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2 KEN SARO-WIWA AND WEST AFRICAN LITERATURE: THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE

Íde Corley

IN A LETTER WRITTEN from his detention cell in Port Harcourt in July 1994, part of which now forms the Preface to his memoir, A Month and A Day (1995), Ken Saro-Wiwa regretted that he did not have time to include an account of what had happened in Ogoniland[1] between his release, after his first detention, on 22nd July 1993—when A Month and A Day ends—and his re-arrest on 22nd May 1994: “[T]he events of that period would have enriched this book even more”.[2] The 28 letters in this volume addressed to Sr. Majella McCarron date from 20th October 1993, roughly three months from the time that A Month and a Day ends, to 14th September 1995, just under two months from the date he was executed. They were accompanied by 27 poems which he enclosed over the course of the correspondence. One of the poems dedicated personally to McCarron and two of the letters, including the very last—which, as Helen Fallon has noted here, is the author’s last recorded letter—have previously appeared in an addendum to the second edition of A Month and a Day (published as A Month and a Day and Letters) in 2005. This volume places them into the broader context of the two-year correspondence, giving us a better picture of their extraordinary friendship and shared concerns. It also sheds new light on the chaotic period 1993-1995, which the author sadly perceived that he might not live to relate.

The narrative generated by these documents extends the published record of Saro-Wiwa’s life but it is necessarily partial and shaped to a cer­tain extent, as can only be expected, by the disposition, interests and activi­ties of the addressee. It reveals his ongoing participation in and reactions to contemporary events alongside his plans for the future but, as a series of letters, does not provide the kind of supporting ethnographic and histori­cal information that characterize his more formal political statements in texts such as Genocide in Nigeria (1992) or A Month and a Day. Saro-Wiwa has often been described as a contradictory figure: an Ogoni ethno-nationalist who upheld federalism during the Nigerian Civil War, 1967-1970; a democrat who appeared, at times, to have embarked upon “a drive for personal authority”[3]; a proponent of non-violent protest whose execution was arranged on charges of incitement to murder. Many of these appar­ent contradictions stem from the efforts of his enemies to discredit him for their own private gains and circulate in the context of a poor general understanding of his complex, interstitial positioning as a representative of an ethnic minority group in postcolonial Nigeria. In this short essay, I aim to situate his work within a longer tradition of Nigerian political thought and writing. I characterize Saro-Wiwa as a “pragmatic nationalist”[4] whose actions were ultimately informed by his “desire to live in a just society”[5] rather than by any deeply held belief in the intrinsic identity or separate destiny of the Ogoni people.

In West Africa, both at the time Saro-Wiwa was writing and earlier, lit­erary activity had been crucial to the formation and articulation of opposi­tional projects and politics.[6] Although indigenous, oral cultures remained relevant and vibrant during the colonial era, the anti-colonial nationalist movements which arose alongside, and in protest against, colonial regimes in the late nineteenth to early twentieth century heavily depended upon the establishment of African-owned, europhone newspapers and print­ing presses.[7]21 The importance of europhone print cultures to anti-colonial nationalisms in West Africa related, in part—as any student of West African history well knows—to the colonial re-distribution of territory on the con­tinent by European powers at the Berlin Conference in 1884-5. At this conference, the modern political boundaries of African states were drawn up by European technocrats; they were determined not, as in Europe, by the shared identities, languages and cultures of indigenous social groups but by the commercial interests and needs of European empires and their desire to prevent imperial conflicts over strategic territories and resources.[8] In practical terms, this meant that indigenous populations who shared common languages, traditions and cultural practices were often divided among colonial states which imposed different and distinct languages, sys­tems of administration—and, effectively—histories upon them.

As the most populous colonial state in Africa, the Colony and Protectorate of Nigeria (established in 1914) contained the most hetero­geneous and diverse population. While home to three majority language groups—the Hausa-Fulani of the North, the Yoruba of the South-West and the Ibo of the South-East—collectively the populations of the terri­tory speak over 250 distinct languages. During and after the colonial era, as Saro-Wiwa’s writing attests, many Nigerian language groups recognized and maintained pre-existing local and translocal ties with kin, locality and ethnic nation over and above any obligations to the state. The colonial project was further complicated by the rise of new vernaculars among urban migrants as they creatively adapted to new and ever more severe conditions of survival.

