PR team: The Body Shop International
Campaign: Lobbying, PR and advertising on behalf of Ken Saro-Wiwa and
the Ogoni people in Nigeria, supporting a network of Ogoni indigenous
people’s, green, human rights and free speech organisations.
Timescale: Still underway after two years
Budget: The Body Shop external costs put at under pounds 100,000.
The 500,000 Ogoni people live in the Niger delta where they claim that
decades of oil-enriched Nigeria’s elite - especially under military
dictatorships - and oil firms, particularly Shell - have caused
repression and environmental damage.
Tried for murder after four moderate Ogoni leaders died in a riot,
activist Ken Saro-Wiwa was recently hanged along with eight others. A
further 19 Ogonis are now due to appear before the same tribunal that
sentenced Saro-Wiwa to the gallows.
To generate global outcry about Saro-Wiwa and the Ogoni people and to
persuade Shell to clean up the environment and ensure greater local
The PR team helped Ken Saro-Wiwa and Ogoni organisations to co-ordinate
a unique consortium which included pressure groups ranging from Amnesty
International to Friends of the Earth.
All possible channels were used to raise public awareness including TV,
radio, press, meetings, missions to Nigeria, store displays, an Internet
site, and The Body Shop’s first-ever advertisement. A global database of
supporters, politicians and journalists were frequently alerted to new
developments. When Saro-Wiwa’s death sentence was announced, the
campaign organisers flew his son to Auckland to lobby the Commonwealth
Heads of Government meeting, backed by a round-the-clock global media
After Saro-Wiwa’s death, The Body Shop helped his brother, Owens Wiwa,
to flee Nigeria with his family, lobbying the foreign office to secure
The execution and the Ogoni issue received wide media coverage,
generating public concern and protest, including short-lived Shell
petrol boycotts. But the campaign failed to save Saro-Wiwa’s life, and
has not yet forced a change to the policies or practices of Shell or
The Commonwealth suspended Nigeria, demanding democratic improvements,
but the statement referred to political prisoners without any reference
to Saro-Wiwa. The US and UK tightened existing arms embargoes but have
yet to enforce trade or oil sanctions.
Despite efforts by its High Commissions in London and elsewhere to reach
the media, the Nigerian regime did little to explain its case against
what it saw as Western bias. Shell reacted with publications, a film,
media briefings and a dollars 4.5 million two-year study of the Ogoni
environment. It denied environmental devastation, and claimed to have no
influence with the government regime.
Lots of coverage with little result so far. Against an insular military
regime making billions for its own pockets from oil while its people get
poorer, no campaign has much chance. Nor is a campaign with a budget of
less than pounds 100,000 likely to persuade the UK to renounce a pounds
333 million annual trade surplus with Nigeria.
However, according to The Body Shop, attitudes at the Foreign Office
have changed since Saro-Wiwa’s execution - demonstrated by their
agreement to grant safe passage for Owens Wiwa. And if the Ogoni
campaign has yet to see success, it has certainly done some damage to
the image of both Shell and Nigeria.