On this day 25 years ago, Ken Saro-Wiwa was executed after a special tribunal convicted him of inciting a mob to murder four other Ogonis. Below is a statement given by the victims’ families.
FROM : CORE PUBLICATIONS PHONE NO. : 212 736 8765 THE OGONI CRISIS A BRIEF SYNOPSIS
Nigeria is the third largest English-speaking country in the world and the most populated country on the African continent with over one hundred million people. One of its many ethnic groups, the Ogonis, are located in the oil-rich Niger Delta in the South Eastern part of the country. The Ogoni people have long been dissatisfied with the distribution of oil revenues and concerned about environmental conditions in their area. In 1990, their elders and traditional leaders formed an organization called the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP). This movement was led by distinguished individuals Among them were Chief Edward Kobani, Chief Samuel Orage, Chief Theophilus Orage, and Chief Albert T. Badey. Ken Saro-Wiwa, a playwright and the brother-in-law of Chief Orage, was selected to direct the Public Relations affairs of the organization. As “Spokesman” for MOSOP, Mr. Saro-Wiwa exploited this position and usurped the authority of the founding leaders. Against the wishes of the leadership, he formed a militant youth wing of MOSOP which he called the National Youth Council of Ogoni People (NYCOP).
NYCOP, led by Ken Saro-Wiwa, became increasingly aggressive and violent in its activities. The founding leaders were strongly opposed to this trend. Using the Violence and aggression of the Youth Council, Ken Saro-Wiwa usurped the leadership of the organization causing the legitimate leaders and founders to withdraw from active involvement in MOSOP. Mr. Saro-Wiwa next attempted to usurp governmental authority by operating NYCOP as if it had seceded from the Nigerian government. The NYCOP gangs harassed law enforcement officials, attacked oil workers, carried their own flag, composed their own anthem, drew up their own laws, and set up road blocks to enforce a boycott of the June 12,1993 national elections. They also prevented the citizens of Ogoni from assembling without their permission. When MOSOP’s founding leaders criticized the activities of Saro-Wiwa’s youth gangs, they were abused, stigmatized as traitors, described as “vultures” and targeted for assassination.
On May 21, 1994, following a rancorous rally with Ken Sao-Wiwa, about 2000 members of the NYCOP youth gang stormed the Gbenemene Palace where traditional Ogoni Chiefs and elders had gathered for a meeting. At the rally, which was held a few hundred yards from the Palace, Ken Saro-Wiwa had given a fiery speech accusing the Chiefs and elders of being traitors and vultures who deserved to be killed. The youths attacked many of the meeting’s participants killing four of the Chiefs. The Four murdered Chiefs were founding members of MOSOP. Many others were seriously injured including some who attempted to take refuge in a Christian church but were dragged out and beaten. Others escaped by hiding in a shrine. The rampaging gang members were apparently afraid to enter the shrine because of their traditional indoctrination and cultism. Numerous eye witnesses detailed the savagery and brutality of the attacks. Bodies were dragged through the streets and beheaded. The corpses were loaded into a car and set on fire. Some witnesses testified to acts of cannibalistic rituals being practiced on some of the victims.
This total break-down of civil order forced the Nigerian Federal Government to finally take drastic actions to quell the violence and the potential for further civil unrest. Fifteen members of the NYCOP gang, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were arrested and charged with civil disturbances and murder They were tried by a Tribunal comprised of two Civilian Federal High Court Judges and one military lawyer. The President of the Tribunal was one of the civilian judges. Six of the defendants were acquitted: nine of the defendants, including Ken Saro-Wiwa, were found guilty of murder. The trial lasted eight months and was open to the public. Several news media and international organizations monitored the proceedings. The court found that Ken Saro-Wiwa was responsible for the murders.
