[dropcap]10[/dropcap] November 1995, that was the day Abacha’s henchmen went to work on 9 Ogoni sons; Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuine and Ken Saro-Wiwa. Their bodies took turns in dangling from the hangmen’s noose before being doused with acid, probably to prevent them from pulling a Jesus stunt and resurrecting.
Today, the Ogoni people remember.
We remember that what brought us here was a fight for survival, a fight to be able to cast nets into our rivers with the hope that when we pull it out, fish and crabs would be in our plates.
We remember that what brought us here was our hydrocarbon polluted lands. We just wanted to farm on our lands and reap bountiful harvests, so that our children could partake in the Ndubaroro festival with something to show for it.
We remember that what brought us here was the bad air brought about by the daily flaring of gas and the burning of the Ogoni skies. We just wanted to breathe.
We remember that what brought us here was the water, our groundwater. We just wanted to be able to drink from our wells without having to drink with the fear that it might be contaminated with carcinogenic benzene 900 times above WHO guidelines. Since we didn’t have hospitals good enough to treat typhoid, we didn’t know how we would survive something as bad as cancer.
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Today, Ogoni people remember.
We remember that what brought us here wasn’t the shooting of guns or blowing up of oil pipelines, far from that. We got here by carrying placards and writing articles. We remember that what brought us here wasn’t the fact that we took up arms against the Nigerian state; it was the other way around. We got here because the Nigerian state took up arms against us, against our women and our children. We remember that what brought us here was the fact that the Nigerian state came with rifles while we came with placards.
Today Ogoni, people remember.
We remember that after contributing approximately $30 billion to the Nigerian state, they repaid us with the equivalent amount in oil spills and the corpses of 9 of our most prominent sons. 20 years after that gift of dead bodies, we remember that nothing has changed. We remember that we still do not have good schools to show for our contributions to this country. We remember that we still cannot boast of a good hospital that can cater for the numerous health conditions brought about by our feeding this country.
We remember the UNEP report and its recommendations. We remember the part that makes mention of the clean-up of Ogoniland taking approximately 30 years. We remember that nothing tangible has been done about the report. HYPREP? We remember how powerless and useless they’ve been too. We appreciate their littering our villages with signposts telling us that our ‘Water is not fit for drinking’. But what can we do? We do not have any alternative than to drink the benzene filled water that gushes out of our wells and boreholes. We’ve been drinking it since 1958.
Today, Ogoni people remember.
We do more than remember what brought us here. We remember in equal measure the people who brought us here. We remember the members of the Provisional Ruling Council (PRC): Gen. Sani Abacha; Maj. General Patrick Aziza (Minister of Communications under Abacha); Major Gen. Tajudeen Olarenwaju (GOC); General Abdulsalami Abubakar (Chief of Defence Staff); Lt. General Oladipo Diya (Chief of General Staff); Maj. Gen. Victor Malu (GOC); Ibrahim Coomasie (Inspector General of Police); Mike Akhigbe (Chief of Naval Staff); Maj. General Ishaya Bamaiyi (Chief of Army Staff); Nsikak Eduok (Chief of Air Staff); Lt. Gen. Jeremiah Useni (Minister of the Federal Capital Territory) and Michael Agbamuche (Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice) who unanimously upheld the judgement of the Kangaroo tribunal set up by themselves in the first place to forever silence the Ogonis.
We remember Col. Hameed Ali, who was a member of that tribunal that sentenced the Ogoni 9 to death by hanging. We also remember that Hameed Ali recently reiterated the fact that he doesn’t in any way regret his actions. We remember how he was made the head of the Nigerian Customs some months back and the fact that that same Nigerian Customs which he heads has refused to release the Ogoni Memorial Art Bus to us. I’ll do good to remind him that ‘You can hold the bus, but you can’t stop the movement.’
We remember Justice Ibrahim Auta who headed the kangaroo tribunal that served as a legal stamp for the murder of the 9 Ogoni sons. We remember Joseph Bodunrin Daudu (SAN) too, the government prosecutor.
Today, Ogoni remembers. We remember that our fathers have failed us. We remember that the present crop of ‘Ogoni leaders’ have nothing to offer hence 20 years after the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni 8, there’s nothing to show for the struggle, a struggle that took thousands of lives.
Today Ogoni remembers. We remember Shell and all the atrocities she has committed against the people of Ogoni. Today we remember the ‘compensation’, her acceptance of guilt. I’ll do good to let Shell know that she has not started paying for her sins against the Ogoni people.
Today, as we remember our horrific past, let us remember the silver lining in our future. The silver lining being the new generation of Ogonis, a generation that has been let down by their fathers and are urged on by the desire to not let their own children down. We are coming. We are resilient. We must be heard. Like Ken Saro-Wiwa said, ‘I believe that we all stand before history.’
Saatah Nubari is a social and political commentator. He tweets from @Saatah.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.