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25 years after: 10 points that describes the life of Ken Saro-Wiwa

Today makes it twenty-five years that Nigerian environmental activist was unlawfully executed by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years. His only crime was putting the government on their toes to check the oil exploration activities of foreign oil companies in the Ogoni region.

In remembrance of the heroics of Kenule Beeson “Ken” Saro-Wiwa, we gathered important fact about the Amnesty International Prisoner of Conscience cum Goldman Environmental Prize Recipient.

  1. Ken Saro-Wiwa was born in October 1941, the eldest son of a prominent family in Ogoni, which is today in Rivers State, Nigeria.
  2. He was a well-known Nigerian author and television producer. He was also the president of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), an organization set up to defend the environmental and human rights of the Ogoni people who live in the Niger Delta. Before becoming president, he was the spokesman for the organization.
  3. Saro-Wiwa was a Civilian Administrator for the Port of Bonny, near Ogoni in the Niger Delta during the Biafran war (1967-1970).
  4. He was a real estate business man in the 1970s before returning to focus on his journalism, writing and television production career in the 1980s. His long-running satirical TV series Basi & Co was purported to be the most watched soap opera in Africa.
  5. Despite focus on his work, Ken Saro-Wiwa couldn’t take his mind off what was going on back in his hometown. He was dismissed from his post as Regional Commissioner for Education in the Rivers State cabinet for calling for an autonomy for the Ogoni people.
  6. In January 1993, Saro-Wiwa gathered 300,000 Ogoni to march peacefully to demand a share in oil revenues and some form of political autonomy. MOSOP also asked the oil companies to begin environmental remediation and pay compensation for past damage.
  7. The major oil company involved in the pollution of Ogoni land is the Royal Dutch Shell that commenced oil exploration in Ogoni lands in 1958, leaving a group of 550,000 farmers and fishermen inhabiting the coastal lands with an oil-ravaged environment. Fertile farmlands became contaminated fields due to oil spills and acid rain. Almost all fish and wildlife vanished from the region. Meanwhile, out of Shell’s Nigerian workforce of 5,000, less than 100 jobs went to Ogoni.
  8. His fight for the Ogoni people made Shell temporarily shut down operations in the region in 1993. Shell claimed they withdrew because of violence against staff and actions targeting their facilities
  9. Ken Saro-Wiwa was illegally abducted from his home and jailed with other MOSOP leaders on claims that was connected to the murder of four Ogoni leaders. As these went on, the Nigerian military took control of Ogoniland subjecting people to mass arrest, rape, execution, and the burning and looting of their villages.
  10. In October 1995 a military tribunal tried and convicted Saro-Wiwa of murder. On November 10, 1995 Saro-Wiwa and his eight co-defendants were hanged. Ken Saro-Wiwa was born in October 1941, the eldest son of a prominent family in Ogoni, which is today in Rivers State, Nigeria. After leaving university he initially pursued an academic career.

Ken Saro-Wiwa lead an exemplary life and left a big shoe for environmental activists to fill. He will forever be remembered for his fight against environmental degradation and pollution in the Niger-delta, a menace that still abounds till today.

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