On October 19, I spoke at a #EndSARS Memorial panel. I made a statement that shocked the audience. I said there are no citizens yet in Nigeria and I suggested that the concept of citizenship is just to fill our lexicon with words that would make us look like a country. We are at best a people, always trying to assert citizenship in a jungle where might rules - and not law.
What is citizenship? It is basically the participation in the political process of any society. Is this definition our reality as a people? Your guess is as good as mine.
Ken Saro Wiwa and the Ogoni 9 also tried to become citizens during their lifetime but failed. Twenty-six years ago, Saro Wiwa, along with Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine were executed on November 10, 1995 by the Abacha regime; a network of the most vicious elements on planet earth. The Ogoni 9 were environmental rights activists fighting against corporate exploitation in the Niger Delta. They were trying to be citizens in their immediate community.
But the state, in its brutal nature, showed them their place in the order of things. There is no gainsaying to the fact that the state has a long history of violence. As it is in the past, so is it today. It happened during Lekki Massacre. The young people who were asserting citizenship were shown their place. And the deadly state continues to show us all our place in the jungle they’ve created.
The space is getting more unsafe as journalists are getting kidnapped, a number of them are fleeing the country, forceful disappearance is now becoming the order of the day, activists are either threatened, detained or ultimately killed.
As we grapple with the consequences of asserting citizenship in an unsafe place, what is unfortunate is that the reverse is the case for the members of the brutal ruling class. They get elevated. It is clearly true till today that the crime scene which Nigeria is, continues to favour criminals, brigands and their friends.
Prof. Gambari who justified openly the killing of Ken Saro Wiwa, is today the Chief of Staff to Abacha’s Comrade- Muhammadu Buhari.
General Abdulsalam Abubakar who is moving around with an A4 paper called “peace accord”, posing as a peacemaker in the order of Alfred Nobel, was part of the Provisional Ruling Council (the highest decision-making body of that time) that vetoed the verdict of the panel. Same as Gen. Oladipo Diya.
A major road till today is named after Abacha in Port Harcourt.
Col. Hammed Ali, a member of the trial panel, got rewarded with the office of Comptroller General of Customs. Auta, the head of the panel later became Chief Judge under Goodluck Jonathan who interestingly is from the same region as the Ogoni 9. But from a different class. Former NBA President, Bodunrin Daudu and others remain in the class of the untouchables in Nigeria. And the grand plotter, Shell Company, keeps declaring profits globally, year in and out.
A faint look at the names I have mentioned would make you realize that all the bad guys are from all the regions in the country. They cut across all classifications - region, colour, religion, gender, even age. Yes. Age. Because the people who killed the future of that time were not old people. They were not divided to perpetrate the worst crime against humanity- the murder of Ogoni 9. Everyone played their roles perfectly.
Even after death, the state still forged a way to put Ken Saro Wiwa on trial. I’m talking about the Oputa Panel of truth and reconciliation, where relatives of the elders who were killed came to testify against Ken Saro Wiwa. History has shown that all the allegations were false.
Fast forward to 2021, the Buhari regime is still mocking Ken, mocking the Ogoni people and also the intelligence of the rest of us by contemplating that Ken Saro Wiwa should be pardoned. How do you pardon a man who committed no crime?
In this same year, at COP26, Shell is still mouthing the same rhetorics of cleaning the environment and its commitment to a net-zero climate. Liars.
Osinbajo’s class captain duty is to keep flagging off the Ogoni clean-up exercise. Nothing spectacular has been done since the flag-off.
So Comrades, as we mark the 26th anniversary of this injustice and demand justice for our heroes, I ask you all what exactly will you regard as justice for the Ogoni9?
For me, it is for the system that places profit over humanity to collapse totally. That for me would be justice. Any other thing would just be crumbs falling off the slave master’s table.
About the author:
Femi Adeyeye is a social critic and activist. He is currently the National publicity secretary of the African Action Congress.
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