Ken Saro-Wiwa, co-founded the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) in the 1990s. MOSOP, an organization set up to defend the environmental and human rights of the Ogoni people who live in the Niger Delta.
Born in October 1941 and named Kenule Beeson Tsaro-Wiwa in Ogoni, present day Rivers State, Nigeria. He was educated at Government College, Umuahia, and at the University of Ibadan. He briefly taught at the University of Lagos before joining federal forces in the civil war of the late 1960s.
Saro-Wiwa was a Civilian Administrator for the Port of Bonny, near Ogoni in the Niger Delta during the Biafran war (1967-1970). Later, he went on to be a businessman, novelist and television producer. His long-running satirical TV series Basi & Co was purported to be the most watched soap opera in Africa. His best known works were drawn from his observations and experiences of the Biafran war. Saro-Wiwa most famous work, Sozaboy: a Novel in Rotten English, is a harrowing tale of a naive village boy recruited into the army. On a Darkling Plain, is a diary of his experiences during the war.
The Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People, argued that oil production had devastated the region’s environment, while bringing no benefit to its 500,000 people. The writer Ken Saro-Wiwau said that Shell had turned what was once an area of unspoilt natural beauty into a grubby black moonscape. Oil from dilapidated pipelines and pumping stations seeped into the soil and destroyed it. For local residents, Nigeria’s oil reserves hadn’t brought affluence, just poverty and disease. He had strongly defended the rights of the Ogoni people and criticized the government’s oil policy with Royal Dutch/Shell.
In May 1994, four prominent Ogoni leaders were murdered. The government arrested Ken Saro-Wiwa for complicity in the crime. The charges were unrelated to his criticisms of Shell, which had no involvement in the case. The underlying reason for his arrest and conviction was his outspoken opposition to Nigeria’s successive military governments and his defence of the Ogoni tribe, of which he was a member. Despite wide international protests, Saro-Wiwa was hanged after a show trial with other eight Ogoni rights activists in Port Harcourt, on November 10, 1995. The 1995 executions of Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight Ogonis by Nigeria’s military government attracted international condemnation.