When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self-Determination

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9781592213825: When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self-Determination

On 10 November 1995, the Nigerian military regime, under General Sani Abacha, hanged Ken Saro-Wiwa, the writer and minority rights activist, and eight other members of the Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP) after a judicially flawed trial. The hangings were a critical event for the Nigerian junta and for Royal Dutch/Shell, the major international oil company operating in Nigeria s Niger delta which played a key role in shaping the Ogoni tragedy. When Citizens Revolt re-examines the evidence concerning the Ogoni struggle for self-determination and raises questions about its origins and implications for a postcolonial Africa still grappling with the persistence of ethnic identities and the communal politics they engender. Dr. Okonta disagrees with the arguments of such Africa scholars as Mahmoud Mamdani and Donald Horowitz regarding the provenance and dynamics of ethnic politics on the continent and submits that ethnicity is not necessarily antithetical to democracy, and indeed that it may be a necessary aspect of democratic citizenship in multiethnic states like Nigeria and elsewhere in Africa. The Ogoni story, he contends, is the classic case of a people who, in order to secure their civic rights as citizens in a state increasingly resorting to rapine despotism, became tribesmen in their struggle to become citizens.

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About the Author:

Ike Okonta took degrees in Sociology, Anthropology and Journalism at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and a doctorate in Politics from Oxford University. He is presently a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Institute of International Studies, University of California, Berkeley. He is co-author of Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights and Oil (Verso, London, 2003). A leading Nigerian political journalist, Ike Okonta played a critical role in the ousting of dictator General Ibrahim Babangida from power in 1993. He is also a regular contributor to Project Syndicate, the New York-based syndicate of 200 newspapers world-wide. His articles have been translated into several languages including Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, and Russian. He continues to work with a wide range of African civic and political organisations, including MOSOP and ERA, the Nigerian chapter of Friends of the Earth International.

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