Dear Sr. Majella,
Thanks a lot for your letter starting from 3rd September & the only communication I’ve got from you since you left. I have, on my part, sent two letters and doubt now that you got any of them. I’ll check what has been happening at the Lagos end, where there has been quite some confusion and lack of funds has stymied movement. Fundwise, I got a respite from the banks which have seized my funds invested with them—just one bank. I’ve got money to keep going for two months.
Keeping MOSOP operational has been quite a problem. With all the Steering Committee members in jail or declared wanted by the police, we have been in trouble. People like my brother who was helping have themselves become a liability. Those who were in jobs have had their salaries stopped. They, too, have become my responsibility. And keeping things moving in present-day Nigeria has become very expensive—and one is living on savings—earning nothing new for now. I did mention in my last letter that the Bodyshop had asked for our budget. If they can chip in something, it will help a great deal.
You probably know that one of my aims has been to take the Ogoni people on a journey. Even what is happening now is, and please don’t think me sadistic, helpful. For one, they are able to see me battling from prison— from the very jaws of the lion. A number of them have stuck it out in Ogoni and are still able to work in cells. And there are those who went off to Lagos and have done marvellous work with the Press. The activists write me, and from them, I have a sense that the Ogoni people are holding out bravely. They are not fighting—because I did not even prepare them for physical combat—but they are holding out psychologically. And that, in spite of massive government propaganda, aided by renegades like Birabi And Leton.
However, we have won the propaganda war. I hope that you have seen the writings of Professor Ake and Wole Soyinka—the latter appearing in the New York Times. Locally, the support of the non-government press has been tremendous. And Yoruba leaders meeting on August 31 sent solidarity messages to the Ogoni and called for my release.
The Rivers State Government have put out films which I have not seen but they are recognized for what they are—propaganda—and in any case, it’s always difficult to sell a bad case. More so when the opponent has had a head-on start. Nor can they match us internationally.
I thank you for your thoughts on the Ogoni Review. I have been wanting to keep it going. Funds have been the problem. If you can raise money abroad for it, we can do all the work, including printing here. Barika has been to Switzerland, and then went off to the U.S. I have not heard of him since then. I have, all the same, had a new employee who’s working on copies. I’m sending back copies with this letter in the hope that it will help you raise funds. Three hundred pounds (£300.00) sterling a month should be enough to produce 1500-2000 copies monthly & mail them free to the right people and organizations. If such funding becomes available, all you need do is pay it into my a/c no. [number provided] at [name and London address of bank provided]. I’ll then arrange to repatriate the funds through the unofficial market which will make the naira equivalent even better.
I’m happy that Bodyshop were able to stop the bad publicity which I’m sure was engineered by Shell. They may be made to realize that what we are doing in Ogoni helps to expose Shell as well and they should lend us support. It’s a shame that MOSOP have not been able to get help except from the World Council of Churches (cash) and UNPO (kind).
You will have known that the strike in Lagos was called off after 2 months. It was a great effort, but the British Govt. helped with it. The oil companies too. These organizations find it easier to exploit Nigeria through the military dictatorships. Predictably, Abacha has gone on a spree, trying to prove that he can out Amin Idi Amin. But I expect that he will fail, ultimately.
Yes, I do have a radio. Two have been seized from me, but I’ve got a third. If they seize that, I’ll get another. It’s the only way I can keep up with events. I get the newspapers too, but all the good ones—Guardian, Punch & Concord—are proscribed. But the radio has been most useful. Since I have time on my hands, I’m able to follow a wide variety of programmes. I get overseas magazines once in a while—through Prof. Ake—and I do have access to the novels in my library. I’ve written quite some—novels, Mr. B books & the collection of short stories. At least the first draft is finished and that’s some comfort. My time is well used. Getting all these things in has meant paying money out to my guards—quite a sum of money, Nigeria being Nigeria. But that’s okay. I can put it down to “business expense”. Freedom can be quite expensive or cheap depending on how you look at it. To those who have freedom, it’s cheap; those of us who lack it, pay a lot to get just a bit.
Hauwa was here for a fortnight or so but could not get to see me so I was not able to see my son, Kwame. That the authorities refused to allow it shows the depth of their wickedness. But in Ogoni custom, to refuse a child the favour of seeing his parent is godlessness and a crime. So I’m expecting the Ogoni God to punish the criminals. Once when Edward Kobani, now deceased, treated me in a dastardly fashion, my father predicted that he would not die well. That duly came to pass. My dad did see and bless the child along with my mother. He gave them a lot of happiness, I hear, and am satisfied. I’ve also had a guard here (a soldier) who saw my parents in good health.
I’m pleased that you met Father Mashevran. I don’t think I’ve ever been “street-wise”. Bull-headed, yes. You have to be to take on Shell and the cabal that rules Nigeria.
The advice for Ogoni people not to co-operate with the military came from you, of course. Did you think I wasn’t hearing from you?
And now to yourself. I hope that your medicals prove you fit. And that you are well, and happy. I long to see you back in Nigeria, helping, among others, to guide the Ogoni people through the wilderness. You don’t know what help you have been to us, and to me personally, intellectually. God grant that you do return to us. I’m counting the days. I may still be in detention when you come back. But I’m not worried about that. Since the physical conditions are not bad, I’m keeping myself mentally busy and doing a lot of those things which I may not have done as a free man. Has it not been said that God moves in a mysterious way/His wonders to perform? When I think how I came to be here, and to succeed in internationalizing the Ogoni issue on a slim budget, I cannot but see God’s fingers in it all. And evidence is now getting out to the effect that I might have been the one to be assassinated on 21st May but that what had been planned for me went askew, thanks to God. Not that death would have mattered to me. It would have carried more harm to those still alive. However, I do want to take the Ogoni people as far on the journey to re-vitalization as is possible—until other leaders are bred.
My brother, Owens, is lying low in Lagos. But he’s doing a tremendous job with the Press and the embassies. He’s very clear and conscientious, thank God.
I’ve dealt with all the issues you raised in your letter and as I sent a letter earlier, I’ve probably gone over some of the issues I raised in that letter.
Let me end by wishing you and yours the very best and God’s abundant blessings.
- See n. 26 with the letter dated 30/7/94 ↵
- Saro-Wiwa’s handwriting is indistinct here and it has not been possible to verify the spelling of this name. ↵
- Dr Owens Wiwa, medical doctor, a fellow member of MOSOP and global human rights activist. He is also currently Nigerian Country Director of the Clinton Foundation. ↵