Within this fractured social environment, a minority group of Western-educated indigenous elites began to use English language in the early twen­tieth century both to challenge colonial authorities and to negotiate ethnic conflicts and differences. Because decolonization was never simply a domes­tic issue, the Anglophone leaders of multi-ethnic Pan-African nationalist movements in Nigeria creatively engaged with the leaders of other Pan-African nationalist groups in neighbouring countries in West Africa, as well as in East and Southern Africa, Britain, France, the Caribbean and North America, to promote the project of decolonization globally.[9] Modern Pan-African political movements aimed to promote unity among black social groups and to project an ideal of African unity to an international audi­ence. In doing so, they frequently diminished or underplayed the historical tensions and conflicts among indigenous African groups.[10]

Nigeria was one of the most resource-rich colonies and the political sit­uation there was complicated further by the federal structure designed by the exiting colonial administration to secure British commercial interests after independence. Once the Atlantic Charter—which upheld the right of all people globally to self-determination—was recognized after World War II, the British Parliament quickly moved in 1946 to approve the Richard’s Constitution for the territory with a view to blocking the evolution of multiple national polities in favour of a centralized administration. The Richard’s Constitution helped establish a federation of artificial regions— Northern, Western, and Eastern—which, as Saro-Wiwa repeatedly com­plained, generated, within each region, “a dominant and dominating ethnic group”[11] to which a number of smaller ethnic nations were politi­cally subjugated.[12] It gave rise to the troubling contradictions which later came to characterize the postcolonial state; in Saro-Wiwa’s words, “there was ‘unitarism’ at regional level and ‘federalism’ at the centre”.[13]

Saro-Wiwa was an Ogoni, one among the many smaller ethnic nations (sometimes described as “micro-minorities”[14])—also including, for exam­ple, the Annang, Efik, Ekpeye, Ijaw, Ikwerre, Etche, Odual, Sankwala, Ukele, Uyanga and many more—who inhabit the Niger Delta in the Eastern region and who came to be known during the colonial era as the “Rivers People”. The Ogoni comprise just over one per cent of the total population of Nigeria which today stands at over one hundred and thirty million and speak four related, but mutually unintelligible, languages— Khana, Tai, Gokana and Eleme. They inhabit an oil- and gas-rich coastal area where the Ibo majority of the Eastern region has secured economic and political dominance.

Like many other Nigerian writers, Saro-Wiwa primarily used English rather than his first language, Khana, to make his views known both nationally and internationally—producing a total of twenty-seven books alongside numerous shorter pieces, such as poems, essays, speeches and newspaper articles, during his lifetime.[15] Before his involvement in envi­ronmental movements, he was best known in Nigeria as the creator of the hit comedy TV series, Basi & Company, which aired weekly on prime-time television between 1990 and 1995 to an estimated audience of 30 million viewers and out of which he also generated a popular series of children’s books;[16] outside Nigeria, he had already garnered considerable attention within literary circles for his anti-war novel, Sozaboy (1987), and his short story collection, A Forest of Flowers (1987), both of which were first pub­lished in the Longman African Writers Series.[17]

Unlike other more internationally-renowned Nigerian writers, includ­ing, for instance, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka or Ben Okri, however, Saro-Wiwa cannot easily be placed into the critical categories often used to describe West African writers and their preoccupations.[18] He came a little late to the literary scene to be counted among the “first generation” writers of the 1950s and ’60s who were largely preoccupied with “writing back” to, and countering, colonial texts and traditions which had denigrated African cultures and populations—often by dramatizing the devastating conse­quences for indigenous populations of the colonial encounter (Achebe’s Things Fall Apart is the classic example). But neither can he be accused of the alienation and detachment which is held to characterize the writing of the “second generation” as they faced the certain failures of African nation­alist projects in the aftermath of decolonization in the 1970s. If he did not fall prey to the fearfulness and cynicism which the Kenyan writer Ngūgī Wa Thiong’o attributed to the latter cohort of writers in his classic polemic, Decolonizing the Mind (1986),[19] it was probably because he wrote primarily for local audiences rather than for a world market—as his son Ken Wiwa once put it in an interview, “‘what [Saro-Wiwa] was interested in as a writer was reflecting the social conditions of Nigeria for Nigerians’”.[20] Despite considerable successes in education, politics and business which allowed him to transcend the relatively humble circumstances of his birth and social background, he remained throughout his life informed about, and connected with, the material and social conditions and predicaments fac­ing ordinary Nigerians. His commitment to making a public contribution in Nigeria even led him to establish his own publishing company there— Saros International Publishers—in 1973, when he became impatient with the slow pace of publishing in the West.[21] Rather than allow his success as a writer to depend upon the caprices of the Western market in educational books, self-publishing—sometimes at a financial loss—allowed Saro-Wiwa to pay more concerted attention to the difficulties endured by the Ogoni and other smaller ethnic nations whose position within the postcolonial state was persistently precarious.