Mr Saro-Wiwa and his cohorts were convicted and sentenced to death. Those sentences were carried out on November 10, 1995. Ken Saro-Wiwa his not the victim here. T
HE NIGERIAN DELEGATION FROM OGONILAND (The Real Victims)
1. MRS. ROSEMARY KOBANI
Mrs Kobani is the widow of the late CHIEF EDWARD KOBANI Chief Kohani – a founding member of MOSOP. He served as its Deputy President and resigned when the movement abandoned non-violence. He was also the former Commissioner for Lands and Housing in Rivers State and was the Former National Publicity Secretary of the District Social Democratic Party of Nigeria (SDP).
2. MR. KENNETH KOBANI
Kenneth Kobani is the son of the late Chief Edward Kobani. He is a practicing attorney in Port Harcourt.
3. ALEIAJI MOHAMMED KOBANI
Alhaji Kobani is the brother of the late Chief Edward Kobani. He was a participant in the meeting at the Gbenemene palace and was brutally beaten by the youth gang. He witnessed the brutal murder of his brother and escaped death by taking refuge in the shrine.
4. MRS. ELIZABETH LAAKA ORAGE
Mrs. Orage is the widow of the late CHIEF SAMUEL N. ORAGE and sister-in-law to the late CHIEF THEOPHILUS B. ORAGE. Chief Samuel Orage was a Founding member of MOSOP who was well known for his philosophy of dialogue in resolving disputes. He withdrew from MOSOP when attempts to resolve disputes between the radical youth wing ,NYCOP, and MOSOP failed. He was a former Commissioner in the Rivers State Government. Chief Theophilus Orage was retired from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology. He also was a founding member of MOSOP.
5. MRS. DORA BURIKUMELI BADEY
Mrs. Badey is the widow of the late CHIEF ALEERT T. BADEY. Chief Badey was a founding member of MOSOP. He left the organization when it turned violent. He was a former Permanent Secretary Commissioner and Secretary to the Rivers State Government. He also served as Chairman of the Tenders Board and was a former Head of the Civil Service.
6. MR. ALEX BADEY
Alex Badey is the son of the late Chief Albert Badey
7. CHIEF CELESTINE MWEABE
Chief Mweabe is the former deputy to Ken Saro-Wiwa and a former Director of NYCOP. The trial and execution of Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight of his associates drew world-wide attention because of Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s connections in the international media and environmentalist organizations. Because these institutions emphasized the literary and environmental activities of Ken Ken Saro, a one-sided description of events in Ogoniland was presented to the world portraying him as a victim and a martyr. The families of the slain Chiefs — in particular the widows — protested this one-sided reporting of events. They complain that the culprits were made into heroes and the victims into villains. In brief they maintain that Ken Saro-Wiwa and his collaborators were prosecuted for their acts of terrorism, lawlessness, and for the murders of four prominent Ogoni citizens and not because of their human rights and environmental activitiesAfter a traditional 3 years of mourning, the Widows of the four murdered Chiefs and members of their families have decided to break their silence. They will be visiting the United States from the 9th of May through the 24th of May, 1997 in hope of the opportunity to give their version of events in the Ogoni crisis. The Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) has agreed to assist them in this mission.
Margaret Ekpo: a #Nigerian politician and women’s rights activist. She was the only female member of the 1953-1954 constitutional conference that preceded #Nigeria‘s independence. She was also a member of the pro-independence NCNC party, and was elected as a member of the Eastern Region House of Assembly after Nigeria’s independence. The airport in Calabar is named after her.
Today is the 44th anniversary of the assassination of Nigeria’s former military head of state General Murtala Muhammed. He was assassinated on February 13, 1976, on his way to work during an abortive coup. Full details of Murtala’s life and the events that led to his death are in my book Oil, Politics and Violence: Nigeria’s Military Coup Culture.
Murtala’s car was ambushed by a group of soldiers in Lagos and he was shot to death. Above is a photo of the bullet riddled car in which he was killed. Note the bullet holes in the windscreen.
