If the late environmental rights activist and leader of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People, MOSOP, Ken Saro-Wiwa was alive, he would be 72 years old on October 10.
Eighteen years after he was executed with eight other Ogoni leaders by the military government of late General Sani Abacha, eminent Nigerians said, yesterday, that the issues he fought for, such as under-development, marginalisation of minority ethnic groups and devastation of the environment have not been resolved.
They spoke at the 72nd post-humous birthday and launch of a book entitled The 3-Dimensions of the Ogoni Revolution and the Unanswered Questions, organised in Saro-Wiwa’s honour by the Niger Delta Youth Movement, NDYM; Middle Belt Youth League, MBYL; Ogoni Solidarity Forum, OSF and Ogoni Economic Forum, OEF.
They also urged the Federal Government to immortalise Saro-Wiwa just like the Americans have done to Martin Luther King, Jnr.
Among eminent persons at the occasion, who extolled the virtues of the late environmental activist were Chief A.K. Horsefall; Ambassador Dan Suleiman; Mr Sam Amuka, Publisher, Vanguard Newspapers; Senator Adego Aferakeya, who chaired the event; Jimi Agbaje and former Assistant Comptroller General of Nigerian Customs Service, Chief Bassey Charles (rtd.).
Other are Dr. Eugene Okolocha, Mr. Odia Ofeimum, Chief Mike Nweilaghi, OEF chairman; Ogbo Mmuen Kpagane, book author and Abuka Onalo, President-General, United Middle Belt Youth Congress, UMBYC.
He lives on— Aferakeya
Senator Aferakeya said although Ken Saro-Wiwa was dead, he is still alive because he was an actor and that actors never die.
He proposed that just like the United States of America has a day set aside to celebrate Martin Luther King (Jnr) for his struggles towards liberation of the blacks in America, Nigeria should also declare a day for Saro-Wiwa for his struggles towards liberation of the Ogoni people.
He said: “We are here to celebrate an icon not only in Ogoniland but in Nigeria. Ogoniland must continue to grow and carry its history from generation to generation.”
He added that there were so many books written on the lives and times of Ken Saro-Wiwa, advising that people should read about the patriotic Nigerian, who died fighting a just cause.
Aferakeya said: “Ken Saro-Wiwa was fighting during a military junta. If he had fought during a democratic rule, he would have become the president of Nigeria.
“He fought for the oppressed and development of Nigeria not just Ogoniland.”
Don blames faulty federalism on elite
In his paper entitled Minority Groups in Nigeria: Issues and Perspectives, Dr. Doki Jeff, a lecturer at the University of Jos, Plateau State, blamed the continual marginalisation of minority ethnic groups, such as the Niger Delta and Middle Belt, on the fact that Nigeria does not have a solid constitutional approach that can promote an inclusive framework for the management of its diversity.
He said: “The ruthless primitive accumulation of wealth by the ruling elite, massive unemployment, intolerable gap between the rich and poor, hunger, poverty, disease and a general lack of basic amenities, are inequalities that pose a major threat to true federalism and peaceful co-existence among the various ethnic groups.”
He fought for Nigeria —Ofeimum
On his part, Odia Ofeimum described Saro-Wiwa as a man that loved his people so much that he wanted to free them from oppression.
He said: “He was prepared to sacrifice himself to make it happen.
“He genuinely believed that all Nigerians, not only the Ogoni people, should be in control and enjoy the collective resources of the country; being part of the governance of their own lives, so that nobody will impose on them harsh leadership that they don’t deserve.
“Unfortunately, most Nigerians at that time were myopic and they saw the struggle as only what the Ogoni want. But it was actually what all Nigerians want. And unless we have this, we won’t have a country.”
The author of the book, Mr. Ogbo Kpagane, said Ogoni, which has the best crude oil, the Bonny Light, has for a long time been neglected by the Federal Government and the world could not understand and appreciate them as a people and their struggle to realise the three dimensions of life.
Kpagane noted that the three dimensions of life include identity, autonomy and development and every nation has to live these dimensions of life.