In his memoir of the Nigerian Civil War, On a Darkling Plain, published by Saros in 1989, for example, Saro-Wiwa explains his opposition to seces­sion and support for the federal government during the Civil War with refer­ence to the relationships that obtained between the Ibo elite and the ordinary Ibo and other smaller ethnic nations, including the Ogoni, who inhabited the seceding Eastern Region, Biafra. Before the war began, he observes, “[a] lmost 94% of the Region’s crude oil production[…]came from the non-Ibo sections of the Region”[22] and, as a result, there had been considerable Ibo investment within the region outside Iboland and especially in the coastal cities of the Niger Delta. Ibo economic dominance in the oil-producing areas had also been consolidated, Saro-Wiwa maintains, by their control in the East, under the federal system, over offices within the civil service, govern­ment boards and corporations.[23] And while it was clear that the Ibo elite were disadvantaged by the Hausa-Fulani monopoly over government at the level of the state, he contends that they were not averse to using the numerical advantage of their ethnic group within the Eastern region to secure undemo­cratic gains there. In fact, he construes the greed of the Ibo elite as a key factor in the 1967 secession of the region from the federal state.

To say that the politics of the civil war were complicated would be an understatement. Numerous biographical, historical and fictional accounts have been produced but the causes and consequences of inter-communal conflict and violence—from the September massacre of 80,000-100,000 Ibos in 1966 to the end of the siege of Biafra in 1970, during which approximately 2.5 million Biafrans died—still merit further exploration.[24] While it has become clear, for instance, that Federal forces could not have laid siege to Biafra without the support of the British government and military—who, by the end of the war, had supplied 97% of federal arms— disagreement persists regarding the decision for the East to secede.[25] Some commentators continue to regard it as a visionary effort by the Ibo leader­ship to throw off the compromised state system bequeathed by colonial powers.[26] Others, including Saro-Wiwa, deplored the decision, character­izing General Odumegwu Ojukwu, who led the secession in 1967, as a short-sighted megalomaniac and gambler. “He was on a naked quest for power” Saro-Wiwa wrote in On a Darkling Plain, “and Ibo suffering at the time was his ladder to that power”.[27].

While Saro-Wiwa did not hide his disdain for the Biafran leaders, how­ever, his stance on the war in his memoirs, fiction and poetry is less stal­wartly federalist than unfalteringly anti-war. As literary critic Charles Lock has convincingly argued, it is the seductive fervour of the Ibo leadership’s self-righteous, war-mongering rhetoric more than the events of the war itself that forms the subject of his most acclaimed literary work, the experi­mental novel, Sozaboy.[28]

The interest of this novel for postcolonial literary critics first lay in its defiant use of a dialect, which Saro-Wiwa, in his prefatory “Author’s Note” called “rotten English”[29], not simply in the dialogue between characters—or within what literary critics call the “inner frame” of the text—but throughout it, and even, as Lock points out, within the para-textual ele­ments of the novel such as chapter headings.[30] However, while Saro-Wiwa was initially celebrated for granting an unofficial, spoken language the sta­tus and dignity of a literary one, upon closer examination of the text, the critical response became more cautious. There was no real attempt in the novel to mirror the language of everyday life nor to represent accurately the speech patterns of a particular population group. While Saro-Wiwa’s “Author’s Note” explains, for example, that the “rotten English” of his nar­rative comprised “a mixture of Nigerian pidgin English, broken English and occasional flashes of good, even idiomatic English”, his protagonist Sozaboy [Soldier-boy] did not appear to engage in code-switching (where his choice of words, whether pidgin or standard English, could have been expected to vary depending on his audience or location).[31] Rather, the lan­guage of the narrative seemed as arbitrary and inconsistent as the process of decomposition announced in the word “rotten” itself.

