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October 27, 1994

27/10/94

Dear Sr. Majella,

Thanks for your diary of 22-26/10. Don’t be surprised at the paper I’m using. There has been a crisis here. I “lost”, on Tuesday evening, all my writ­ing paper, books, photos etc. and, unfortunately, two or three letters to Major Okuntimo, Commander of the Ogoni Murder Squad. I was the victim in a struggle between two Army Captains—the departing one (who had not wanted to leave) and an in-coming one (who badly wanted to be here). It’s a long story, but in the end, the in-coming one used the “lapses” of the outgo­ing jailer in allowing me certain things to outwit his former classmate. I res­cued my pen in the last minute—my radio too. But Nick’s beautiful report went and much else. Fortunately, I always return letters within 24 hours so that it was only those sent on Monday and one other from Mon’s father-in-law that were seized.[1] I just hope those ones are not now in trouble. I’ve got to remind Appolos [Dr Appolos Bulo][2] not to receive letters which bear addresses. We all have to learn how to work in the “underground”.

Thanks for coming back. And please do not be in a hurry to return to Lagos. We need you. I had not gotten down to writing anything for the [RLA] Award because I’d not known precisely what was to be expected. When I finally got it, I’m now under stress with the events of Tuesday 25/10. I now need a copy of the Award letter (I wonder if you or the office have it), and you have to stay around to read and correct what I write—the view from the Prison can be quite jaundiced and illiterate, and I have no reference books from which I could quote—before you take them away.[3]

It may be possible to keep the lines of communication open—if Appolos can find the money to pay the new jailer. I was just about to give the man a bit of the stuff I’m made of and refuse to accept his attempt to extort money from me. But the Award Statement might make me mellow—how can one accept evil? Or co-operate with it? Or am I just getting it out of the way—“stepping it aside”? One is so very vulnerable here!

Don’t worry about the Ogoni jujus. That bit was meant to frighten the Nigerian soldiers. I understand their mentality. And quite a num­ber of other Nigerians—including the Ogoni people. I really had a good chuckle when I inserted that bit as an afterthought. The Born-Again Xians [Christians] have been worried—I read something like that in a fun-col­umn of the Sunray newspaper. But it’s O.K. Remember Hamlet. “There’s more in Heaven and Earth, than is compounded in your philosophy, Horatio”. I’m using every non-violent weapon to face very violent people. Break your ribs.[4]

Read some of the letters I receive here—which I always return to the office—they will give you an idea how the faithful feel. Appolos has them all.

I’m asking President Jimmy Carter to intervene in the Ogoni situation.[5] I’ll be keeping it in the quiet for now and the Lagos office should be advised not to talk about it to anyone. You may look at the letter—for your information. I cannot make any emendations now so don’t worry if it’s not perfect.

Don’t expect anything from the court. This matter is political, and the military do not care for the judicial system. The only thing that can save the Ogoni people is the conscience of the West. If the embassies in Lagos pressure Abacha, yes, anything can happen. I fired off a challenging letter to the National Security Advisor (Asmaita Guarzo) weeks ago. Ask Appolos for a copy. I understand Komo is doing a tour of the local government areas. I hope it is a “goodbye” tour. He has really goofed and presented me with a bonus. I intend to call, in my Award Speech, for an International Rescue Mission to save the Ogoni people and environment.

Just remember this. The embassies in Lagos are very important. No EU project can succeed if the Nigerian Army are still around. They will loot the place. Their soldiers are hungry! What do you think a Nigerian soldier earns?—800.00 naira a month. And that’s after 27 years in the force. I’ve had to feed the soldiers who guard me! The officers are even more ravenous and thieving. They’re all armed robbers. So the thing is to get them out of the area so that some peace can reign. You only have to remember that all we’ve had has been state-violence. The Ogoni people have been quite calm. I even suspect that Kobani and others were murdered by the security agencies in order to justify some of the reports that had been submitted by the security people in support of the Constitutional Conference. We (Ledum Mitee[6] and I) have met soldiers who are prepared, if they have the protection, to talk about what instructions they had, who looted what, who killed whom. The EU & the Americans must strive to get the Nigerian soldiers out!

Did Barika’s letter to the EU Delegate go to other embassies?[7] It should. (He spelt “psychopath” wrong). I’ll wait to hear from you.

Ken.


  1. Owens Wiwa is also known by the familial name Mon probably because he was born on a Monday.
  2. An Ibo assistant to MOSOP working in the Port Harcourt office.
  3. McCarron brought Saro-Wiwa’s acceptance speech and other items to Stockholm for the RLA Award ceremony.
  4. A Nigerian equivalent of the expression “split your sides [laughing]”.
  5. Jimmy Carter and other international figures had intervened in Nigeria in March 1994 when the Army Chief of Staff, Olusegun Obasanjo, was arrested and threatened with execution for involvement in a failed coup. An outspoken critic of military rule, Obasanjo had been the first Nigerian military ruler to hand over power to an elected civil­ian government in 1980. At Carter’s behest, he was released but imprisoned again several months later that year. He remained in detention until Abacha’s death in 1998. Saro-Wiwa understood the power of international pressure to protect critics of the dictatorship and hoped to mobilize international support to protect himself and other MOSOP mem­bers. McCarron does not know whether or not he received a reply from Carter.
  6. A MOSOP leader who was arrested with Saro-Wiwa. He was ultimately spared execution due, in part, to the pressure of international lobbies.
  7. Barika Idamkue had been lobbying Western embassies to pressure Abacha to release the MOSOP activists.

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