Echoes from the Past –by Sarah Udoh-Grossfurthner

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“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” - Benjamin Franklin, renowned inventor and politician. He was at, what could rightly be called, the pinnacle of his life. As an author,

television producer, environmental activist and winner of the Golden Environmental Prize, Ken Saro-Wiwa was a Nigerian who had everything, not only to live for but to live that life in great comfort. An African saying opines that a man is only as good as his community.

Ken Saro-Wiwa embodied that adage in all of its goodness. He chose to forego a life of comfort in order that the good might come to his whole community. In a world where the good and want of the individual has been elevated over that of the whole, that was no small sacrifice. For that reason, he was arrested, tried in a sham military tribunal and hanged like a common criminal in 1995.

“Nigerian Army prepare for a bloody showdown in Niger Delta!” Screamed a recent headline in Huhuonline, a West African political analysis internet website. The story subsequently revealed that the Nigerian government was preparing to use force to bring the activities of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) to an end.

The Federal Government's warning that the full wrath of its power is going to be brought to bear on MEND - if that organization did not agree to the government's amnesty and laid down its arms on the proposed date in October 2009 - is keeping me awake at night at the thought of the mayhem such action is bound to unleash.

As we approach that deadline, as well as the month of November, my thoughts wander again, painfully, to the oil malaise that has had my country in its deadly grip since the incident of the 10th of that November month, in 1995.

On that fateful day, under the leadership of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria unwisely 'gave up' on building trust, the core value of any true leadership. It 'gave up' on the opportunity to make real and lasting changes and create proper democracy in our nation and within our continent. It opted, instead, for what it saw as the 'best solution' to a perennial problem. That 'solution' has become the nemesis of the country.

It's been 15 years since that infamous act by the Abacha regime, yet the 'permanent' peace that action was supposed to have been engendered is still very much an illusion. As I read the above quote by one of the great Founding Fathers of American history, I am amazed at the profundity of his wise words. If ever there was a clear case of 'giving up' of 'essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety,' it was the case of the Army Junta of General Sani Abacha vs. the hanging of Saro-Wiwa and the nine Ogoni Chiefs.

And now here we are, once again, at the crossroad of making another decision capable of taking Nigeria out of years of political uncertainty. Let us hope that in their bid to erase a problem that has become a huge stain on the nation's image, our leaders will not, once more, opt for a shorted-sighted and temporary solution to the Niger Delta issue.

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