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Ken Saro-Wiwa: Twenty years after By KAYODE KETEFE

Tuesday November 10, 2015 exactly marked 20 years after the judicial murder of the famous Ogoni environmentalist and one of the most vociferous social critics in Nigerian history, Kenule Beeson Saro-Wiwa.
Born on October 10, 1941, the indefatigable Ogoni son, who co-founded the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in 1990, devoted all his adult life to waging sustained non-violent battles against all forces threatening the survival of his native land. Several years of unconscionable exploitation of crude oil with no concomitant sustainability and ethical programmes by the multinational oil companies had left most parts of the Niger Delta region ecologically degraded with the land infertile, and the people impoverished. This, coupled with the Federal government’s infrastructural neglect of the area, constituted callous human rights abuse which inspired Saro-Wiwa to activism.
Saro-Wiwa’s energies and passion for procuring justice for his people were so remarkable that he became the symbol of the struggles. His philosophy of non-violence found parallelism in the ideology of the late popular African-American activist, Martin Luther King, and he was adored by many for this. In propagating his single-themed survivalist crusade, Saro-Wiwa travelled all over Nigeria and the world. He sponsored documents of the abuses to the United Nations as evinced in instruments like Ogoni Bill of Rights.
In all these, Saro-Wiwa never got tired of dazzling his audiences with his oratorical prowess. With his trademark pipe delicately poised in his mouth, he would beam an infectious smile, then gingerly remove the pipe and launch softly into his survivalist homiletics, and along the way, his voice would boom, soaring many octaves high with unwavering vigour as he methodically reeled out the gory tale of modern tragedy being conspiratorially perpetrated by the Nigerian state and the oil exploiting multinationals against the minorities of the Niger Delta.
With fact and figures at his fingertips and the tool of honesty as his inspiration, Saro- Wiwa would paint convincing pictures that essentially underscored the degradation of Ogoni’s biophysical environment then going on (and still extant) in the region. He was a real prophet championing the cause of justice for his people. Saro-Wiwa was a promoter of a sacred mission, the inspirer of a noble ideology, the light in dark tunnel of oppression and champion of the cause of the downtrodden. He was a vanguard in the terrifying battle against greater powers; and though bloodsoaked and sapped from the fiery darts of the enemies, he remained unflinching till the very end.
Though arrested, incarcerated and held incommunicado several times by successive Federal Governments, Saro-Wiwa was too engrossed with the preservation of his Ogoni people to be daunted by mere personal misfortune. When they saw that his indomitable spirit could not be broken; that the message of humanity was spreading, the coalition of enemies employed the most damned ancient trick of all – they sponsored discord within his treasured “household” which finally blew apart the unity of purpose among his Ogoni people. Alas! In-fighting began and Saro-Wiwa was roped in the allegation of masterminding the killing of four of his kinsmen. He was arrested alongside eight others.
Although his trial was flawed by many enlightened commentators for being substandard to modern concept of justice administration, the tribunal pronounced death sentence on him. Saro-Wiwa was eventually hanged by Sani Abacha-led military government alongside eight other co-accused activists on November 10, 1995. Standing unfazed before the military tribunal that sentenced him to death, the courageous Saro Wiwa, still had the presence of mind and the poise to craft the following moving speech:
“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 on a richly endowed land, distressed by their political marginalisation 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, and determined to usher to this country as a whole a fair and just democratic system which protects everyone and every ethnic group and gives us all a valid claim to human civilisation. No imprisonment or death can stop our ultimate victory.”
Now history has proved him right, his killers only succeeded in killing the messenger and not the message. When armed insurrection and violent struggle began, the Federal Government, not able to contain it, resorted to the pacifist amnesty package for the region’s militants.
May Kenule Saro-Wiwa’s gifted soul rest in perfect peace.