Taking by way of example, however, an announcement by Shell— which appeared in many of the major English-language newspapers only eleven days after Saro-Wiwa’s execution—in which the corporation pre­sented itself as a body that is “Clear Thinking in Troubled Times”,[32] Lock has convincingly argued that the author’s rhetorical goal in Sozaboy was to expose the links between a modern “aesthetics of linguistic and stylistic purity” and “a technology of pollution”.[33] For Lock, it is the “ethical confu­sion or pollution [of the political context] that accounts for and is reflected by”[34] the shifting and unpredictable language of the novel. What is under investigation in the novel, he argues, is less the realism or accuracy of any given account of the war and more the “order and rationality we [mistak­enly] ascribe to language [Lock’s italics][35]; what Saro-Wiwa seeks to convey are its fragility and limits.

For Lock, this point is delivered quite persuasively in the comical scene where Sozaboy first hears a military officer call for support for the war:

The man with the fine shirt stood up. And begin to talk in English. Fine fine English. Big big words. Grammar. “Fantastic. Overwhelming. Generally. In particular and in general”. Haba, god no vex. But he did not stop there. The big grammar continued. “Odious. Destruction. Fighting”.

I understand that one. “Henceforth. General mobilisation. All citizens. Able bodied. Join the military. His Excellency. Powers conferred on us. Volunteers. Conscription”. Big big words. Long long grammar.[36]

Coming quite early in the narrative, Lock argues that this scene quickly alerts the novel’s readers to the fact that Sozaboy “associates war with grammar”[37] so much so that, by the end, the “linguistic impurities” of the protagonist’s informal, oral narrative themselves come to feel “cleansing” to the reader, from an ethical point of view.[38]

Of course, the broken-ness of this passage—its fragmentary sentences, absurd conjunctions and non sequiturs (“In particular and in general.”)— also gives a literal quality to the broken relationship between the break-away military elite and the urban population of the Eastern region, subverting the claims of the officer in this scene to authority and legitimacy. Perhaps more than any other in the novel, the passage demonstrates the almost complete exclusion of the urban masses from the Biafran project of Afro-centric national self-development. Although he is located in some of the war’s most dangerous theatres, much of the tragicomic hilarity of Sozaboy’s story derives from his efforts to make sense of his wartime experiences with reference to the oral narratives of World War II that were conveyed to him by an African ex-serviceman in his hometown Dukana; he continuously confuses Biafra with Burma, Gowon with “Hitla” [Hitler].[39]

Since Saro-Wiwa’s writings demonstrate such a cautious approach to leadership, it is perhaps ironic that, towards the end of his life, he found himself watching his own image assume a disembodied and iconic qual­ity akin to the images of other political leaders who had been martyred for black nationalist causes, including Patrice Lumumba, or Malcolm X. Already in A Month and a Day, Saro-Wiwa expresses unease regarding the dehumanizing effects of his repeated appearance in the media—“I had been very much in the news lately and, as often happens to those who have the misfortune, was considered more as a news item than as a living being with flesh and blood”.[40] And, in the following letters to Sr. Majella McCarron, we see him reject the static image of himself as hero or martyr in favour of the more active and open-ended figure of self as voice.

Doubting, for instance, that he will be released on time to attend the Right Livelihood Foundation ceremony planned in his honour in December 1994, he concludes: “There or not, my words will ring through all the places”;[41] just over three months later, some discussion of his trial on the BBC World Service and The Voice of America prompts him to remark that he has heard a version of himself reflected back on the air­waves: “The radio waves were full of the trial on the 6th February. The BBC World Service made it the first item in their news bulletins[…]The Voice of America also carried it fully. I heard myself described as ‘renowned writer and environmentalist’”.[42] Then again, when Shell, under pressure from MOSOP (acting in co-ordination with UNPO and other indige­nous rights organizations), agreed in 1995 not to renew their operations in Ogoniland without the consent of the local population, he rejoices: “I hope also that other oil-bearing areas are listening. If they are, that should introduce a new situation into the Nigerian equation”.[43]

