Aspects of Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Legacy

By Sanya Osha

The 17th annual Lagos Book and Art Festival (LABAF), which took place in November 2015, commemorated twenty years since Ken Saro-Wiwa’s passing. Its central theme was ‘Texts of Self-Determination’. The event was a concerted effort to interrogate the various dimensions of Saro-Wiwa’s legacy in a generally positive light. Many internationally renowned authors graced the occasion, essentially to pass on the torch to the younger generation. However, the question of passing the torch is moot due to radically shifting cultural and political parameters.

This article examines Saro-Wiwa’s influence and legacy from a number of perspectives. First, there is some focus on the impact of his activism in generating radical interrogations of the Nigerian nation-building project by disparate oppositional sects and movements. It also addresses the negative reactions to his activism by some of his detractors. In addition, it re-examines the cultural impact of his literary legacy as an engaged public intellectual. Undoubtedly, these apparently different perspectives overlap and there are indeed a few significant interconnections reflecting the vicissitudes of the Nigerian nation-building project and the manner it could be questioned by movements and citizens who are disenchanted by it.

Non-Violence versus terrorism

The task of examining of Saro-Wiwa’s legacy through his activism, ideological orientations and writings seems acceptable because each of these spheres informs and influences the others. His activism is inflected by his ideological beliefs regarding sustainable environmentalism, sociopolitical and economic justice and cultural autonomy. Saro-Wiwa’s activism seriously questioned the viability of the Nigerian project of nationhood; so radical was his questioning that the military authorities panicked and terminated his existence. But beyond the shortsighted reaction of the military establishment, Saro-Wiwa’s work was also a skeptical confrontation with the lopsided colonial imperative and its legacy. Was Nigeria really meant to exist or succeed as a nation, with its multiplicity of ethnicities, languages and contesting histories? Saro-Wiwa came from a minority in the predominantly Christian riverine south and yet he had the audacity to usurp the centre-stage of national affairs in a way that rattled the largely Muslim north and the dominant political configuration that converged around it.

An analogy may be found in Boko Haram’s terrorism. Boko Haram seeks the demise of the Nigerian nation-building project because the political dominance of the north can no longer be guaranteed. The north, under the pressures of radical global Islamisation, now espouses aspirations towards a fundamentalist theocracy, and its intent of radical transformation of the nation by itself constitutes a serious question just like the one posed by Saro-Wiwa albeit from a different perspective. Boko Haram emerged from the dispossessed underclass in the politically dominant north and is extremely violent, in contrast to the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), with its creed of non-violence. These two strikingly different movements are however similar in one respect, in that they seek to change the political destiny of Nigeria in a manner that the political elites would hardly be able to fathom let alone bear. Both reflect the shortcomings of the Nigerian nation-building project.

A lot has occurred since Ken Saro-Wiwa and his eight Ogoni compatriots were hanged more than two decades ago. Shortly after the horrific hanging, various contestations regarding his legacy began to emerge. The brutal General Sani Abacha regime that ordered the hanging of the Ogoni nine tried to portray them as common criminals culpable for the murder of four moderate Ogoni leaders namely: Albert Badey, a former Secretary to the Rivers State Government; Edward Kobani, a former Commissioner for Education in the State; S.N Orage, a former Commissioner for Health in the State and also T.B. Orage, a community leader and brother of S.N. Orage. The murders occurred on May 21, 1994 and were alleged to have been perpetrated by a group of youths. The Sani Abacha junta used the crimes to go after Saro-Wiwa. Fellow Ogoni indigenes on the homeland were officially prevented from mourning the loss of the Ogoni nine.

However, all the efforts at besmirching Saro-Wiwa’s name failed woefully. For one, the Abacha regime itself was one of the most heinous military cabals in Nigeria’s checkered political history. Even within Ogoni land, pro-government supporters — locally known as vultures — jostled with bona fide Ogoni activists over the sociopolitical destiny of the Ogoni people and consequently over the direction of the Ogoni protest movement.

