Dear Friends and Supporters,
On behalf of our family we would like to thank you for coming today to mark another anniversary to keep the spirit and memory of Ken Saro-Wiwa alive.
We particularly like to thank the Heinrich Böll Foundation who was one of the first institutions to honour and support Ken Saro-Wiwa.
In those days the struggles of the peoples of the Niger Delta did not attract the same kind of attention that they do now. We firmly believe that Ken Saro-Wiwa would have taken great pride and satisfaction that 15 years after his murder, people from faraway places will gather in his name to remember the ideas he lived and died for. More importantly he will be gratified that those issues have become front and centre of global public debate.
He always used to say that a writer is his cause. Like the feminist activists of the 1960s and 1970s, for him, the personal was political. His life, his experiences as an Ogoni child and adult in Nigeria and at large in the world informed his conviction that the interests of those who had no voice and little financial stake in the monopoly of international capital must be reckoned with and accounted for in the global balance sheet of humanity.
The protocols of social justice insist that we cannot continue to put profits before the planet.
It is instructive that this year in Nigeria and other parts of the world the impact of the world’s great thirst for fossil fuels is being felt in the instability of climate. Beyond climate we must also consider the impact of our need for energy on international security and its attendant consequences for the global economy.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a man ahead of his time. He did not live to see the impact of the Internet and other communications revolutions but he would have appreciated that we are at a moment in human history when the consequences of man’s gregarious footprint on the planet are gathering with an intensity that demands urgent, creative and compassionate solutions.
He was more than a man of ideas though; he was also a man of action: l’homme engagé. While he understood that the first step in a struggle was to raise awareness, to give voice to the voiceless and prosecute the cause with intelligence and on a platform of non-violence, he also appreciated that the great castles in the sky had to be grounded in reality and the foundation stones of sustainable policy.
Although his struggle was met with violence today more than ever the legacy of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s non-violent struggle for social justice demands a non-violent, sustainable and humane response. We cannot continue with business as usual. The world has changed, the world is changing.
Last year in a New York court our family and the families and dependents of 10 Ogonis settled for an out of court judgment in a human rights violation suit against Shell. It was a landmark case that brought into stark relief the inequities of the legal system. The resources at the disposal of international capital dwarf the resources and remedies available to individuals and groups whose rights are compromised in the quest for reward and profit.
There is an urgent need to find a way to balance the rights and sustainability of the planet with the rights of capital and shareholders.
A better world is possible but only if we find new ways to do old things. We must develop the language of social justice beyond protest. Our causes are just and cannot be denied but we must also rise to the challenge of finding feasible and sustainable alternatives to the status quo.
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a man of many successful parts, philanthropist, writer, businessman and environmentalist. He worked hard and against the odds, succeeded in bringing our small corner of the globe to world attention. A smile was never far from his lips and his talents bristled with humour.
So today I urge you to remember Ken Saro-Wiwa like we do, not in sorrow but with a smile and recall his immortal words:
Dance your anger and your joys
Dance the guns to silence
Dance, dance, dance
The Struggle Continues.
Ken Wiwa (born 1968, Lagos), also known as Ken Saro-Wiwa Jr., is a Nigerian journalist and author. His book In the Shadow of a Saint is a memoir of his father, executed activist and political prisoner Ken Saro-Wiwa. He is currently serving President Goodluck Jonathan as the Special Assistant on International Affairs.