The poignant sense Saro-Wiwa conveys in these letters—while con­fined, ill, and enduring harsh restrictions on his interactions with his fam­ily, friends and supporters—of having a voice that resounds globally echoes some of the grandeur of the rhetoric of much earlier twentieth-century Pan-African nationalists, including, for example, W.E.B. Du Bois or C.L.R. James, who often conceived themselves, in quasi-messianic terms, as the agents of a new and more just global social order.[44] But as Ato Quayson cautions in an important essay on the Ogoni crisis “African Postcolonial Relations Through a Prism of Tragedy”, Saro-Wiwa’s appeals to global frameworks should neither be regarded either as arrogant nor as perpetuat­ing an out-of-date, Enlightenment era, universalist doctrine. In his essay, Quayson acknowledges that the Ogoni leadership had to operate within and contend with a social environment which had become “heavily over-determined by the ethos of Nigerian politics” and, in particular, by the “system of political patronage” established during the Babangida dictator­ship 1985-1993.[45] He also recognizes that Saro-Wiwa frequently draws upon lofty and sublime genres, such as tragedy and epic, to characterize the Ogoni situation. (One of the more striking examples is the Ogoni Bill of Rights drawn up by Saro-Wiwa in 1990 which, in echoing the American Bill of Rights and the French Rights of Man, aimed to endow the Ogoni cause with a world-historical, or global, rather than simply local or domes­tic character.[46]) But Quayson urges us not to view these rhetorical strategies as either self-aggrandizing or evidence of a desire on Saro-Wiwa’s part “to assume the mantle of leadership [of MOSOP] as irrevocably his”.[47] For him, Saro-Wiwa’s disagreements with the more conservative members of MOSOP’s leadership in the early ‘90s constituted a pragmatic response to what would later prove to have been a clear understanding of the likely con­duct of the military regime rather than “a drive for personal authority”.[48] The appeals Saro-Wiwa makes to global reference points and frameworks should not be interpreted as evidence of any faith in the idea of “natural leadership” or in universal principles but as efforts to re-configure and re-calibrate class arrangements within the historically short-lived state with attention to transnational and international processes.

In his letters here, Saro-Wiwa continues to use world-historical and some­times planetary metaphors and language in order to give the Ogoni situation a recognizably international character. But it is worth noting that, when refer­ring to universal or global frameworks and paradigms, he characteristically thinks “outside the box”; he repeatedly gestures, that is, towards what has been excluded or escaped. “Remember Hamlet?”, he once gently reminds McCarron (when she appears to have become concerned about a possible threat he has made to practice juju against his captors), “There is more in Heaven and Earth than is compounded in your philosophy, Horatio.”[49]

Indeed, even as he begins to recognize that his death is approaching, he resists the temptation to conceive himself as heroic and portrays himself, in a manner more in keeping with the language of Sozaboy, as self-divided or incomplete. There is, at times, a harrowing sense of self-dividedness here, that alternatively produces gallows humour—when, for example, he professes glee in anticipation of the “belly laughs”[50] that he expects state prosecutors will raise as they adopt absurd measures to bypass juridical process in order to convict him—and sadness—as when he first holds his youngest son Kwame and recognizes “I was not important to him”.[51] And yet, somehow this sense of dividedness and incompleteness also provides Saro-Wiwa with a rhetorical basis for thinking about his relationships with others and how the Ogoni might rethink and reconfigure their relation­ships with other minority populations both within Africa and around the world.

Consider, for example, the autobiographical lyric poem “I Lie Alone At Night”, probably addressed to Hauwa Maidugu dated 3rd June 1995, where, in the absence of the face of his beloved, the speaker is forced to consider the blank face of the moon. It begins with the stanza “I lie alone at night /And think all of one year’s gone/Since I held you in my arms/In the bed we know so well.” Six stanzas later, the speaker is still plaintively regretting his absence from his beloved’s bed. Here though, the blank face of the moon strangely takes on the capacity to capture and reflect back something of the beauty of her far-away face: “I lie alone at night/And think of the stranger moon/The stars beyond my gaze/Your beauty like moons and stars.”

Letters and poems from Ken Saro-Wiwa

Letters and poems from Ken Saro-Wiwa. Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive.

 

Letters and poems from Ken Saro-Wiwa

Letters and poems from Ken Saro-Wiwa. Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive.

Letters and poems from Ken Saro-Wiwa

Letters and poems from Ken Saro-Wiwa. Maynooth University Ken Saro-Wiwa Archive.