US State Department Report on Murtala Muhammed: https://maxsiollun.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/us-state-department-report-on-murtala-muhammed/
Murtala Muhammed’s speech on Nigerian democracy: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1851800698475/
The assassination of Murtala Muhammed:
Brigadier Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Speaks to the press about Coup Plot: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1849886570623/
Lt-Colonel Dimka speaks to the press: https://www.facebook.com/157457414278806/videos/1851800698475/
Lt-General Obasanjo announces execution of coup convicts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zjEA83pgstg&list=PLTCNM3JtW0UlisCGV98STnBtiGoS7YTaZ&index=3
Photo of a Queen in #Nigeria’s Niger Delta in the late 1800s #history #NaijaHistory #NigerianHistory
This month marks 21 years since the deaths of General Sani Abacha and Moshood Abiola in 1998. Just before their deaths, Nigeria’s situation was as follows:
- Nigeria was being ruled by a reclusive military dictator called General Sani Abacha
- General Olusegun Obasanjo and over 50 other army officers were in jail on trumped up charges of coup plotting.
- Nigeria had become a pariah nation after being expelled from the Commonwealth for executing Ken Saro-Wiwa and other activists who were campaigning for a fairer share of Nigerian oil revenues and against the environmental damage caused to their lands by the drilling and spills of big oil companies.
- Lt-General Oladipo Diya, Major-Generals Abdulkareem Adisa and Tajudeen Olanrewaju, and several other officers were on death row awaiting execution for their role in another coup plot.
- The winner of the acclaimed June 12 1993 election Chief MKO Abiola had been in jail for 4 years, kept incommunicado from the outside world.
- General Abacha was on the verge of transforming himself from a military ruler to civilian President having strong armed all the 5 political parties (“five fingers of the same leprous hand”) into adopting him as their presidential candidate.
- Genuine democracy seemed far, far away.
Plus a lot of the “pro democracy” activists shamelessly abandoned Abiola to join Abacha (Olu Onagoruwa, Baba Gana Kingibe). Even ministers in Abacha’s regime were not safe. The Guardian Newspapers (owned by Abacha’s minister Ibru) was proscribed by a newspaper proscription Decree and shut down after it criticised the government. It was the paper’s continual criticism of Abacha’s regime that led to the near fatal assassination attempt on Ibru.
The Abacha -v- Abiola power struggle was holding the entire country hostage. Abacha’s thirst for power and Abiola’s unrealised mandate. Even if Abacha is removed, what to do about Abiola who won a credible election? Then the following cataclysmic events happened in the space of 30 days:
On June 8 1998 Abacha dies of a heart attack and is hurriedly buried without an autopsy by the time the news filters through to most Nigerians. Nigerians publicly celebrate the death of a reviled leader with wild jubilation. General Abdulsalam Abubakar quickly replaces Abacha and announces that Abiola will be released but that he had to realise that his mandate had expired. A lot of chicanery was used to get Abiola to renounce but he refused. UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sent to talk to him and explain that his “term of office” had expired since 5 years had passed since the June 12 1993 election. All to no avail. Exactly one month after the death of Abacha, Abiola suddenly dies of a heart attack on July 7 1998.
With Abacha, Abiola and the June 12 issue out of the way, General Abubakar announces a swift 10 month programme for a return to civilian democratic rule. Just 10 months after Nigeria seemed doomed to perpetual military rule under General Abacha, the military steps down and a new democratic government is elected under President Obasanjo. The speed with which Abacha’s infrastructure was dismantled just seemed too contrived. With Abacha alive and Abiola incarcerated, most people thought democracy was years away in Nigeria. Just 10 months after his death everything he did was undone: his killer squad was dismantled, coup convicts and pro democracy activists released, Nigeria back in the Commonwealth, democracy restored, and the army back in the barracks. Note that a lot of Abacha’s cronies survived in office and resurfaced in subsequent dispensations (Sarki Mukhtar – NSA, Jerry Gana etc).
Somehow exactly 30 days apart, both men die of heart attacks. Abacha is prevented from becoming a civilian ruler, from executing the condemned men like Diya, Adisa and Olanrewaju, and a recalcitrant Abiola (who refuses to renounce his mandate) also dies. Problem gone, debate over, fresh start. All rather convenient isn’t it?…. How easily we forget….