Thursday, 5 November 2009

The Glorification Of Shame: A Response To The Time Magazine Of October 5, 2009

In reaction to your cover story of the October 5, 2009 edition of the Time Magazine titled 'Heroes of the Environment’, it is very ironical that you allowed the Royal Dutch Shell to take a half centre-spread advert in pages 70 and 71 of the issue. It is very ludicrous bearing in mind the fact that Shell is one of the greatest defaulters when it comes to environmental protection and the salvation of the climate. Shell should not have placed that advertisement there and the Time should not have allowed it. That is a good example of irresponsible journalism and misleading advertisement and it has a close resemblance of what happened sometime ago when the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, Peter Akinola was named by the Time as one of the most influential persons of the year despite his support for a controversial bill that was designed to incarcerate the Nigerian homosexuals.

The story of the Shell and the environment is a shameful one. In Nigeria, it has resisted the protection of the Nigerian environment from day one and actually played a complicated role in the hanging of a renowned Nigerian playwright, Ken Saro-Wiwa, 13 years ago by the Junta of the late Nigeria head of state, General Sani Abacha. Ken Saro-Wiwa, an environmentalist who opposed the degradation of the lands in Niger Delta of Nigeria by the Royal Dutch Shell was tried and condemned by a Military Tribunal set up by then Head of State, Sani Abacha after being denied a proper legal representation and appeal and subsequently hanged in November 1995. Shell knew one or two things about the hanging since being one of the main source of Nigerian income, they had the financial power and should have stopped the execution by threatening to walk away if the government go on with it but it remained mysteriously silent apparently because of what they stand to gain from his execution.

It was actually alleged that the Royal Dutch Shell helped in drafting the trumped up charges of murder that led to the execution of Saro-Wiwa and eight others and even helped to fund the military operation of the then Abacha junta which on many occasions brutally suppressed the peaceful protests of the local community. Shell really deserve to bury their head in shame for the level of impunity and lackadaisical attitude they have shown all these while towards the plight of their host, the Niger Delta people and their environment and should not have thought of embarrassing themselves further by placing the advert in the first place. They turned their source of water into oil and rendered their farmland useless. The people are simply poor and frustrated because agriculture and fishing which is their major source of income have been dealt a blow by the Royal Dutch Shell.

The Niger Delta is the main source of the oil and revenue for Nigeria yet majority of its people live below poverty level. The gains of millions of dollars being generated daily from the proceeds of the oil has not trickled down to the people. Their farmland is all turned into a wasteland, their water coated by oil while gas flaring which has been banned for long is still in use by the Royal Dutch Shell. It was these notorious acts that Ken Saro-Wiwa was strongly against and therefore a shame that Time could allow Shell to place the advertisement.

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