“Mark, I had very much been in the news lately, and, as often happens to those who have the kind of misfortune, I am now considered more as a news item than as a living being with flesh and blood.” Ken gave a long sigh as he muttered these words.
Meanwhile, notable Nigerians from every facet of life have been trotting the globe, lifting every stone and saying all they could to make sure Ken doesn’t face the noose.
“A year is gone since I was rudely roused from my bed and clamped into detention, 65 days in chains, many weeks of starvation, months of mental torture and, recently, the rides in a steaming, airless Black Maria to appear before a Kangaroo court.” Ken continued.
Mark had had enough; he could hardly suppress his tears. He had feigned strength all these while. But now, he simply hushed Ken by saying, “We’re going to get you out of here.” Of course, Mark didn’t believe that, but he would say anything to quiet Ken.
There was a bizarre kind of silence in the room, as if the proverbial angel just walked by; only the mechanical whirring of the old and ill maintained wall fan broke the silence. Mark avoided maintaining eye contact with Ken: he gazed vacantly at the paper work set before him on the desk. The defense counsel, Gani Fawehinmi had just dropped the case; he described the tribunal set up to try Ken as a kangaroo court bent on executing innocent men, damning the consequences.
A Yale trained lawyer had picked up the case out of sympathy for the Ogoni cause. “Where were you when these chiefs were murdered?” Mark asked.
“I was not even aware of their meeting, I did not know they were going to be murdered, I was very unaware of the plot to kill them, so how could I have masterminded it?” Ken charged.
“The continued sitting of this military tribunal in spite of the government’s presumption of my guilt is most disgusting. Can’t you see this tribunal is a charade meant to put a legal face to my predetermined conviction on false charges in a situation where I have no right of appeal?”
The silence that once besieged the room returned. Mark was at sea, almost regretting picking the case. It was at this point he realized that he was up against one of the most ruthless military leaders in the history of Nigeria, if not Africa. Mark picked up the paper works and drifted out of the interrogation room mumbling a “see you soon.”
The warden ushered Ken back towards his cell. Ken stopped at the threshold of the cell, glanced into the almost air tight dungeon, looked back at the warden, shook his head, then proceeded into the cell. In the cell there was a little table with piles of letters precariously placed. Ken, with a sharp beam on his face, picked the most recent of the letters and caressed it gently as he read it again for the 10th time in six hours. The letter was from his aged father who had expressed so much optimism concerning his release from custody.
Ken admired and abhorred his father’s optimism. He often thought to himself, “if the people around you are bent on deceiving you, never deceive yourself…” Of course, Ken knew the people from the free world were not being sincere with him concerning his incarceration. He knew better. Even better than they all did. He knew the military junta would go no-holds-barred in annihilating him.
He had been a pain in the neck to the Abacha regime and its multinational cohort, Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC). These parties had so violated Ogoni land to a state of hopelessness. Everything happened to the Ogonis: Colonization, pacification, absorption into Nigeria, allocation into the eastern region, and now the drilling gigs of shell in 1956 and the commencement of oil production and pollution in 1958. Then this was the apogee of doom for the Ogonis.
Ken had always advised his father to take his mind off him (Ken) getting out of prison alive. If not for anything he did not want to see his father devastated after his execution. At this stage of his life, he was ready to die for what he believed in.
The military do not act alone. They are supported by a gaggle of politicians, lawyers, judges and academics and business men, all of them hiding under the claims that they are only doing their duty, men and women too afraid to wash their pants of urine.
Ken’s mind flashed back to May 21, 1994, the day of his final arrest. He could remember how heartily the villagers had sung his acclaim earlier that day. Ken had travelled from village to village to garner support to get elected into the 1994 constitutional conference. He was accosted by the police en route another village and was asked to return to Port Harcourt. Before he returned, the police alleged that Ken was infuriated and told his followers in his native Gokana dialect to “deal with the vultures” in Giokoo who he considered stooges of the military and were behind him being turned back by security forces.
A little while after Ken’s departure, a mob invaded the Gbenemene’s palace, started a very violent riot, and killed Chief Edward Kobani, Chief Orage, Theophilus Orage and Albert Badey, popularly regarded as the Ogoni four. The angry mob then locked up their bodies in a Volkswagen beetle car, doused it with petrol then set it ablaze. A cloud pregnant with gloom and disaster overshadowed Ogoni land. Ken was subsequently arrested in relation to the murder alongside nine other Ogoni compatriots. They were accused of motivating and inciting their followers to kill the Ogoni four.
Tears slid down Ken’s eyes as he recalled these events. On the day Gani Fawehinmi and Femi Falana appeared before the tribunal, headed by Justice Ibrahim Auta, arguing their application for bail, Femi Falana was dazed with a slap by a soldier for not submitting himself to the accreditation rules. Chief Falana subsequently withdrew himself from the case.
Ken knows this might be the end of the road for him but he was convinced that even after his death the struggle would still continue. The judiciary was under the control of the military which meant nothing good could come out of it. Justice Ibrahim Auta, the chairman of the Tribunal was obviously Abacha’s boy.
Ken had a call; he was summoned to answer it.
“Who’s this?” he asked.
“Ken I am currently in Auckland, the common wealth heads of states are gathering for their biannual summit, it appears that they alone command the weight of voice that might save you and the rest from the gallows”, Wole Soyinka whimpered.
To be continued…