dictators including those out of uniform. What little trickles down to the middle classes is never connected to the devastation and death of the people of the region.
And as I was going, I was just thinking how the war have spoiled my town Dukana, uselessed many people, killed many others, killed my mama and my wife, Agnes, my beautiful young wife with J.J.C and now it have made me like porson wey get leprosy because I have no town again.
And I was thinking how I was prouding before to go to soza and call myself Sozaboy. But now if anybody say anything about war or even fight, I will just run and run and run and run and run. Believe me yours sincerely” Ken Saro Wiwa, Sozaboy
The following post was originally written in January 2012 at the time of the failed Nigerian uprising – remember that people!
KSW reminds us of a struggle Nigerians have largely ignored or at best dismissed. The Nigerian media [pre social media] has to take major responsibility for the lack of information and analysis no doubt bullied as usual by military and pseudo military governments including Goodluck Jonathan’s. KSW reminds us of our right to stand up to oppressive leaders. He reminds of the misery oil has brought to people’s lives and how this has been ignored by multinationals and western governments. He reminds us of the existence of a ‘political cabal’ and an ‘oil cabal’. He reminds of our right to the fruits of our land and our resources and that we as people are part of an ecology system not outside of it.
We know that nothing has changed since this interview in 1995 except today we the people have the media in our hands. We can, if we choose and are prepared to make the effort and the sacrifice, do things differently so people do not have to feel they have no stake in this geospace called Nigeria and therefore have to chip a bit off and create their own space. The Niger Delta IS an Occupy Nigeria issue so far as it is part of Nigeria and so far as it is the source of all Nigeria’s income for the past 55 years. Oil is and has always been central to the Nigerian political economy and one cannot act and speak as if the source of that oil is not central to the oil equation.
There is no such thing as a “Niger Delta” issue that is not a Nigerian issue – to say so is to imply that the region is not part of the country and the people are not Nigerians. To do so is to disconnect the misery oil production has brought to millions of Nigerians from those who have benefited at their expense; from the benefit of free flowing oil including fuel subsidies; from political corruption, government waste, the terrible poverty in the north, south east and west and all the other social and economic ills we have faced as a nation.
This could be an opportunity for Nigerians to finally stand up and support the struggle of all Nigerians not just their own little corner and this works all ways. I hope people will have the imagination and vision to really move beyond the status quo. Because if petrol returns to N65 and political salaries are halved, fraudulent oil marketers are prosecuted but gas flaring and oil spills continue to destroy peoples lives, then we havent moved very far!
In a “Life After Oil’ Jeremy Weate ends with the question
What culture and what memory will be left of oil, after oil?
That depends on who you are. The loss of easy money, the loss of relatively cheap oil, the loss of business that feeds unconcerned on the easy money & cheap oil. OR the loss of an ecology system for generations to come?—?which one will be most mourned by the great people of my country? The answer may well define Nigeria in years to come.
Nigerians have a tendency to hide away from themselves and instead create memory holes which they bury in the sand. WE suffer from historical amnesia as Bibi Bakara Yusuf points out in her recent essay, “Scattered Limbs, Scattered Stories: The Silence of Biafra.” A million people died, many ‘strategically’ starved to death and yet there is silence and fear to speak. We do not know how many men, women and children have died, been raped, and beaten in the Niger Delta as a direct result of militarization, occupation, starvation, pollution, oil fires, destruction of land, waters and property. But I do know there is a silence about these things. The thing about memory holes is that the people inside the memory hole DON’T forget so today the people of the Niger Delta, of Ogoniland and of Biafra are not forgetting.