Perhaps what was not too apparent then was that Saro-Wiwa’s legacy would have a significant impact on world affairs, especially the processes of globalisation that manifested as polarised relations between the post-industrial world and the developing nations of resource-rich Africa. Saro-Wiwa’s fate and legacy loom like an albatross over those relations and the often bleak possibilities of forging a universal system of ethics based on equity, fairness and justice. Corruption on a global scale has made the realisation of this objective and vision extremely problematic.

Indeed both the political and literary landscapes have shifted significantly since Saro-Wiwa’s death. The problems of the Niger Delta remain as intractable as ever, with violence and environmental abuse and neglect still rife. The insurgents of Boko Haram have now seized centre-stage as perhaps the greatest threat to the cohesion of the Nigerian nation. The rebels of the Niger Delta have challenged the deeds and values of the corrupt Nigerian state, its political elites, and the multinational oil companies. At the same time, they have also been agitating for sustainable environmentalism, resource control and equitable distribution of mineral wealth, and greater political prominence and also, perhaps, an appreciable degree of federal autonomy. These agitations owe much of their inspiration to the Ogoni Bill of Rights, which was formally adopted by the Ogoni people in 1993.

On the other hand, Boko Haram professes no other political creed than outright religious fundamentalism, which rejects the slightest opposition to its official ideology of mass murder and destruction. It intends to transform the country via the imposition of a rigid theocracy forged by a destructive, and ultimately nihilistic understanding of Islam that completely rejects the entirety of Nigerian history and the uneven national struggles with secularism and multi-religious and multi-ethnic ideologies. Rather than seeking to broaden democracy in both its spatial and conceptual possibilities, Boko Haram seeks, without an innuendo of compromise, the death of Nigeria and what it currently implies, in total contrast to what Saro-Wiwa advocated. Saro-Wiwa never intended to engender the end of democracy, secularism or the ethics of mutuality. Saro-Wiwa’s struggle was about exploring and consolidating the promise of democracy, which he believed would lead to a more just society. Furthermore, he abhorred mass and mindless murder. So in terms of beliefs and modus operandi, Boko Haram and the activists of Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) could not have been more different.

Another point is that Saro-Wiwa deployed whatever literary skills he had to advance the Ogoni cause. He was instrumental in drafting the landmark Ogoni Bill of Rights, he also published several books and pamphlets dealing with the menace of environmental degradation beginning with The Ogoni Nationality Today and Tomorrow (1968) and others such as On a Darkling Plain: An Account of the Nigerian Civil War which addresses many of the Ogoni grievances with the Nigerian nation. His equally instructive memoir, A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary, followed posthumously in 1995. These various literary efforts seek to inscribe the plight of the Ogoni into national and international consciousness. If anything, collectively they constitute a literature of activism and political engagement in a manner pursued by earlier great Nigerian literary artists such as the late Christopher Okigbo, Wole Soyinka, and even Chinua Achebe. If Fela Anikulapo-Kuti argued that ‘music is the weapon’, authors of this unambiguous ideological inclination saw words as bullets meant for the recalcitrant inhabitants of citadels of power. In this way, Saro-Wiwa wasn’t charting a new course of political action but merely following in the footsteps of his illustrious compatriots.

With the entrenchment of a popular strain of celebrity culture, there don’t seem to be more Saro-Wiwas in the making. The causes he stood for are fashionable and headline-grabbing but it is doubtful whether the new crop of Nigerian writers are prepared to risk life and limb in order to change the political status quo. And even if they were, Saro-Wiwa would continue to remain unique in his almost unparalleled courage, vision and charisma. Nonetheless not everyone is enamoured of the leadership qualities and certainly not inconsiderable organisational qualities that mobilised 400,000 Ogoni indigenes in January 1993 in protest of their unacceptable treatment by the Nigerian state and which signaled their preparedness to engage in direct political action to rectify the situation. Perhaps more than anything else, it was this singular act of defiance that demonstrated to the military regime that it could not afford to take the Ogoni protest movement lightly.

