Read prequel here….
Like most believe, life is transient. We are most infinitesimal compared to this cosmos. Like mist we are here today and gone tomorrow. However, some have resiliently engraved their names in gold on the stones of time. These are mavericks in their own steads, damning the odds, even their lives – ensuring justice is served knowing well that in a society like ours it’s most costly. They are selfless, surrendering their lives for the advancement of their people. This is the story of Kenule Saro-Wiwa, hung by Abacha, the moderate business man, the nonchalant lawyer, the quiet judge, the selfish politician, the apathetic student (yes, students). Saro-Wiwa was hung by Nigeria.
Wole Soyinka was due for Tokyo where a number of Nobel laureates were having a conference. He however diverted to Auckland, New Zealand where the commonwealth Heads of States were gathered for their biannual summit – it was clear that they alone still had the voice to save Ken and the others. Only strong threats will save their lives. The summit would do well to make it obvious that they would follow up on their threats. They never did anyway.
Mark never returned, Ken was not surprised. “Naïve little boy, ” Ken thought. Ken was no longer interested in getting a defence counsel; they were only figure heads. Granting him a defence counsel was merely an unctuous effort by the federal government to appear fair and democratic. The tribunal was far from being democratic; like a tomb, it looked shinny and comely to an outside observer, however within it was the quintessential of rot.
The federal government was a disgrace; how could a government betray its own for filthy lucre. Ken would die because his country wanted to appear friendly and kiss the ass of a depraved multinational (Shell). The price for Ken’s life had been paid by Shell, they viciously revelled in seeing Ken’s last days.
Shell had recently published a statement, which read:
The reason for Mr Saro-Wiwa’s attack on Shell are therefore clear. He is attempting to use Shell in his efforts to raise the international profile of his concerns for the Ogoni people and to meet his objective of their political self-determination. At no time has he acknowledged the positive contributions Shell has made to Nigeria in its many forms. By involving shell in his emotive and exaggerated attacks, he wishes to gain the support of international pressure groups, whom he is personally visiting in many countries outside Nigeria with the objective of raising pressure on the federal government of Nigeria.
This statement by Shell was most unfortunate. It was a tacit approval of Ken’s execution. It only takes reading between the lines to realise it was a death certificate.
Junior, Ken’s son was very passionate about his father’s release. He was an ideological clone of his father. He followed Soyinka to Auckland, they both met with Nelson Mandela, pressing on everyone for his father’s release. Junior had remembered how his father told him that “if you believe in a cause, fight head long till you see it’s actualisation”. Before Junior left for Auckland he had visited his dad in prison, they had a heartfelt conversation.
“What kind of country delights in destroying its illustrious citizens? I have only clamoured for the right of my people, now I am tagged an outlaw. The Ogoni cause is a just cause, my people mean a lot to me and I will protect them with the last drop of my blood. The government ought to protect its people from wolves. In the Nigerian example, the people ought to be protected from their ravenous government.”
The world simply watched as events accelerated in Nigeria. Soyinka was wrong, the common wealth was a toothless bulldog, they did little or nothing to save Ken and the others. They were not fierce in demanding the release of these innocent men– hiding under the guise that Nigeria was a sovereign nation.
After months of adjournments and incarceration on the 30th of October, Kenule Saro-Wiwa and eight others were sentenced to death by hanging, then it dawned on every one that Abacha in collaboration with Shell meant business. Ken kept a stoic demeanour when the sentence was announced. He had vowed not to show any form of emotion at the mention of his judgement.
Prior to Justice Auta’s announcement of the death sentence, Ken had this to say:
My Lord, we all stand before history. I am a man of peace, of ideas. Appalled by the denigrating poverty of my people who live in a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalization and economic strangulation, angered by the devastation of their land, their ultimate heritage, anxious to preserve their right to life and to a decent living… I have devoted my intellectual and material resources, my very life, to a cause in which I have total belief and from which I cannot be blackmailed or intimidated. I have no doubt at all about the ultimate success of my cause, no matter the trials and tribulations which I and those who believe with me may encounter on our journey. Neither imprisonment nor death can stop our ultimate victory…
On November 10, 1995 around 11:30 am, Saro-Wiwa was handcuffed to his back and chained in the leg like a criminal in company of four others brought out. One of them looked at Saro-Wiwa and said “Are we really going to be killed?” Ken looked up and down and replied “Are you not happy to die with me for the struggle of Ogoni land? What type of country is this that takes delight in killing its illustrious sons? If I die, the struggle continues.”
It was reported that it took five attempts to hang Ken on that day. “Lord take my soul, but the struggle continues” were his last words. Ken taught his people to fight with the pen, he never clamoured for violence. He waged an intellectual war on the Nigerian government, a war they could not withstand.
The bodies of the fallen heroes were dumped on a military ground after they were doused with acid. The government did not allow the families access to the bodies.
This story is dedicated to: Ken Saro-Wiwa, Barinem Kiobal, John Kpuimen, Barbrio Bera, Saturday Dobee, Felix Nwante, Nordu Eawo, Paul Levura, Daniel Bbokoo, who were all murdered by the Abacha military Junta.
There is more to be told…