Dear Sr. Majella,[1]

Many thanks for your letters up to the end of July or thereabouts. I believe that I’ve got everything you have sent thus far. Some of them come rather late and out of sequence, but I do get them. Because I keep them around me just to read and re-read them, I’ve had two of them seized lately.
I hope that I will get them back, anyway, some day.

I expect that you have now started your new assignment and am really happy for you. It is hard to think that you will no longer be with us here in Nigeria, but it may well be that we shall be better served by your being away. God works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform.

You have heard of the raid on my office of July 29. That was followed by a raid on our cells in the prison a week or so later. Since the departure of Okuntimo on July 1, and indeed long before then, for Okuntimo suddenly lost interest in punishing us, thanks to the education we gave him, security had eased a great deal and we were able to receive a host of visitors from Ogoni and elsewhere.[2] I’m sorry to say that we became lax ourselves and so when the new man struck, we “lost” quite a bit of property.

Back to business. The trial is being speeded up. Which means that every rule is being broken in order that it might end. I expect that it will end before you get this letter. I have information that judgement will not be delivered, which will mean that we will remain in prison for as long as the authorities please, keeping me out of circulation for as long as Abacha is in power.

I am not defending myself. I will want to make a Statement. I have already filed the Statement at the High Court here and a copy is available with my son in London, if you want to read it. It is possible that the Judge will not allow me to read it, but it is already a public document and the press can use it.

About a week ago, Major Obi Umahi (an Igbo) who now commands the ISTF [Internal Security Task Force] came to me and asked what he could do to ensure peace in Ogoni. I asked him to release the three Ogoni activists who were arrested after the raid on my office, and use them to speak to the Ogoni people. He promptly released them from detention at Afam the next day and brought them to my cell. He then sought my blessing of the peace effort he meant to launch. I gave that blessing after drawing his attention to the fact that there are three parties involved in the matter: the Ogoni people, Shell and the Government (State and Federal). I did not mind where he started from, I said, so long as he realized that peace could only come when justice is done.

As of now, a core group of “moderates” is being put together, prepara­tory to the group being widened to include the disaffected politicians. The hope, I gather, is that the Ogoni people can be made to come together to defend Ogoni interests. I don’t know that anyone can reconcile the skul­duggery of Leton and Birabi with the rest of the people. My assumption is that Government are preparing the ground for the conviction of Ledum and myself—to ensure that the Ogoni do not riot when the inevitable ver­dict, long decided upon, is handed down.

Yesterday, the ground was cleared for that conviction when the no-case sub­mission made by the Legal Aid lawyers was dismissed. The Tribunal said: “The prosecution adduced evidence of the killing of 4 chiefs of Gokana at Giokoo through civil disturbances there by NYCOP youths.[3] There is evidence of the leadership of MOSOP who by meetings, rallies, provocative and instigative pronouncements light(sic) the fuse that produced the consuming events of 21/5/94 at Gbenemene Palace, Giokoo.” Whoever was in doubt knows where the Tribunal is heading to. The stories below are for your entertainment.

By July 1, Okuntimo and Komo were at daggers drawn. I believe Komo finally saw through the brute he had appointed to supervise the decimation of the Ogoni and knew that he had made costly mistakes. As usual with the military, he could not apologize to us; in any case, his career was already on the line. All he could do was persist in evil.

The Federal Government were shamed at the last meeting of the UN Committee for the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (CERD) attended on our behalf by Barika and on the Government side by a team which included George Kobani (as consultant), the Legal Adviser to Abacha, a Professor Yadudu (Yahoo!) and Ambassador Azikiwe (second cousin of the great Zik[4]). The Government delegation declared me guilty of murder (!) and the Committee felt that since they were denying all the assertions made by the various human rights groups, they might as well go to Ogoni to see things for themselves. I doubt that they will be coming, but I wish it would happen.

A newspaper here published an item stating that Shell has been pres­suring the government to create an Ogoni State and give the oil communi­ties 50% of oil revenues. Shell has not denied this item, and there may be some truth in it.

Ogoni is buzzing with all sorts of noise, all sorts of expectation. The first meeting aimed at reconciliation was held yesterday (13th) the date on which our defence opened. I believe that the government will be told that peace in Ogoni depends also on all those now held in detention or driven underground being free. They won’t listen to that. I can only hope that our conviction does not lead to more trouble. I have tried to bring home to all the example of Christ which was, to our people, fictional, I guess. They are now going to learn a hard lesson and I hope they take it quietly.

I will keep you posted as events unravel. The ways of this struggle have been so unpredictable, I don’t know what to say. There is an unseen hand at work. We are just not in control, and no one seems to be. It’s amazing the things which do happen!

I must thank you and all those who have done so much work for us abroad. It’s nice to know that people who have worked or visited Ogoni are now turning up and lending assistance in various ways. The commit­ment of Anita Roddick is a great blessing. It has nettled the Nigerian High Commissioner in London, for one!

I am in good spirits, expecting the worst as usual, but hopeful for the best. My parents are always in court, and my father believes that I will be free at the end of the case. I’ve tried very hard to dampen his optimism but the old man won’t budge. I just hope he does not get a rude shock.

One source of worry is what will happen to our struggle when Ledum and I are put away. We had not had enough time to train the cadres or put alternative leaderships in place. And putting members of the Steering Committee on the police wanted list has deprived us of a lot of hands. I have been able to direct things and even contribute to the publicity war from detention. I don’t know if I’ll be able to do so from prison. We have no funds, not even a bank account. Everything had hinged so much upon my resources that my absence will cause a lot of problems. We’ll have to get around that somehow.

Don’t be embarrassed by my ocean of ink. I am not. I’m only tired now and must go to bed, to rise early and prepare for the boredom of the Tribunal.



  1. This is the last recorded letter written by Ken Saro-Wiwa. It was hand delivered to McCarron in Belfast by Saro-Wiwa’s eldest son, Ken Wiwa, after his death.
  2. Okuntimo was transferred to another area
  3. The National Youth Council of Ogoni People. Saro-Wiwa had prompted the forma­tion of NYCOP as well as other grassroots organizations.
  4. Nnamdi Azikiwe, one of the leading figures of anti-colonial Nigerian nationalism. Prior to independence, he led the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons—a party of the Eastern region with a primarily Christian support-base which espoused Pan-Africanist principles. He was the first independent President of Nigeria from 1963-66.


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

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