If Ojukwu Could Lay Claim, Why Should I, on Whose Land the Oil Was, Not Let the World Know? - Africa’s premier report on the oil, gas and energy landscape.

If Ojukwu Could Lay Claim, Why Should I, on Whose Land the Oil Was, Not Let the World Know?


By Ken Saro Wiwa

I had begun to speak to friends and to stir up resistance wherever I could.

I cannot say that I was particularly successful, for people were generally frightened. A few who saw the truth stood their grounds. Many, even the educated, did not understand, so entirely misled by propaganda were they. Others who understood chose to play safe, accepting whoever held sway over them.

I am speaking here largely of the Rivers people among whom I operated and whose welfare was uppermost in my mind at the time. As for the Ogoni, they had been intimidated in political times. Now, with guns behind their backs, could they be expected to resist? They could not. They did not. What I saw, I characterize as slavery. A convoy of ill-clad soldiers would arrive in any Ogoni town and everyone would flee, leaving the town and its wealth to the plundering thieves in tattered uniform. I was not prepared to accept this. It also seemed silly to be sitting idle at home, grumbling or bemoaning our fate instead of actively assisting to crush the rebellion. Since it was becoming virtually impossible to oppose biafra from within, the only answer lay in fighting her from outside. Besides, I reasoned, if Ojukwu. having no oil in his home, could lay claim to the same, why should I on whose land the oil was situated not let the world know that the oil was Ogoni oil? I began to cast about for ways of leaving biafra. It was early in September of 1967.

At the time, I owned a minibus – I had invested in passenger transport in 1966 – and the idea came to me to drive it across the Niger at Onitsha into the Mid-West. Of course, this was not a workable proposition. The Mid-West was a battle ground in the proper sense of the word and would not serve as an escape route. Whal to do?

I had to leave for Lagos by all means. I considered the Cameroun border Here, again, the Federal troops appeared to have sealed off the mute through Ikom. I could perhaps go through Calabar? Maybe. But how would I go from Cameroun to Lagos? I had to give up the idea. The only way out was to go through Bonny or through Brass.

Excerpted from On a Darkling Plain; An Account of the Nigerian Civil War, by Ken Saro Wiwa, published by Saros International Publishers, 1989. The book was one of the 20 books of the festival, discussed at the 25th Lagos Book and Art Festival in November 2023 with the theme: The Reset: History and The Darkling Plain.


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