…..and then I asked, “Can you die for your country?”
He went into a fit of laughter. And he continued to, until my stare and look met his bewildered expression. Then he took time to explain himself.
“No sir”, I cannot, was his confident response.
It was his laughter that prolonged his reply. It would have been instantaneous.
Momentarily, it sent shivers down my spine.
I thought and still believed I could (shssss, wifey mustn’t know this).
But then, if the response from this level headed educated young man, a man, whom I could regard to belong to the next generation, could ridicule my naive question with a boisterous laugh, then I must indeed be naive.
Sent to rethink, I went into a trance to think and remember fallen heroes. Those whom I can regard as murdered in the course of a political fight. And again, it must be observed that, one ought not to be a political animal, killed or assassinated before been regarded as a fallen hero.
I remembered Bola Ige, Minister of Justice for Nigeria, killed on the 23rd of December 2001.
Then Ayo Daramola, the PDP gubernatorial candidate in Ekiti State. He was brutally killed in his house on the 14th of August 2006.
Almost three weeks before Dr Daramola’s death was the assassination of, yet another veteran Political leader. Another PDP gubernatorial candidate, this time, for Lagos State, Funsho Williams. He was forced to meet his death on the 27th of July 2006.
Another Political Juggernaut, Pa Alfred Rewane, a pro-democracy activist under the NADECO umbrella met his untimely death on the 6th of October 1995.
9 years to the month of October before Pa Rewane’s death, the celebrated Journalist, co- founder of the most respected News magazine, Newswatch, Dele Giwa was letter bombed to death on the 19th of October 1986.
12 years after the assassination of Dele Giwa’s , a much loved journalist, little did we know that, a Newspaper baron, a billionaire, a widely regarded international businessman, a man who had direct links to Presidents all over the world would meet his waterloo.
I can still remember the day, the 7th day of the 7th month (my birthday) in the year 1998, Moshood
Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, popularly known as M.K.O was murdered.
Now to today, the 10th day of November. I have written this post to remember a fighter, an author, Television Presenter, an Environmental activist, a Poet, a Play writer, Kenule “Ken” Beeson Saro-Wiwa.
In 1990, Saro-Wiwa began devoting most of his time to human rights and environmental causes, particularly in Ogoniland. He was one of the earliest members of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), which advocated for the rights of the Ogoni people. The Ogoni Bill of Rights, written by MOSOP, set out the movement’s demands, including increased autonomy for the Ogoni people, a fair share of the proceeds of oil extraction, and remediation of environmental damage to Ogoni lands. In particular, MOSOP struggled against the degradation of Ogoni lands by Shell oil company.
In 1992, Saro-Wiwa was imprisoned for several months, without trial, by the Nigerian military government.
On May 21, 1994 four Ogoni chiefs (all on the conservative side of a schism within MOSOP over strategy) were brutally murdered. Saro-Wiwa had been denied entry to Ogoniland on the day of the murders, but he was arrested and accused of incitement to them. Saro-Wiwa denied the charges, but was imprisoned for over a year before being found guilty and sentenced to death by a specially convened tribunal.
The same happened to other MOSOP leaders
- Saturday Dobee
- Nordu Eawo
- Daniel Gbooko
- Paul Levera
- Felix Nuate
- Baribor Bera,
- Barinem Kiobel
- John Kpuine
Nearly all of the defendants’ lawyers resigned in protest to the trial’s cynical rigging by the Abacha regime. The resignations left the defendants to their own means against the tribunal, which continued to bring witnesses to testify against Saro-Wiwa and his peers. Many of these supposed witnesses later admitted that they had been bribed by the Nigerian government to support the criminal allegations. Brian Anderson, the Managing Director of Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, met with Owens Wiwa, Saro-Wiwa’s brother and offered to trade Saro-Wiwa’s freedom for an end to the protests against the company. At least two witnesses who testified that Saro-Wiwa was involved in the murders of the Ogoni elders later recanted, stating that they had been bribed with money and offers of jobs with Shell to give false testimony – in the presence of Shell’s lawyer.
Very few observers were surprised when the tribunal declared a “guilty” verdict, but most were shocked that the penalty would be death by hanging for all nine defendants. Many were skeptical that the punishments would actually occur, as the Nigerian government would face international outrage and possible sanctions and other legal action should the penalties be carried out. But on 10 November 1995, Saro-Wiwa and eight other MOSOP leaders (the “Ogoni Nine“) were killed by hanging at the hands of military personnel. According to most accounts, Ken was the last person to be hanged and so was forced to watch the death of his colleagues. Information on the circumstances of Saro-Wiwa’s own death are unclear, but it is generally agreed that multiple attempts were required before Saro-Wiwa died.
Celestine Akpobari, the National Coordinator of the Ogoni Solidarity Forum, on Saturday during a press briefing to commemorate the 14th anniversary of the killing said that “Fourteen years after the murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa, things have gone worse in Ogoniland. The schools have gone from dilapidation to a zero level so that every bus conductor you see on the streets of Port Harcourt is from Ogoni land.“
He said farming and fishing, hitherto the major occupation of the people, have also been been reduced to nothing.
“They are no longer flaring gas in Ogoniland because they are no longer taking oil in Ogoni land, but we don’t have a fence that separates Ogoni from other areas where gases are flared and so we still suffer the impacts of gas flaring,“ he said.
So I ask again, “Can you die for your country?” or fight and die for a course?
To Ken and other fallen heroes, we remember you all today and salute your courage, knowing fully well that your killers are still at large. May your departed souls rest in peace.
Excerpts from Wikipedia.com and 234next.com