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Last Updated: Friday, 11 November 2005, 10:27 GMT
What is the legacy of martyrdom?
The late Ken Saro-Wiwa - Image: Remember Saro-Wiwa  (www.remembersarowiwa.com)

When is it worth dying for a cause?

Ten years on from the executions of the Ogoni Nine, little has changed for the people of the oil rich areas of Nigeria.

Prominent among the dead was the writer, Ken Saro-Wiwa, who had been campaigning against environmental damage and was in favour of a more equitable share of oil riches.

Former South African president Nelson Mandela famously said: "I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society."

"It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die."

What do you think? When is a cause worth dying for? What is the value of martyrdom? Does it change anything?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

Your comments:

The name never left my memory
S Bhattacharya, UK
I remember watching it on the TV when it happened. The name never left my memory. Nearly a decade later in one of the modules in the master's course at Cardiff University I chose to study Nigerian oil industry. It was to learn more about the whole story and particularly about the great man Ken Saro-Wiwa.
S Bhattacharya, Cardiff, UK

Wiwa is not a martyr but an opportunist. The real martyrs are the men and women who fought for the liberation of the eastern part of Nigeria. Any group in the eastern part of Nigeria fighting for liberation now will be fighting a lost battle. They will be not only confronting Nigeria but also USA and Great Britain due to oil interest.
Edmund E Ezurike, Richton Park, USA

"What sort of country is this that delights in the killing of its illustrious citizens? What have I done that I deserve death, that I spoke the truth, demanding justice for my poor Ogoni people? I have always been a man of good ideas, and whether I be killed, my ideas will live forever, and Ogoni, for which I am dying, will one day be emancipated from the shackles of oppression," Ken Saro-Wiwa, 10 November 1995. Ken Saro-Wiwa lived and died for the Ogoni people and his sacrifice will ultimately emancipate the Ogonis from the tyrant Nigeria.
Bariyiradum Lincoln Nkin, an Ogoni exiled in the United States

I do not think there is a cause worth dying for
Degen Eritrea/USA
Many African nations have fought to gain their independence and many potential individuals have passed away as a result. What is Africa today? It is still facing many economic and social problems. I actually wonder sometimes why Eritrea fought for 30 years to get their independence. After all they are not getting what they used to have during the period of colonization.
Degen , Eritrean, USA

Winston Churchill once said, "Without courage all virtues lose their meaning". Ken was a man who stood up for what he believed and who was willing to be tied to the stake and shot for it (in his case he was hanged). For evil to manifest itself, it takes a good man to fold his hands and do nothing. Ken Saro-Wiwa could not sit back and watch evil unfold. He was courageous.
Ayo Awoyele, Peterborough, United Kingdom

The death of Steve Biko inspired many thousands of people to help bring down apartheid in South Africa, myself included. His death was a significant point in the freedom struggle.
Tim, Derby, UK

You can give Ken Saro-Wiwa whatever attributes suit your agenda, but we Nigerians know those who are truly agitating for the cause of the common man. We have the likes of Gani Fawehinmi, the late Bala Usman, Eskor Toyo, to mention but a few.
Mohammed Bashir, Leeds, UK

It is not the cause that kills but the enemy
Jane Wickenden, UK
I don't believe anyone goes into a good cause intending to die for it, as one can do so much more by living for it. It isn't the cause that kills, but the enemy.
Jane Wickenden, Wincanton, Somerset

Someone once said, "The object of war is not for me to die for my country, but for the enemy to die for his." That is all there is to it really. You do not plan to die for a cause, but you do your level best to achieve the targeted end. If you die in the process, you hope that someone continues to carry the torch. Rosa Parks, the American civil rights campaigner, made an impact, even though she did not die for her cause. I am sure there are plenty who died whose names we will never hear.
Taff Gidi, Stoke-on-Trent, UK

Ken made a grave error of judgement by not negotiating with the then military government. He underestimated the importance of the Delta region to the security of Nigeria and the oil multinationals. He was murdered by forces he never understood. The corporate existence of Nigeria is intertwined with the oil and gas resources of the Delta. Therefore any activism in that area pits you head on with the security forces of Nigeria. It was a cause to die for. I salute his bravery
Yemi Oluleye, Warrington, UK

A hero is a person who risks their life for a noble cause
Ahmed, Uganda
It is better to be recognised as a hero or heroine than to be remembered as a martyr. A hero is the person who risks their life for a noble cause. He may die in the struggle or may emerge triumphantly. In this period of globalization, secessionists and reactionaries should not be remembered as martyrs.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

It takes a brave person to pursue a cause. What determines a person's commitment to his or her cause is the readiness to sacrifice everything even if it means sacrificing one's life to achieve their aim. It is better to live one day as a lion than a hundred years as a sheep.
John Patrick Tindana, Accra, Ghana

Every time I look at the photo of Field Marshal Dedan Kimathi wa-Waciuri that hangs in my office, I am deeply grateful for the sacrifices made by the men and women of his generation for Kenya's freedom. This photo also reminds me of what greedy cowards my own generation of Kenyans has proved to be. We do not even have the guts or morality to give our slain heroes honourable burials.
Margaret S. Maringa, Nairobi Kenya