In A Month and a Day, Saro-Wiwa had observed that:

In virtually every nation state there are several ‘Ogonis’—despairing and disappearing people suffering the yoke of political marginalisation, economic strangulation and environmental degradation, or a combination of these, unable to lift a finger to save themselves. What is their future?[52]

Here, as if in partial answer to that question, the idea that the blank, mirror-like face of a “stranger moon” viewed from a detention cell might reflect something of the beauty of a loved one’s distant face is now extended to others, and in particular to the strangers, or anonymous individuals and populations, whose personal and intimate relationships have similarly been broken by greed, totalitarianism and war, who anonymously endure “[b] roken hearts, breaking souls/[e]mpty dreams and lonely beds”.

By conceiving the blankness of the moon as the reflection of the ano­nymity of others (who are nonetheless like himself), Saro-Wiwa, alone in his cell, then begins to conceive himself as one among many—perhaps hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people—and, in doing so, to discover the courage he needs to renew his contribution to the struggle for social change in Ogoniland and also in the more general pattern of power relations between other small ethnic nations in Africa and the global social order: “I lie alone at night/And dream a great new dawn/Without boots and knives[…]”. The poem then ends with a new nocturnal vision, one of a night that, while still captured, is now “captured by peace”. Saro-Wiwa’s characteristic awareness of the fragmented, broken and incomplete char­acter of imagery and words keeps language active and “alive” and prevents it from hardening into bureaucratic orthodoxies; it allows him to turn lan­guage inside out and to reverse it in order to chart new “cartographies of struggle”[53], new connections and relationships among human groups, new and more reciprocal relations of power among minority populations and the states they inhabit.


