Oronto Douglas; Environmentalist, born in 1966 at Okoroba, Bayelsa State. He was a leading human rights attorney in Nigeria, and served as one of the lawyers on the defense team for the Ogoni leader, Ken Saro Wiwa, who was executed by Nigeria’s military rulers in 1995. Douglas co-founded Africa’s foremost environmental movement, the Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria and served in the board of non-profit organisations within and outside Nigeria.
Though he was arrested and tortured by successive military regimes, Douglas continued to work for and speak out on issues of social justice in the country. Douglas was hosted by American President, Bill Clintion at the White House where he presented a narrative on the Niger-Delta conflict. He also took up an advisory role to the the Nigerian Vice President on strategic issues of community and the environment. As a Fellow of both the George Bell Institute (England) and the International Forum on Globalisation (USA), Douglas was widely traveled. He presented papers in more than 200 international conferences and visited at least 50 countries to speak and present on human rights and the environment.
Douglas authored several works including the ground breaking Where Vultures Feast, Shell and Human Rights in the Niger Delta, which he co-authored with his friend, Ike Okonta. Douglas was named among the 20 most influential writers, thinkers and activists in the world. He was listed in book Political Awakenings: Conversations with History by Harry Kreiser, the Executive Director of the Institute of International Studies, University of California. Douglas was selected with 19 others, from 485 interviews of people, which the book described as “distinguished men and women who by the power of their intellect and strength of character shape the world.” He was the Special Adviser to President Goodluck Jonathan on Research, Documentation and Strategy[i]. Novelist, Afenifa Michael considers Oronto a mentor[ii]. Oronto Douglas’ death in 2015 was mourned alongside other comrades which came close as representing a speedy depletion of the ranks of trusted, committed, uncompromiseable, determined activists and patriotic agents of qualitative change[iii].
[i] Guardian April 11, 2015
[ii] Punch May 9, 2015
[iii] The News June 22, 2015