Bisi Olawunmi

For the reason that announcement of the appointment of Prof. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as the brand new Chief of Workers to the president and his assumption of workplace on Wednesday, Could 13, the media house has been awash with reactions. There have been accolades, there have been knocks. They painting Prof. Gambari as a multi-dimensional man who attracts sturdy feelings, both for or towards.  However one consensus that runs by way of all of them is the acknowledgement that he’s an excellent thoughts.

One criticism of Gambari that’s of curiosity to me and which has gone viral was his place on the execution of the demise sentence on Kenule Beeson Tsaro-Wiwa, extensively generally known as Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Ogoni environmental rights activist who introduced the oil spill devastation of Ogoniland to international consideration.  Gambari has been criticized for defending the hanging on the United Nations as Nigeria’s Everlasting Consultant to the world physique and for being credited in a newspaper entrance web page report of the period as describing Saro-Wiwa as a typical felony. Perhaps he isn’t your common, rough-neck felony, however a high-profile felony homicide confederate – that’s, earlier than the responsible verdict.  Ken Saro-Wiwa was controversial in life and has remained controversial in demise, his canonization being fuelled by a coterie of propagandists who’ve succeeded in promoting a manufactured, deodorized, populist persona of the power-hungry activist to a gullible public, whereas obscuring his fault traces.

To proceed to have a good time Ken Saro-Wiwa, as an unblemished hero, demonstrates the callous insensitivity of the do-gooder human rights group to the lives of others. Maybe, we have to refresh our minds concerning the details of the 25-year outdated case that introduced Ken Saro-Wiwa to a tragic finish.

4 distinguished Ogoni leaders had been murdered, in chilly blood, in broad day gentle, throughout a public reception of their honour by parts recognized as Ken Saro-Wiwa’s foot troopers. The murdered Ogoni leaders, who included the secretary to the state authorities and a commissioner, had been  Badey, the Kobani brothers, together with Chief  Edward Kobani, the pioneer vp of MOSOP and Chief Orage who had been being celebrated at a public reception on Could 21, 1994 when a maniacal mob descended on them.   The homicide was the fruits of energy battle in Ogoniland. Ken Saro-Wiwa, then president of the Motion for the Survival of Ogoni Individuals (MOSOP)  thought of the Ogoni 4, as they got here to be identified, as sell-outs  for being pro-government and against violent agitation within the Ogoni battle for environmental remediation of their ecosystem devastated by oil air pollution by Shell oil firm. Ken Saro-Wiwa, who joined MOSOP and was appointed publicity secretary, created a youth wing whose violent militancy finally led Dr. Garrick Barile Leton, the primary president of MOSOP in 1990 to flee the area, giving room for Ken Saro-Wiwa to imagine the motion’s management in 1993 and consequent upsurge in violent confrontations with safety brokers resulting in the demise of over 50 Ogonis. He was an influence demagogue. On the day of the incident, it was reported that there was rigidity in the neighborhood due to the honour being bestowed on the Ogoni 4 and Ken Saro-Wiwa needed to be barred from the realm by safety brokers. It was said that he instructed his militant youth supporters to take care of the ‘Vultures’, a tag tantamount to demise sentence.  Thereafter, the youths swarmed the venue of the ceremony and agitated appeals to a commissioner, Dr. Barinem Kiobel, a Saro-Wiwa disciple, to restrain the irate youths failed. That commissioner was amongst these hanged with Ken Saro-Wiwa. The youths finally stormed into the corridor, dragged the 4 Ogoni leaders being honoured from the excessive desk and butchered them.  Such brazenness, such bestiality and but some so-called human rights activists insist on impunity for the perpetrators of such hideous crime, discounting the lives so brutally terminated. The cost towards Ken Saro-Wiwa was incitement to homicide.

I used to be essentially the most senior editorial employees on responsibility on the Information Company of Nigeria (NAN) that day of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s hanging on November 10, 1995 when the story got here in from our Port Harcourt correspondent. I known as the Editor-in-Chief, Mr. Dave Igiewe, at dwelling, learn the story to him and sought his authorization for publication. He gave the go-ahead and we broke the story with all media, native and worldwide, quoting NAN. NAN is federal government-owned, however we didn’t interact in self-censorship, regardless that the story was very delicate. I’ve since written articles on the Ogoni tragedy which had been printed in newspapers titled : The Unsung Ogoni 4 and  The Ogoni 13  during which I argued that if there hadn’t been  the homicide of the Ogoni 4, there wouldn’t have been the hanging of the Ogoni 9.  The purpose being made is that being an activist will not be a licence to homicide. Ken Saro-Wiwa made a deadly miscalculation by apparently counting on the so-called ‘Worldwide Group’ to spring him from the homicide cost. Based on experiences, he was in disbelief when the hangmen got here. The human rights group, and the media, have even been discriminatory towards the others hanged with Ken Saro-Wiwa, as all references to the tragic incident had at all times been Ken Saro-Wiwa and Eight others!!!  Such hypocrisy!  The names of the Ogoni 4 are additionally blacked out.

Given the above state of affairs, vilifying Gambari for saying it as it’s, is a contrived labelling to demonise.  Sadly, the media has misplaced the spirit of due diligence, investigation and perspective in reporting and have grow to be captive to human rights agitators, civil society teams and different sundry characters who feed sop to journalists. Professor Daniel Boorstin had famous that journalists are the ‘’most potent allies’’ of demagogues and a few activist civil society organizations who manufacture personalities and occasions, present press releases and readily grant interviews including that they ‘’had a diabolical fascination and an nearly hypnotic energy over news-hungry reporters’’.

I imagine the Nigerian media, particularly the mainstream media, ought to be extra cautious in giving low-cost publicity to opinions of individuals and organisations not anchored on details however on emotion, as within the Ken Saro-Wiwa saga.  Ken Saro-Wiwa, having gained worldwide recognition and fame as an Ogoni environmental rights crusader grew to become a sufferer of his success by assuming delusional energy invincibility. He selected the trail of lethal activism that resulted in catastrophe. A defence of his hanging for incitement to a number of murders, arising from the tragic consequence of his selection of technique can not, subsequently, be considered meanness, as being projected by critics of Prof. Gambari.


  • Dr. Olawunmi is former Washington Correspondent of the Information Company of Nigeria (NAN).

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