Today, we are all free people partly because of martyrdom
Allen Aramide, Poland
As a Nigerian, I would say, if Nigeria wants to maintain its shameful death sentence, it should at least remove the type of crime Saro-Wiwa died for, from the list. To die for a cause is a matter of belief and upbringing. I personally would say, like Nelson Mandela, if I have to die for an ideal I cherish, I don't really mind. Today, we are all free people partly because of martyrdom.
Allen Aramide, Nigeria/Poland

As a man you have got to appreciate the essence of standing up for what you believe in, no matter the consequences. When you fight for what you believe in you become a pillar of hope for others.
Johann Quarcoo, Kumasi, Ghana

Yes, without a doubt if it's the only way to achieve change that benefits all then it is worth dying for. I believe all those hiding in exile would rather be back home and contributing to the development of their countries, but cannot because they're hunted for challenging their governments.
Lionel Naidoo, Zimbabwean in Australia

As far as Africa is concerned today, there is nothing worth dying for. Most of these so called martyrs have selfish agendas.
Tunde Onibode, Lagos, Nigeria

We must not forget that the ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in time of peace but where he stands in times of adversity
Sunny Ofehe, The Netherlands
I am presently campaigning for improving the lives of the people of the Niger Delta. Just as Martin Luther King Jr said, "before any victory is won, some might face physical death. But if physical death is the price that some must pay to free their children from a permanent psychological death, then nothing shall be more redemptive."

The death of Ken Saro-Wiwa may not have brought any change to the people of Niger Delta, but it has exposed the suffering of the people of this region to the world. We must not forget that the ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in time of peace but where he stands in times of adversity.
Comrade Sunny Ofehe, Hope for Niger Delta Campaign, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Those who fight and die for freedom do not die in vain. Whether they be Africans fighting for democracy or the German resistance to the Nazis, they inspire others who may not be as brave and they serve as a reminder in later years. In any situation of madness, there are always some who retain their dignity and humanity. Something we sometimes need to know.
Kate, London, UK

If you die would it change anything?
Johnny Abdallah, Ghana
I don't think there is a cause worth dying for. The question at hand is, if you die, would it change anything? When you die, there would always be someone to take your place.
Johnny Abdallah, Accra, Ghana

I am waiting to see the day that the Nigerian government will commission historians to research, document and properly record the achievement of forgotten Nigerian patriots and martyrs, names like the great Uromi (Esan) kings like Agba, Okonojie, Okolo, Akhilolomhen and Ogbiodi Okojie. These Uromi kings established Lagos Nigeria. They had a military alliance with the ancient Benin Kingdom. Uromi warriors under these kings fought off Portuguese, Spanish, French and British slave raiders, pirates and buccaneers and invaders for centuries.
Anthony Okosun, USA

Before taking a plunge at martyrdom in a continent such as Africa, count the costs and make sure your cause is already being acclaimed far and wide
Ope Ogundokun, Mozambique
Perhaps a cause is worth dying for if the death will translate into true emancipation and restore dignity to the millions of Africans oppressed by brutal and kleptomaniac dictators. But before taking a plunge at martyrdom in a continent such as Africa, count the costs and make sure your cause is already being acclaimed far and wide. Otherwise, the legacy of such martyrdom will be nothing but another day on a sleepy calendar. Africa has a peculiar problem of martyrdom amnesia!
Ope Ogundokun, Nigerian in Mozambique

A cause is worth dying for if it's the kind that the likes of the late MKO Abiola and Ken Saro-Wiwa died for and not forgetting the living legend Nelson Mandela. They all fought for democracy and against marginalisation, oppression, discrimination and tribalism. However, the kind of deaths happening day in day out in the Middle East region, where both young and old, males and females are convinced to carry out suicidal acts, can only lead to self destruction and annihilation. To me, martyrdom is not making people kill themselves and other people in order to make a point. After all, every religion, whether Islam, Christianity, Hindu or traditional African religions, preaches against that.
Tope Idowu, Houston, USA

Africans dying for the common good rather than recognition in the society have a cause worth dying for
Prossy Nannyombi, Uganda
Africans dying for the common good rather than recognition in the society have a cause worth dying for. The Uganda martyrs who were executed in 1885 were very significant in changing the religious life of many Ugandans. However this legacy has been abused by people with selfish motives like those seeking recognition.
Prossy Nannyombi, Entebbe, Uganda

Well they say the blood of a martyr is the seed of any struggle and a struggle where no-one dies is not a great one. So, even if I could help it, I would prefer not to find myself in a martyr's situation. Yet, I still know that none of these people died for nothing. The fruits of their deaths will certainly one day be reaped by their progenitor.
Tafor, Bamenda, Cameroon

Nelson Mandela and the late Ken Saro-Wiwa's legacy and vision would not be forgotten by their people
Peter Tuach, USA
I love those leaders who campaign on behalf others or their communities. Nelson Mandela and the late Ken Saro-Wiwa's legacy and vision would not be forgotten by their people. To me, it makes allot of senses dying for a mission which may benefit your people even in the future and remains for ever as story in your country from generation after generation. Ken Saro-Wiwa's death was strongly condemned both locally and internationally.
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA


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