Against detractors

A few notable critics of Saro-Wiwa’s brand of activism have expressed their disapproval of his methods and achievement. When he was hanged, Okello Oculi criticised Saro-Wiwa for his inadequate knowledge of revolutionary praxis and rated him as falling far short of accomplished revolutionaries such as Amilcar Cabral and Samora Machel, the late president of Mozambique. But Oculi failed to properly recognise the political context in which Saro-Wiwa had to operate. General Sani Abacha became Nigeria’s Head of State just as the Ogoni protest movement was gaining considerable momentum and was about to attain its apogee. Abacha instituted a campaign of terror and repression that was unprecedented in Nigeria. Several notable pro-democracy activists and oppositional political figures had to flee the country and those who didn’t lost their lives to the brutal military regime with its terror and execution units, notably the nefarious K-Squad, Strike Force and Special Squad.

Africa, like Latin America, is renowned for producing tyrants of tragic-comic proportions. Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada of Uganda, Jean-Bedel Bokassa, the self-proclaimed emperor of the Central African Republic, and Mobutu Sese Seko of what used to be known as Zaire and now the Democratic Republic of Congo readily come to mind. These three particular rulers were all enthralled by the theatricality of illegitimate and excessive political power and sought to emphasise and enact it at every turn.

The dramatic personalisation of public authority transformed the leader into the ultimate figure of fear, terror, unpredictability and unreliable patronage. Rulers operated arbitrarily and above the law. All of this heightened the dramaturgy of brutal and illicit power. It also required the imagination of the leader to dramatise the presence and effects of that power before multitudes of over-awed subjects. The African tyrants mentioned above possessed that capacity.

The same cannot be said of Sani Abacha even though he matches them in the capacity for evil and callousness. Hidden behind dark sunglasses, he was a pathetic little figure with no imaginative signature other than an almost tumultuous capability for vengeance. Sony Labou Tansi, the gifted novelist of the Republic of the Congo, aptly captures the phenomenon of illicit power gone awry and the spiritual hollowness at the centre of it all in works such as The Shameful State. Labou Tansi’s writing illuminates the paranoia of a state and dictator in times of enormous misrule. Abacha’s reign is a graphic case of power gone berserk.

In 2005, Adewale Maja-Pearce published Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays. The book’s publication history bears recounting. The form and content of the lead essay are anecdotal. Maja-Pearce recalls the time when he was editor of the Heinemann African Writers Series in the United Kingdom and Saro-Wiwa had visited to explore the possibilities of publishing his locally released books internationally. Saro-Wiwa’s works prior to then had been issued under his own imprint, Saros International, which was based in Port Harcourt. Maja-Pearce didn’t think much of Saro-Wiwa as a writer and promptly told him so. What he didn’t fail to notice though was Saro-Wiwa’s unflappable nature. Whilst he was networking for overseas publication agreements for his books, he was also on a concerted mission to ensure that the Ogoni cause received global attention. He made contact with the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organisation (UNPO) based at The Hague. Rapidly, he gained international recognition as a writer, environmentalist and human rights activist.

Saro-Wiwa’s prison memoir, A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary focuses on the culmination of activities that led to his attaining international stature. Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays was to have been published by the United Kingdom-based Ayebia Clarke Literary Agency and Publishing Ltd which is run by an old colleague, Becky Clarke, also formerly of Heinemann. Just as the book was about to go to press, Maja-Pearce granted an interview to the Guardian Newspapers of Lagos in which he mentioned that Saro-Wiwa had been a friend to the feared Sani Abacha and had in fact benefited from his largesse; the implications being that Saro-Wiwa might have received what he deserved as a noted accomplice of a ruthless dictator. Ken Wiwa, Saro-Wiwa’s son and author of In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son’s Journey to Understand his Father’s Legacy, was outraged and contacted Ayebia Clarke to desist from publishing Maja-Pearce’s book if in fact its contents were libelous. Becky Clarke got slightly cold feet and informed Maja-Pearce about the need to alter the details of the book to make it safer to publish. Maja-Pearce declined, saying he would only do so if advised accordingly by a qualified libel attorney. In due course, the unsigned publishing agreement with Ayebia Clarke collapsed and Maja-Pearce had to release his book via his own imprint, New Gong, Lagos (see Uzoatu 2015).

