Who is Ken Saro-Wiwa? - BAD HISTORY

Other | Monday 9th November 2015 | Jacob

BAD HISTORY: Essential enlightenment into World Events that they should have taught you at school!

Bad History: Ken Saro-Wiwa (October 1941 - November 1995) 

Who: Ken Saro-Wiwa was the President of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP).

What: The Ogoni People were an ethnic minority in Nigeria originating from Ogoniland; a target for serious Crude Oil extraction since the 1950s which suffered from extreme environmental damage due to decades of petroleum waste dumping from companies such as Royal Dutch Shell (Shell). 

How: Wiwa was the poster-boy of a non-violent campaign against the exploitation of his homeland by multinational, faceless oil companies, as well as an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government. He viewed those in charge of the country as lacking the willingness to impose environmental regulations on these exploitative oil companies destroying areas such as his homeland. With his movement gaining momentum, Saro-Wiwa was tried for the murder of four Ogoni leaders and found guilty, being sentenced to hanging for murder by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha.The accusations were made despite Saro-Wiwa being nowhere near the area when the Ogoni leaders were killed.

What Happened Next: Here is Ken Saro-Wiwa's final statement on the mistreatment of his country. He calls on his Ogoni people and the people of Nigeria to stand up against the Oil Company's might and greed by repeating, "We all stand before history". He was then executed and as a result, Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years. Later, at least two ‘witnesses’ of the murders took back their earlier claims stating that they had been promised money and jobs at Shell. Saro-Wiwa was subsequently awarded the Rightly Livelihood Award (commonly called the Alternative Nobel Prize) half a year after his wrongful execution, and in 2009, Shell was ordered to pay over $15million in reparations despite denying any involvement in his death.

Why it's important TODAY:

On an evening where Nigeria have sacked the head of anti-corruption agency Ibrahim Lamorde without giving a reason, as well as Nigeria’s blighted history concerning dodgy dealings, there's reason for detecting a whiff of bullshit concerning Shell’s claims of 'lack of involvement' in the past.

That’s why everyone should be supporting and raising awareness for Nigerian protesters in their threats of strike to disrupt transport and oil supply unless a British artwork/memorial (see below) depicting Shell’s atrocities is released from Nigerian customs in Lagos.

The Bus serves as a memorial to Ken Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people, made by artist Sokari Douglas Camp in 2006. It is emblazoned with a notable Saro-Wiwa quotation on the side,


Today, the Oil Companies do not wield the same coercive power that they did at the time of his murder. Now, climate change is viewed as inevitable by even the staunchest of former deniers, and the bus serves as a symbolic reminder of the destructive power that the Oil companies have in their locker.