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September 16, 1994

16/9/94

Dear Sr. Majella,

It’s hard to think you’ve been away for a whole month! How fast time does fly! I saw your picture holding my young Kwame whom I’m still to see. Thanks ever so much for caring, and for the money you sent us. It came in really useful. I wonder too if you’re behind The Bodyshop asking after our 1994 Budget. If they could help in any way at all, it would be great relief for me. I was thinking of selling some of my property to keep the struggle going!

In the month since you left, I see the situation in N. Ireland has improved tremendously. The possibility of peace is so comforting. I hope it happens. 25 years is a long time to be fighting, surely. God grant that it works.

Nigeria has progressively gone down the drains to its worst possible nadir. With all sensible newspapers barred, a lot of people in detention & laws which establish that the dictatorship cannot be challenged in court, we are in real trouble, to say the least. I don’t see Abacha[1] lasting much longer anyway.

I’m still here (118 days today) and there’s no sign that I’ll be out soon. No matter. I’m writing and reading a lot and making good use of the time. One of my poems was published in the Independent of London on 8th September. And Professor Ake & Wole Soyinka[2]have done excellent essays on Ogoni. That by Wole Soyinka appeared in the New York Times and probably sent the Nigerian Ambassador to the U.S to Ogoni. He came here to see me; unfortunately, we could not really discuss meaningfully because the military upset me by remaining with us. I also wore a MOSOP singlet to ensure that they did not get a photo opportunity! They had a video camera along & the Sunray photographer smuggled himself into the team. Later, the Sunray films were confiscated, the editors of the newspaper manhandled, and the MOSOP singlet seized from me! But I had made the point.

The published essays by Ake, Soyinka & myself have lead to an upsurge of confidence in Ogoni. I now receive a stream of encouraging letters from the activists, including those of them who are underground. The sense I have is that they will “fight” to the end. Barika is off to the U.S., after his stay in Geneva, to speak on the Ogoni issue & Professor Ake tells me the Europeans & Americans are doing a lot on the Ogoni issue.

The British chapter of International Pen made me an honorary mem­ber & they have written to ask how they can get me out of jail. I asked them to appeal to Shell & to use the British media as much as possible to keep my case on the front burner.

The government keeps saying we are to be charged to court “soon”. But they’ve been saying that for about 2 months. I doubt that their inves­tigations led to much, but they are probably looking for the judges who will agree to do their bidding. I’ve seized upon their statement to suggest that the Ogoni people set up a “Saro-Wiwa Legal Defence Fund” as a ral­lying point. I’m told the launch of the same will take place at the Roman Catholic Church at Garara on the 18th.

Abacha’s Constitutional Conference[3] is thinking of tinkering with the creation of nine states—and a Forum in Rivers State recently suggested the split of the state into 4, including an “Ogoni” State. I hear Shell are pressing for the creation of “Ogoni State” which was one of the things I told Emeka Achebe [Executive Director for Shell][4] unofficially that they might do if they wanted peace with the Ogoni people. I don’t have faith in Abacha’s regime anyway and I doubt that much will come of his Conference. After the collapse of the oil strike, there has been quite some despondency in pro-democracy circles, but everyone still believes that the desperation of the regime signals the beginning of the end. I can’t wait for that end.

All in all, I’m in high spirits and my time is well used, the physical conditions have been quite good. Had my computer not been confiscated, I should have written a lot more than the 5 or 6 books I’ve now either finished or completed anew. And somehow, I remain immensely confident that the Ogoni cause will be won.

I hope that you meet your family in good health and that you are rest­ing as you should.

Please keep in touch.

Sincerely,

Ken.


  1. General Sani Abacha, Military Dictator of Nigeria 1993-1998.
  2. Major Nigerian author, the first African winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.
  3. The conference referred to as the Sovereign National Conference in the final adden­dum to the letter dated 30/7/94. See MU/PP7/6.
  4. Executive Director for Shell from 1981-1996. He was General Manager of Shell’s operations in Nigeria at the time of Saro-Wiwa’s detention and later appointed Senior Corporate Adviser to Shell in London. “Emeka” is a short form of “Nnaemeka” and Saro-Wiwa uses both iterations alternatively in his letters here.

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September 16, 1994 Copyright © 2017 by Text, letters and images: Copyright © 2013 John Paul II Library, Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s poems: © 2013 Ken Saro-Wiwa Estate. All Rights Reserved.

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