In both local and international literary circles many would disagree with Maja-Pearce’s view of Saro-Wiwa as a writer. First of all, Saro-Wiwa was posthumously awarded the Conde Nast-Traveller’s Seventh Annual Environmental Award, a prize worth $10,000. The Goldman Environmental Foundation subsequently created a Ken Saro-Wiwa Memorial Fund “to protect environmental advocates in danger around the world.” It launched the fund, administered by Human Rights Watch, with a $200,000 contribution. Similarly, a federation of international writers in the French language established a $50,000 award in his name. Within the shores of Nigeria, a high profile anthology of 92 poems by 66 authors, entitled For Ken, for Nigeria, was published in 1996. In 2000, Akeem Lasisi’s Iremoje: Ritual Poetry for Ken Saro-Wiwa won the Association of Nigerian Authors’ prize for poetry.

Maja-Pearce has continued to unsettle quite a number of esteemed literary feathers in Nigeria. In 2010, he published a damaging biography of John Pepper Clark, a renowned Nigerian poet and playwright in which even Wole Soyinka, the fiery Nobel laureate, comes off uncharitably. As to be expected, Soyinka released the usual fireworks in the direction of Maja-Pearce calling him “an inept literary hustler” amongst other invectives. Soyinka in his most recent memoir, Between Defective Memory and the Public Lie: A Personal Odyssey in the Republic of Liars (2015), had more excoriating words for Maja-Pearce regardless of the fact that the latter had written Who is Afraid of Wole Soyinka? and edited a well received volume of collaborative essays entitled Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal in 1994 to mark Soyinka’s 60th birthday. The volume has contributions from Nadine Gordimer, Femi Osofisan, Abdulrasak Gurnah and Kwame Anthony Appiah amongst other internationally distinguished authors and academics. All of this wasn’t factored into Soyinka’s castigation of Maja-Pearce in his memoir in which he brands the latter “a self-confessed hustler” and calls his work “fabrication, cheap unsubstantiated street gossip, and products of rancid imagination” (Soyinka 2015: 37).

Maja-Pearce released his own memoir, The House My Father Built, this time under Farafina’s Kamsi imprint, in 2014. Here we can glean something of what motivated his more controversial literary interventions and observe how he might have arrived at the views he holds towards Saro-Wiwa. The memoir recounts Maja-Pearce’s partly hilarious and partly tragic struggle to gain control of his late father’s property in the congested city of Lagos populated by all manner of street vendors, con artists and criminal syndicates. Maja-Pearce, by his own account, spends his time frequenting a corrupt judicial system (2014: 19-24, 48,49), associating with thuggish and shady characters (29-45), and bribing dubious police officers (68-74), which taken together cannot be said to have a transformational impact on the sociopolitical landscape. In Saro-Wiwa’s world-inspiring saga, even in the clutches and conflagration of dictatorship, he was still able to emerge as a charismatic hero. Maja-Pearce’s account, by contrast, seems puny, self-absorbed, and lacking in the altruism that marked Saro-Wiwa’s more lofty public engagements.

In Saro-Wiwa’s life and work, the public domain was central both as geographical space and recurring theme. He strove to transform the features of that conflicted space and perhaps to a large extent he did. What is unquestionable, though, is that he altered the nature of the public space as theme by a broad as well as incisive focus on the questions of democracy, human rights, environmental awareness, resource control and allocation and, ultimately, the national question in Nigeria – the nation-building project itself. Here, there is evident an absence of the self as an end in and for itself, that is, subjectivity as a self-immolating and purely self-regarding entity disengaged from the needs and struggles of the larger community. In Saro-Wiwa’s work, the self attains realisation through a conscious engagement with the Other or, in this case, the community.

