The Ogoni Nine were a group of nine activists from the Ogoni region of Nigeria, including outspoken author and playwright Ken Saro-Wiwa, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, and John Kpuine, who were executed by hanging in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha and buried in Port Harcourt Cemetery.
In what follows, Noo, writer and daughter of the late Saro-Wiwa remembers these heroes twenty years on.
In 1992, when I was 16, my father Ken Saro-Wiwa wrote me a letter. Among other things, he told me that the Nigerian military dictatorship might kill him as a result of his campaign for human rights in the oil-polluted Niger Delta. I thought he was exaggerating, and I was angry with him for scaremongering.
They say that courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to overcome it. My father pursued his objectives, knowing the huge risks. On the morning of November 10th, 1995, when he and eight of his colleagues were hanged, he was reportedly the only person who didn’t cry as they placed the rope around his neck.
The murder of a relative can, paradoxically, make you risk-averse. My father taught me a lot about courage, and each year I’m gaining a bit of what he had. One day I will write about Ogoniland.
The Ogoni Nine risked their lives in order for our people to enjoy the basics of life: clean water, rivers filled with fish to eat, schools for the children. Nobody should have to die for such meagre requests. But their deaths were not in vain.
The Ogoni Nine: Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, Baribor Bera, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuine, Ken Saro-Wiwa.
We remember you and thank you.
Noo Saro-Wiwa is a Nigerian writer and journalist based in Britain. Saro-Wiwa is the author of Looking for Transwonderland: Travels in Nigeria, which was nominated for the Dolman Best Travel Book Award and named The Sunday Times Travel Book of the Year in 2012.