Posted on Tue 7 Jun 2016, 10:53 AM

KEN SARO-WIWA (October 10, 1941 – November  10,1995) 

Ken Saro Wiwa was a Nigerian writer, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Environmental Prize. Saro-Wiwa was an Ogoni man who spent his childhood in an Anglican home and eventually proved himself to be an excellent student; he attended secondary school at Government College Umuahia and on completion obtained a scholarship to study English at the University of Ibadan. He briefly became a teaching assistant at the University of Lagos, that was before he took up a government post as the Civilian Administrator for the port city of Bonny in the Niger Delta.
Ken Saro Wiwa's pro-Nigeria disposition was undisputable as he was a strong supporter of the federal cause against the Biafrans during the 3-year civil war. (1967 - 1970)

In 1973, he refused to play down his agitation for the autonomy of the Ogoni people and was sacked as the Commissioner for Education in then Rivers state, an office he was appointed into in 1970.

He settled into a private life of journalism, writing and television production until in 1987 when he was appointed as a member of the Transition Committee by then military head of state, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. He resigned over doubts of IBB's sincerity to hand over power to a democratically election government. 

As president, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Ken Saro-Wiwa led a nonviolent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of themultinational petroleum industry, especially the Royal Dutch Shell company. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area.

But under General Sani Abacha as head of state, Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight others were accused  of killing four Ogoni chiefs who were on the opposing side of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People.

Mr. Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues were subsequently arrested, accused of the killings and tried by a special military tribunal. Though they denied the charges against them, they were imprisoned for over a year before being found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging.

They were hanged on November 10, 1995 by the Abacha regime for what many believe was largely because  of Mr. Saro-Wiwa’s strong stance in pursuit of the rights of the Ogoni people.

Their execution led to Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations, which lasted for over three years.

Decades after his death, Ken Saro Wiwa is still remembered as the father of Niger Delta agitation through intellectual engagement and nonviolent activism. With cleanup of the Ogoni degradation receiving positive attention, perhaps, Ken Saro Wiwa and his colleagues did not die in vain.

 

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