The children of MOSOP

Saro-Wiwa has remained relevant due to the issues his work addressed. Even if he had benefited earlier in his career from corrupt and environmentally vile military dictatorships, he became reformed once he decided to seek to improve the living conditions of those inhabiting the Niger Delta. His activism drew global attention to their plight and created new forms of community awareness and political engagement at the grassroots. At the national level, because of his efforts, the national question is often revisited in order to address what is flawed and dysfunctional in the nation-building project. Since the resumption of democracy in 1999, anything under the rubric of Nigeria has become open to debate and contestation.

Saro-Wiwa’s activism has its positive and negative aspects. Its value stems from invigorating the institutions of democracy. Its demerits can be seen in the sprouting of virulent separatist agendas and the unfortunate regress into ethnic particularisms. For a while, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was in the international spotlight due to its acts of terrorism, some of which were directed at foreign workers of multinational petroleum firms. Undoubtedly, the havoc caused by Boko Haram in the northeastern parts of the country where about two million people have been displaced and thousands killed and maimed, exceeds any damage MEND has been able to wreak (Osha 2014).

There has been a gradual shift from the politics of non-violence to tactics of violence and insurgency with the rapid weakening of MOSOP following the death of Saro-Wiwa. Oil theft, vandalisation of petroleum installations, kidnapping of foreign oil workers, extortion have all become part of the modus operandi of the post-MOSOP Niger Delta insurgents. Many groups have emerged which take the deplorable conditions in the Niger Delta as a pretext to create mayhem often leading to death. Apart from MEND, which was formed in 2005 and which provides some degree of impetus and inspiration to like-minded insurgents, these rebel factions include: Feibokirifagha Ogbo, Federated Niger Delta Ijaw Communities (FNDIC), Egbesu Boys of Africa (EBA), Meinbutu Boys, Feibagha Ogbo, Alagbabagha Ogbo, the Niger Delta Militant Force Squad (NDMFS), the Grand Alliance, South-South Liberation Movement (SSLM), ELIMOTU, Torudigha Ogbo, the November 1895 Movement, the Niger Delta Coastal Guerrillas (NDCG), the Niger Delta People’s Salvation Front (NDPSF), Arogbo Freedom Fighters, Iduwini Volunteer Force (IVF), the Coalition for Militant Action (COMA), Black Braziers and Icelanders, Bush Boys and a few others.

The bewildering proliferation of insurgent groups in the Niger Delta reflects the improperly addressed grievances festering in the area and also the readiness of the indigenes to take up armed struggle. Human life and property have become constant targets and the issue of upholding law and order has become extremely problematic. In addition, the increase of vigilante groups is part of the growing militarisation of civil society independent of the state as each region of the country now has fully operational insurgent groups functioning at different levels of efficacy. The east has the Bakassi Boys, the west is dominated by the Odu’a People’s Congress (OPC), and of course, Boko Haram operates in the north.

There is also the matter of global governance and global security to consider. Resource-rich nations in third-world regions are generally known to be corrupt. Corruption in turn breeds transnational crime syndicates that undermine global security. This point was particularly emphasised during the final sessions of LABAF 2015. In the popular imagination, movies such as Blood Diamonds starring Leonardo DiCaprio have further highlighted the motif. Two books directly address the issue of corruption and its global impact: Tom Burgis, The Looting Machine: Warlords, Tycoons, Smugglers and the Systematic Theft of Africa’s Wealth, and Sarah Chayes, Thieves of the State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security.

In Burgis’s book, we are informed of the activities of the “Queensway Group”, described as “a sort of global mafia” operating out of Hong Kong with a mysterious and seemingly ubiquitous Sam Pa as its arrowhead. Business connections and deals are hatched by the practice of guanxi, which simply connotes the deployment of shady social capital or personal associations to advance one’s business interests. In this manner, official and personal dealings overlap, leading to the privatisation of public authority and creation of officially recognised spheres of power within the private domain, which usually act as if they are an integral part of constitutional authority. Burgis concurs, in an interview conducted by Desne Maxie, that this development results from “the corporatisation of politics” and “the politicisation of corporate life”, both of which are informed by “the monetarisation of networks, parallel states and rent-seeking.”

