November 10th, 2007 Headsman
On this date in 1995, author Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow activists of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) were hanged by the Nigerian military junta in Port Harcourt.
Saro-Wiwa, the author of works such as Sozaboy, was already considered among Nigeria’s greatest writers before becoming an activist for the rights of his Ogoni people in the face of Nigeria’s lucrative and ecologically destructive Niger Delta oil trade.
Few benefits of that trade returned to the politically marginalized Ogoni, whose overwhelming response to MOSOP’s organizing soon began choking off oil exploitation in Ogoniland and brought a violent response from the Nigerian dictatorship — operating hand in glove with Shell Oil, as Saro-Wiwa himself noted in his closing remarks to the sham tribunal that convicted him of inciting a murderous riot.
I repeat that we all stand before history. I and my colleagues are not the only ones on trial. Shell is here on trial and it is as well that it is represented by counsel said to be holding a watching brief. The Company has, indeed, ducked this particular trial, but its day will surely come and the lessons learnt here may prove useful to it for there is no doubt in my mind that the ecological war that the Company has waged in the Delta will be called to question sooner than later and the crimes of that war be duly punished. The crime of the Company’s dirty wars against the Ogoni people will also be punished.
In my innocence of the false charges I face here, in my utter conviction, I call upon the Ogoni people, the peoples of the Niger delta, and the oppressed ethnic minorities of Nigeria to stand up now and fight fearlessly and peacefully for their rights. History is on their side. God is on their side. For the Holy Quran says in Sura 42, verse 41: “All those that fight when oppressed incur no guilt, but Allah shall punish the oppressor.” Come the day.
Though Saro-Wiwa’s hanging helped quell Ogoniland sufficiently for Shell to resume production, it left an opposition martyr. Saro-Wiwa’s prison diary was published shortly after his hanging; his son, journalist Ken Wiwa, has written a biography; and separate UK- and Canada-based organizations exist to carry on his memory and work.
The tensions left unresolved in the Delta, meanwhile, have spawned ever more militant resistance movements.
Also on this date
- 1571: Anneken Hendriks, cursed Mennonist
- 2009: John Muhammad, D.C. sniper
- 1834: The bushrangers John Jenkins and Thomas Tattersdale
- 1865: Henry Wirz, for detainee abuse
- 1780: Corregidor Antonio de Arriaga, by his slave
- 1954: Hossein Fatemi, before the blowback
Entry Filed under: 20th Century,Activists,Artists,Botched Executions,Capital Punishment,Death Penalty,Disfavored Minorities,Execution,Famous,Hanged,History,Intellectuals,Mass Executions,Murder,Nigeria,Pelf,Power,Racial and Ethnic Minorities,Rioting,Ripped from the Headlines,Wrongful Executions