The Ogoni ethnic nationality has called on the Federal Government to declare every 10 November as a public holiday in honour of their executed hero, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others.
The President, Ogoni Youth Federation, Legbrosi Yamabana, who spoke in Port Harcourt, Rivers State in commemoration of the killing of Saro-Wiwa and eight others, said they were not in support of the proposal by President Muhammadu Buhari to grant pardon to their slain heroes.
According to The Nation, Yamabama said activists who were unjustly treated and died while undertaking a similar course like Saro-Wiwa had been granted posthumous honours by the Federal Government.
He said: “We are still seeking justice 26 years after. Justice has not been done to our slain hero, Ken Saro-Wiwa, and eight others also known as the ‘Ogoni Nine’.
“We need a posthumous recognition to be bestowed on Ken Saro-Wiwa. We need his name and those of his colleagues to be exonerated. We want every November 10 to be declared a public holiday in Nigeria. We believe what is good for the goose is also good for the gander.
“Is it because we are of the minority that they are treating us like this? Just recently, some Ogoni leaders visited the President. To our surprise, Mr President was talking about a pardon. We rejected it in its entirety.
“That is not the yearning of the Ogonis or Niger Delta. A pardon is given to a criminal. Ken Saro-Wiwa is a hero. He committed no crime to be given a pardon. Instead, he should be exonerated. The Nigerian state will not know true peace until this is done”.
Similarly, the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF) on Wednesday called for the exoneration of Saro-Wiwa and eight other Ogoni leaders killed by the Abacha regime in 1995.
The forum’s national chairman, Senator Emmanuel Ibok Essien, in a statement, said: “PANDEF strongly supports the calls for their exoneration and not pardon.”
They urged President Buhari to jettison his consideration of granting pardon to the Ogoni icons.
PANDEF said, “There is no better time for the president to make that pronouncement than now, on the 26th memorial of the sadistic killing of the innocent men.
“It must be accentuated that Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others did not commit any crime against the Nigerian state.
“They were patriots; heroes, who, through peaceful and non-violent processes, highlighted the injustices and wrongs perpetrated against the region in tandem with the demands of the Ogoni people.
“Like several other innocent Niger Deltans, who have been killed by state actors, all they wanted was improved and better living conditions for their people – a safe, peaceful, and developed Niger Delta.
“Exonerating Ken Saro-Wiwa and the eight others at this time will help lessen the agonising memories of the sad events in the hearts of their families, the Ogoni people and the entire Niger Delta people as well as lovers of truth, justice and peace across the world.
“It will also soothe emanating concerns of citizens, given the current disturbing mood of the country and elicit international empathy and goodwill.”
A hero’s fight against environmental degradation
Initially as spokesperson, and then as president, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro-Wiwa led a nonviolent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of the multinational petroleum industry, especially the Royal Dutch Shell company.
Saro-Wiwa was also known as a critic of the Nigerian government for its allegedly reluctant behaviour 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 hanged in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha.
The activist’s execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.