Sarah Chayes, on her part, argues that there may be a conceptual link between insurgency and corruption. Usually, Western governments prefer to tackle outbreaks of terrorism before dealing with the scourge of corruption. Chayes, who has worked for the US government in attempting to bring political stability to Afghanistan, argues that it is a mistake to treat insurgency and corruption as separate scourges when they are in fact intertwined. Former president Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan abandoned the responsibilities of governance in order to loot his country, creating a parallel criminal syndicate and system of patronage networks which became more active than the state itself. As such, kleptocracy culminates in the disfigurement of the state and a drastic diminution of its effectiveness if not its outright destruction. Hosni Mubarak of Egypt crippled the military through corruption while Zein al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia wreaked similar havoc on his country’s civil service. Nigeria, a notoriously corrupt country, has managed to produce Boko Haram. All these instances attest to a growing awareness of the correlation between corruption and insurgency.

There are indications that such a prognosis may be read in Saro-Wiwa’s work, which thus becomes relevant to addressing the problem of the ‘resource curse’ whereby nations blessed with mineral wealth, especially in the third world, tend to be insufferably corrupt and therefore inefficient not only at the policy-making level but also in containing insurgency or establishing regional or global security (Osha 2006a, 2006b, 2007).

On what social scientists might consider a lighter side, there is another angle to Saro-Wiwa’s legacy. He was a former president of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), and the literary community was also part of his constituency. During Sani Abacha’s reign, the Nigerian literary scene appeared to be in a state of suspended animation, and this was reflected in poetry that riled against the dictatorship but in often pitiful anonymity. Indeed it would take a few more years for the novel to flourish and reach a welcoming international audience.

Limits of public engagement

The literary landscape since Saro-Wiwa’s death has gradually been taken over by the Afropolitan tendency. Afropolitanism is a label that has emerged out of digital globalisation which ostensibly celebrates the visibility of blackness as a cultural presence (Njami 2007). However, this presence is characterised by a form of cultural elitism that displays a marked disconnect from more illustrious ideologies of blackness and the often gruesome existential and intellectual struggles that forged them. Afropolitanism may in fact signal a banalisation of the black ethos in order to rid it of political armor and radical possibilities. In this understanding, blackness and its often traumatic history become part of a global cultural tourist industry devoid of ideological meaning. In the embarrassing bid to identify with hegemonic ideologies and structures of power, Afropolitanism becomes a sorry appendage of the same structures that deceive it into abandoning all quests for originality. It is difficult to understand the regression from the ideologies of pan-Africanism, Negritude and African Personality to Afropolitanism. The label seems ideologically inane even if some of the attitudes it encompasses may be understandable. All of this, sadly, is contrary to the achievement of Saro-Wiwa.

Ken Saro-Wiwa’s literary work (1989, 1991, 1992) is essentially a part of, and mirrors, the intense political struggles he waged. It is also a detailed chronicle of a society caught up in the throes of violent transition, a skewed transition that ultimately cost him his life.

Dissent in Nigeria was criminalised following the death of Saro-Wiwa. However, the new insurgents in the Niger Delta took advantage of this criminalisation to absolve themselves of culpability. Violence, mayhem and destruction have become the norm, as the brutalisation of the region breeds a culture of impunity. This is a national tragedy that has resulted in a pathology of malevolent social relations.

On closer inspection, Saro-Wiwa’s social activism had both inward and outward leaning tendencies which to some might appear contradictory but given the prevailing local and global conditions made sense. The Ogoni drive towards sociopolitical and economic justice was based on an ethno-nationalist platform and yet MOSOP’s initial environmentalist orientation contained significant intimations of pan-Africanism and globalism. This is a contradiction that remained unresolved throughout the course of Saro-Wiwa’s work. Indeed these contestations centre on what is or isn’t possible for a social movement intent on altering the political landscape. They touch upon the departures from, and disagreements with, Saro-Wiwa’s kind of activism and the degree to which ideological purity is feasible or even desirable.

