By Policy Shapers

What significance lies within a name? A great deal, we assure you. A name imparts a sense of identity and connection, especially when it pertains to a national symbol or landmark, such as an airport or stadium. Such names not only preserve history but also ignite inspiration, serving as touchstones for future generations.

Just like everyone else, we were astonished to learn that the President has approved the renaming of 15 airports in Nigeria, including the Port Harcourt International Airport, which has now been designated as the Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo International Airport. 

We acknowledge the current state of Nigeria, which has seen a significant increase in tribal influence since the 2023 general elections. However, we assure you that our appeal to the President is not based on tribal or linguistic factors. Allow us to present three reasons why we are urging President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to rename the Port Harcourt International Airport to Ken Saro-Wiwa International Airport: 

To the Niger Delta, Ken Saro-Wiwa signifies selfless hope:

Many decades before the Global North began to throw around the terms “climate change” and “environmental conservation”, Ken mobilised Ogoniland and the peoples of the Niger Delta to speak out against the degradation of their land and livelihood—at a time when freedom of speech came at a cost and against an oil giant so powerful no one could confront. 

It was a typical David vs. Goliath, but sadly, “Goliath” and General Abacha ganged up to kill David. Ken’s defiant hope is something we can all identify with in Rivers State, and it serves as a lesson to the Nigerian State in how it treats minority tribes. It is only be-fitting that his bravery be immortalised this way.

The Niger Delta is in dire need of positive role models:

Unlike the Western region of Nigeria, where Chief Obafemi Awolowo is from, and Northern Nigeria, where many stories account for role models to whom young people can aspire, positive role models are not uplifted as much here in the Niger Delta. 

Years of violence have birthed many negative role models, and we believe the renaming of the Port Harcourt International Airport provides an opportunity to uplift a selfless role model for posterity to look to. 

Ken-Saro Wiwa International Airport will be a reminder:

A reminder to everyone flying into the Niger Delta that more than 40 years later, the environmental degradation of Ogoniland and other oil-producing communities in the Delta has not ended. 

It will be a reminder to the Federal Government to fulfil its promise to clean up the Niger Delta and restore the livelihood of community members who have been rendered poor while Nigeria feeds on the profits of crude oil sales. It will be a reminder to the world and the global community that indigenous people matter.

It is important to note that, we do not in any way, through this petition, seek to belittle the strides and contributions of Chief Obafemi Jeremiah Awolowo to Nigeria and its existence. However, we believe that the Federal Government can identify several landmarks and monuments to immortalise this great man; however, for the sake of Rivers State and the Niger Delta, we believe that Ken Saro-Wiwa will be a better fit. 

Also, as a policy organisation, we want to recommend that the Federal Government develop a Guide or Convention for naming national monuments and landmarks, ensuring that the wishes and thoughts of host communities are considered before final names are announced. 

A national monument/landmark title is sacred and should not be reduced to a handout for friends; careful thought and consultation must go into it. Here is an example from Texas, a US State.

If you are a citizen and we’ve been able to convince you, we hope you can spare a few minutes to sign our petition: Rename PH Airport to Ken Saro-Wiwa Airport, Not Obafemi Awolowo Airport 

The last time we collectively was able to drive a global change through the #ReformIELTS campaign that has now influenced policy changes in over 30 universities around the world and in the UK to exempt Nigerians and other Anglophone Africans from English language tests. The #ReformIELTS campaign  will save the African continent up to 90 million dollars per year.

Let’s do this again. Join us!


Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.