Dear Sr. Majella,

I got your papers this morning & was I excited! You probably have not got the letter I sent through Barika.[1] Should be waiting for you in Lagos.
I will miss you in the year you are going to be away! Your letter was the first really good intimation I had of the goings on in Ogoni. I’ve always realized that we have not prepared the generality of the Ogoni people adequately for the struggle. The march of January 3 should have come after the orga­nizations were properly in place.[2] But it was difficult to organize anybody or anything in Ogoni without such a bold public statement. It was like grabbing the place by the scruff of the neck and thrusting it forward.

In spite of this, I remain optimistic. The military government should collapse shortly after you leave Nigeria. That will open another chapter. The need now is to get the military out of the place. I hope that Ogoni is used to cudgel the military culprits who may do a deal with Abiola & so escape the charge of treason. But they must not escape a charge of genocide which they probably will not be thinking about. As Claude Ake[3] said, we need an international inquiry to go into it.[4]

Aid cannot be properly channelled into the area until the military are gone & we begin to re-organize the people. What happens during your absence?

I’m including a letter for the Bodyshop[5] & UNPO, along with their fax and telephone numbers.

I write fiction, think about Ogoni & pray to God. I’m also trying to direct Ogoni affairs from here. It’s not easy, but I’m doing my best. The scattering of the MOSOP committee is sad. But we have to learn to oper­ate from the underground. We need training in too many areas! I’m happy you met Ben Naanen.[6] He is a fine fellow.[…]God bless you & travel safely.

My telephone no. in London is [number provided]. Speak to my daughter Zina.

My son’s number is [number and address provided]

I haven’t heard from the children & that’s worrying. I and my wife [Maria], as you probably know, have not been at one. And the family has been wracked by illness & tragedy[…]My first son underwent heart sur­gery last year[7] & the Orages who were murdered were in-laws. Sam Orage brought up my wife (he’s married to her elder Sr. [sister]). So the tragedy grows. I’ve tried to keep this personal aspect away so that it does not inter­fere with my public responsibilities. The girls (twins) are fine though, and Zina is especially a delight & very clear where she wants to go to. She needs guidance, though, & I’ve not been able to provide that.

P.S. By the way, I was sent here when it was found that I was sending messages from the Bori Camp Guardroom[8] through the food basket sent by my family. The military introduced Ogoni moles into the Guardroom. We knew them well. When one of them told on me, it was time to move me out. It has proved to be a blessing. At last, I’m writing & am able to think clearly in good conditions. And, sorry to say, am still communicating with the outside world, in the absence of the food baskets!

By the way, I don’t consider Birabi & Leton a problem as such.[9] There is no negotiating with them because they do not even want to negotiate & they will not accept the democratic decisions of the majority. Really, all of it is based on jealousy & frustration. The people will have to decide what to do about them. Invariably, I find that the younger chaps want to fight them to a standstill. They matter only when the authorities side with them. So let’s see how national politics go. If a Sovereign National Conference gets held & the Ogoni obtain self-determination, then the political education the majority have received will reduce dissenters to an insignificant opposition, incapable of frustrating the people.[10] MOSOP have 90% support in Ogoni And that’s okay, by any standards. There was a beautiful essay in Daily Sunray[11] of Thursday 28.

Did you see it?


  1. Probably Barika Idamkue, a fellow activist and member of MOSOP.
  2. The author is probably referring to the first mass public rally held in Ogoni on 4th January 1993. 1993 was the UN-declared “Year of Indigenous People”.
  3.  A prominent Nigerian political scientist.
  4. Dozens of people were killed when Ogoni villages were destroyed in violence that took place during September 1993.
  5. A British-based company, founded by Anita Roddick in 1976, which works on the ethical sourcing of beauty products. Saro-Wiwa had met with Gavin Grant who was head of corporate communications and public affairs for the Body Shop International in 1992.
  6. A fellow activist and member of MOSOP. He was Professor of History at the University of Port Harcourt and has collaborated with the UN Research Institute for Social Development on a project investigating Identity, Power and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2006-08. He is now Acting Head of MOSOP.
  7. Following the death of Saro-Wiwa’s son Tedum at the age of fourteen, the family were tested for heart problems. Ken Jr. was required to undergo heart surgery.
  8. An Internal Security Task Force centre in Bori, Ogoniland. The guardroom was similar to a cell in a police station where people may be held before being charged. Bori is the main urban centre in Ogoniland.
  9. Bennet Birabi and Garrick Barile Leton, both members of the conservative Ogoni elite. Leton had been a former President of MOSOP but testified against Saro-Wiwa at the military trial. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, he “alleged that Saro-Wiwa had sought complete control of the organization and encouraged his supporters to employ ‘militant tactics’.” But, in fact, the report continues, Saro-Wiwa had “repeatedly avowed his commitment to non-violence” and “criticized the actions of violent Ogoni splinter groups”. See <http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/3ae6a7d8c.html>
  10. There were plans afoot for a conference to take place in Abuja in 1994 on behalf of all of the ethnic nations of Nigeria but they did not materialize.
  11. A Nigerian newspaper based in Port Harcourt.


Silence Would Be Treason Copyright © 2018 by Íde Corley; Helen Fallon; and Laurence Cox. All Rights Reserved.

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