  1. Saro-Wiwa preferred to use the term “Ogoni” in preference to “Ogoniland” because, as he wrote in A Month and a Day “to the Ogoni, the land and the people are one and are expressed as such in our local languages”. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, A Month and a Day and Letters, Foreword by Wole Soyinka, (Oxford: Ayebia Clark Publishing Limited, 2005) p.3. I use the term “Ogoniland” here to clarify issues for readers who are unfamiliar with the Nigerian contexts of his writing.
  2. Ibid. p.2
  3. See Ato Quayson, Calibrations: Reading for the Social (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003) p. 70
  4. See Tommie Shelby, We Who Are Dark: The Philosophical Foundations of Black Solidarity, (Cambridge, Massachusetts and London, England: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2005) p. 28
  5. Ibid. p. 28
  6. See Stephanie Newell, West African Literatures: Ways of Reading, Oxford Studies in Postcolonial Literatures, (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006) especially pp. 19-20
  7. Ibid. p. 19
  8. See Thomas Pakenham, The Scramble for Africa: White Man’s Conquest of the Dark Continent 1876-1912 (New York: Avon Books, 1991) pp. 239-256
  9. Vincent Bakpetu Thompson, Africa and Unity: The Evolution of Pan-Africanism (London and Harlow: Longmans, 1969); Immanuel Wallerstein, Africa: The Politics of Unity (London: Pall Mall Press, 1967); Robert Young, Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (Oxford, England and Maldon, Massachusetts: Wiley-Blackwell, 2001) pp. 217-274
  10. Ato Quayson, Calibrations: Reading for the Social (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), pp. 30-55; Eileen Julien, “The Extroverted African Novel” in Vincent Moretti Ed. The Novel, Volume 1, History, Geography and Culture, (Princeton and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 667-700
  11. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, On a Darkling Plain: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, (London, Lagos and Port Harcourt: Saros International Publishers, 1989) p. 51
  12. It may be worth noting that at the time of independence, the smaller ethno-national groups collectively formed a significantly larger population than the largest majority group, the Hausa-Fulani.
  13. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, A Month and a Day, p. 131
  14. See, for example, Rob Nixon, “Ken Saro-Wiwa, Environmental Justice and Micro-Minority Rights” in Craig W. McLuckie and Aubrey McPhail Eds. Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist (Boulder, Colorado and London, England: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2000), pp. 109-125
  15. For a comprehensive bibliography of Saro-Wiwa’s published work, see Craig W. McLuckie and James Gibbs, “Appendix 3: An Annotated Bibliography” in McLuckie and McPhail Eds. Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist, pp. 245-284
  16. See Nixon, p. 113
  17. In 1987, Sozaboy had received an honourable mention in the Noma Award for Publishing in Africa and, in the same year, A Forest of Flowers was short-listed for the Commonwealth Writers Prize. See Laura Neame, “Appendix 1: Chronology of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Life” in McLuckie and McPhail Eds. Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist, p. 234
  18.  32 See Newell, pp.22-23
  19. See Ngūgī Wa Thiong’o, Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature (Oxford: James Currey; Nairobi. East African Educational Publishers; Portsmouth, NH: Heineman, 1997), p. 22
  20. See Laura Neame, “Saro-Wiwa the Publisher” in McLuckie and McPhail Eds. Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist, p.160
  21. Ibid. pp. 153-156
  22. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, On a Darkling Plain: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, p. 53
  23. Ibid. p. 54
  24. In 1987, Craig McLuckie prepared a “checklist” of primary and secondary sources on the literature of the Nigerian Civil War which includes many works by Nigerian lead­ers (e.g. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Odumegwu Ojukwu) and major authors (eg. Chinua Achebe, Buchi Emecheta, J.P. Clark, Flora Nwapa, Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka). See Craig W. McLuckie, “A Preliminary Checklist of Primary and Secondary Sources on Nigerian Civil War/Biafran Literature”, Research in African Literatures, 18:4 (Winter, 1987): 510­527. The war continues to preoccupy Nigerian writers in the contemporary moment. See, for instance, Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie’s prize-winning novel, Half of a Yellow Sun (New York: Anchor Books, 2006) and Chinua Achebe’s memoir, There Was a Country: A Personal History of Biafra (New York: Penguin Press, 2012)
  25. See Herbert Ekwe-Ekwe, The Biafran War: Nigeria and the Aftermath (Lewiston, Queenston, Lampeter: The Edwin Mellin Press, 1991), p. 94
  26. 40 Ibid. pp. 120-121
  27. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, On a Darkling Plain, p. 85
  28. See Charles Lock, “Ken Saro-Wiwa, or ‘The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger’” in McLuckie and McPhail Eds. Ken Saro-Wiwa: Writer and Political Activist, pp. 3-16
  29. Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (Essex, England; New York; Mississauga, Ontario: Longman Publishing Group, Tenth Impression, 2006)
  30. 44 Ibid. p. 9
  31. See Doris Akekue, “Mind-Style in Sozaboy: A Functional Approach to Language” in Charles Nnolim Ed. Critical Essays on Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: A Novel in Rotten English (London: Saros International, 1992), pp. 22–23. See also Michael North, “Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy: The Politics of ‘Rotten English’”, Public Culture. 13.1 (2001): 97-112
  32. See Lock, p. 13
  33. Ibid. p. 15
  34. Ibid. p. 13
  35. Ibid. p. 8.
  36. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, Sozaboy, pp. 46-47
  37. See Lock, p. 9
  38. See Lock, p. 14.
  39. General Yakubu Gowon, who was Head of State in Nigeria from 1966-1975 and led the federal forces during the Civil War.
  40. See Ken Saro-Wiwa, A Month and a Day, p. 5
  41. Letter dated 24th October 1994. MU/PP7/12
  42. Letter dated 7th February 1995. MU/PP/7/22
  43. Letter dated 2nd May 1995. MU/PP/7/25. Shell had suspended their operations in Ogoniland in 1993.
  44. See, for example, W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk [1903] (New York: Penguin, 1989); W.E.B. Du Bois. Darkwater: Voices from within the Veil [1919] (Minneola, New York: Dover, 1999); C. L. R. James. Nkrumah and the Ghana Revolution (London: Allison and Busby, 1977)
  45. See Ato Quayson, Calibrations: Reading for the Social, p. 69
  46. Ibid. p. 69
  47. Ibid. p. 70
  48. Ibid. p. 70
  49. Letter dated 27th October 1994. MU/PP/7/13
  50. Letter dated 21st March 1995. MU/PP/7/23
  51. Letter dated 15th January 1995. MU/PP/7/21
  52. Ken Saro-Wiwa, A Month and a Day. p. 123
  53. See Chandra Talpade Mohanty, “Cartographies of Struggle: Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism” in Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ann Russo, Lourdes Torres Eds. Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991) pp. 1-46

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KEN SARO-WIWA AND WEST AFRICAN LITERATURE: THE POLITICS OF LANGUAGE Copyright © 2017 by Íde Corley. All Rights Reserved.

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