A renowned environmental activist, Nnimmo Bassey, has said the controversy over the death of Ken Saro-Wiwa still remains unresolved, 23 years after the environmental activist and Ogoni leader, together with eight of his kinsmen, was executed by Sani Abacha-led military administration on November 10, 1995.
“His death remains a matter that is yet to be resolved because the state necessarily has to exonerate him of the false charges and the kind of kangaroo judgment that was given by that tribunal,” Mr Bassey said on Saturday in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
“Besides, the state has to apologise to the victims and to the Ogoni people for executing them when the appeal period had not even elapsed,” he said.
Mr Bassey said November 10 has always been a day for sober reflection for him.
“The day he was executed in 1995, I was at that time, the secretary-general of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
“We were having our annual conference at the University of Lagos, and we were debating whether to issue a statement pleading with Abacha to have mercy and cancel the death sentence or to issue a hard-line statement condemning the atrocities of his dictatorship. Why that debate was going on, we got the news that they had been executed.
“So, it is always a very sad day for me.
“The campaign of Ken Saro-Wiwa was focused on environmental justice. And the injustice meted out on him and the Ogoni people is one of the major reasons I have made environmental justice campaign my lifetime cause.”
Mr Bassey said the Nigerian state was yet to learn lessons from the killing of Mr Saro-Wiwa and the other Ogoni leaders.
He said, “Just looking back and reading the justification for that action by the state, Nigeria still thinks it can settle social and ecological issues by suppressing the people who are complaining, and by also allowing the issues to evolve into a major crisis.
“The Niger Delta is still heavily militarised, and this is not a solution. It creates more tension, more insecurity, and breads further injustices.”
The environmental activist said cleaning-up of Ogoni land would be a measure of atonement for the injustices done to Mr Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people, followed by a “thorough” implementation of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report on Ogoniland.
Righting the wrongs done to Saro-Wiwa, and others, including the Ogoni people, Mr Bassey said, is low-hanging fruit for the Buhari administration. And if they don’t do it, it would be a lost opportunity, he said.