Saro-Wiwa’s life and work embody an uncompromising stance against military dictatorship and unyielding support for sustainable environmentalism, minority rights and democracy. Saro-Wiwa has come to personify these values and causes.

Moshood Abiola, winner of the annulled 1993 presidential polls, is the other Nigerian of importance who lost his life fighting against an inhuman military regime. However, there is a crucial difference. Abiola had been partially co-opted in agreeing to work through the corrupted channels and institutions of a venial Nigerian state controlled by devious military rulers. Those rulers were certainly not democratically minded. In other words, it was not their intention to relinquish power when and how they did. And their deviousness not only cost Abiola his life but also caused extensive damage to the nation and its psyche.

Saro-Wiwa, on the other hand, having realised the corrupt nature of the state and its unsuitability for the collective aspirations of the Ogoni people, had ultimately chosen a path of activism outside the official channels. The repudiation of the state and its modes of operation definitely created a gulf between it and the Ogoni cause which Saro-Wiwa championed with fatal honesty and with tragic consequences. He assumed the role of rebel which he had to for the Ogoni cause to reach its highest point of crystallisation and for it to acquire the desired impact.

Finally, it can be said that the impact of Saro-Wiwa’s influence is not always coherent or evenly distributed in the fields of activism, politics and literature. He can be regarded as an essential catalytic figure, and his activism is a benchmark by which important national questions can be raised on the checkered Nigerian political landscape. He reminds us of what the engaged citizen’s duties ought to be towards the nation.


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Chayes, Sarah. 2015. Thieves of the State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security. New York: W.W. Norton.

Labou Tansi, Sony. 2016 The Shameful State. trans. Dominic Thomas. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Maja-Pearce, Adewale. ed. 1994. Wole Soyinka: An Appraisal. London: Heinemann

Maja-Pearce, Adewale. 2005 Remembering Ken Saro-Wiwa and Other Essays. Lagos: New Gong.

Maja-Pearce, Adewale. 2014 The House My Father Built. Lagos: Farafina/Kamsi.

Njami, Simon. 2007. “Chaos and Metamorphosis” in Africa Remix: Contemporary Art of a Continent. Johannesburg: Jacana Media.

Osha, Sanya. 2006a. “Birth of the Ogoni Protest Movement,” Journal of Asian and African Studies. Vol. 41, Nos. 1 & 2.

Osha, Sanya. 2006b. “Slow Death in the Niger Delta,” Africa Review of Books/Revue Africaine des Livres. Vol.2, No.1.

Osha, Sanya. 2007. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Shadow: Politics, Nationalism and the Ogoni Protest Movement. London: Adonis & Abbey.

Osha, Sanya. 2014. African Postcolonial Modernity: Informal Subjectivities and the Democratic Consensus. New York: Palgrave-Macmillan.

Soyinka, Wole, 2015. Between Defective Memory and the Public: A Personal Odyssey in the Republic of Liars. Ibadan: Bookcraft.

Saro-Wiwa, Ken.1989. On a Darkling Plain. Port Harcourt: Saros International.

Saro-Wiwa, Ken. 1991. Nigeria: The Brink of Disaster. Port Harcourt: Saros International.

Saro-Wiwa, Ken. 1992. Genocide in Nigeria: The Ogoni Tragedy, Port-Harcourt: Saros International.

Saro-Wiwa, Ken. 1995. A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary Middlesex: Penguin Books.

Uzoatu, Uzor Maxim. 2015. “The Literary Lives and Times of Ken Saro-Wiwa,” in the Festival Brochure, the 17th Lagos Book and Art Festival, Committee for Relevant Art, Lagos.

Wiwa, Ken. 2000. In the Shadow of a Saint: A Son’s Journey to Understand his Father’s Legacy. New York: Doubleday.


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