On this day, Kenule Beeson “Ken” Saro-Wiwa, a Nigerian writer, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Right Livelihood Award, and eight other activists were executed by the Nigerian military regime headed by General Sani Abacha. They were executed by hanging.
According to Prince Fegalo Nsuke, president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s murder is most certainly the worst Nigeria did to the Ogoni people outside the genocide which has been the outcome of Shell’s reckless oil mining operations since 1958. The pain of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s murder along with eight others including John Kpuinen, Barinen Nubari kiobel, Mordu Eawo, Saturday Doobe, Daniel Gbooko, Paul Levera, Felix Nuate, and Baribor Bera remains the most unpleasant side of our country’s history. It is so because the “Ogoni 9,” as they became known and referred to, were definitely innocent and did not deserve death.”
Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogoni people, an ethnic minority in Nigeria whose homeland, Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s and which has suffered extreme environmental damage from decades of indiscriminate petroleum waste dumping.
Initially as a spokesperson, and then as president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro-Wiwa led a non-violent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of the multi-national petroleum industry, especially the Royal Dutch Shell company. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian military government which he viewed as reluctant to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area. At the peak of his non-violent campaign, he was tried by a Special Military Tribunal for allegedly masterminding the gruesome murder of Ogoni chiefs at a pro-government meeting, and was hanged on this day by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha.
His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.