|The Ogoni Refugees:
Israel and Ngozi Nwidor
The tent that Israel Nwidor, his wife Ngozi,
and their two children have called home for
two years is worn and drooping. "When
the rain falls you go outside, you're holding
the ropes so that the place will not collapse,"
Israel explains. The small tent, one of hundreds
crammed onto a muddy plain in a refugee camp
in Benin, West Africa, has no running water,
no bathroom and mats on the dirt floor that
serve as beds.
The Nwidors are members of a small tribal
minority known as the Ogonis. The Ogoni people
opposed Nigeria's military government and
the Shell Oil Corporation, which for years
had been permitted to drill oil in their homeland
despite a growing environmental catastrophe.
Eventually, the military cracked down on the
protesters, executing Ogoni leader Ken Saro-Wiwa
and eight others. The wave of violence that
followed forced many Ogonis to flee to refugee
camps in neighboring Benin.
These Ogoni refugees are being resettled in
different cities in the United States by the
United Nations. All were forced out of their
homes by discrimination and persecution and
are coming to America because they cannot
return to their homeland in the oil-rich Niger
Delta Region. None of them know exactly where
they will end up, nor do they believe they
will be able to return to Nigeria. Most are
hopeful about their new lives in America.
Israel and Ngozi Nwidor
"When I get to America, I want to lie
on a good bed. I just want to have a nice
sleep," says the optimistic Israel. Trained
as a chemical engineer, he was unable to get
a job in Nigeria's oil industry because of
discrimination against the Ogonis. "I
will be accepted in America," he says
confidently. "Today, blacks living in
the northern part of America are free and
not discriminated against."
Although Ngozi Nwidor was born an Igbo, she
fell in love with Israel when she was his
student in their hometown of Bane, Nigeria.
"Because of the love she had for Israel,
she decided to stay and suffer with him,"
Ngozi's mother tells us. So now Ngozi is preparing
to join Israel on a journey to America, "I've
never been to America before. When I get there,
I will join others, do the way they do, that’s
Barine Wiwa-Lawani is the sister of the slain
Ogoni activist Ken Saro-Wiwa. Educated in
England, she ran a thriving catering school
and two restaurants in Nigeria that were bulldozed
by the government, forcing her to flee to
Benin with her four children.