THE THEME OF EXPLOITATION AND OFFICIAL COMPLICITY IN THE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF KEN SARO-WIWA’S A MONTH AND A DAY: A DETENTION DIARY AND TANURE OJAIDE’S GREAT BOYS: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD
THE THEME OF EXPLOITATION AND OFFICIAL COMPLICITY IN THE AUTOBIOGRAPHIES OF KEN SARO-WIWA’S A MONTH AND A DAY: A DETENTION DIARY AND TANURE OJAIDE’S GREAT BOYS: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD
ONUOHA, ONYEKACHI PETER
REG NO: 08/11063
THE DEPARTMENT OF ENGLISH AND LITERARY STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF CALABAR
IN PARTIAL FULFILMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE AWARD OF BACHELOR OF ARTS (B.A.HONS) DEGREE IN ENGLISH AND LITERARY STUDIES
This is to certify that this research work entitled,” The theme of exploitation and official complicity in the autobiographies: of Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary and Tanure Ojaide’s Great Boys: An African Childhood” was written by Onuoha, Onyekachi Peter (08/11063) of the Department of English and Literary Studies, University of Calabar under the supervision of Jonas.E. Akung PH.D.
Student’s name ………..……………………………………
Jonas .E. Akung PH.D ……………………………………………..
Dr. Stella Ansa ……….………………………………….
Head of Department ..…………………………………………
(External Examiner) Signature
To you Peter and Ijeoma Onuoha
To you Peter-Ijeoma
Thou art imbued with my dreams
To you Peter-Ijeoma
Like the cuddle of the evening sun
You cuddled me on the wings of your naira
To ELS to be suckled
Oh! Behold ElS the beautiful lady of mix test
To you Peter-Ijeoma
For thy touch heralding your assurance
To you Peter-Ijeoma
For enlivening the dreams I once sort alone
To you Peter-Ijeoma Onuoha
To you Peter-Ijeoma I stand firm with B.A today
By the measure of your assistance
I wish to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor, Dr Jonas Akung for his unrelenting effort and ever ready advice. I offer my unreserved appreciation to my parents Mr. and Mrs Peter Onuoha. My brothers and sisters for their assistance in view of the additional cost my study and creativity cost them.
Others to be acknowledged are all my lecturers in the Department of English and literary Studies, University of Calabar.
Nobody is an island: some might have assisted me in some ways through constructive criticism and practical advice. My conscience will be in crisis if I fail to acknowledge my abstract detractors and the following persons; my bosom brother Nathaniel Ojima Sunday from another mother, Abru John a friend in academic struggle, Ogar Patrick, my fellow pen pusher in the battle of creating our world through journalism, poetry and constructive criticism. Ntor Ebuta, a friend with whom I need no enemy, Ralph, Naomi, Mbora, Lola, Adie, Ene Bassey, Alice, Joyful, Arit, Grace and among others.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TITLE PAGE ——————————————————————
TABLE OF CONTENT———————————————————————————-vi
1.2 DEFINITION OF TERMS————————————————————————6
1.2.3 OFFICIAL COMPLICITY————————————————————————–11
1.4 SCOPE OF STUDY————————————————————————————–11
1.5 BIO DATA OF THE AUTHORS——————————————————————–13
1.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK————————————————————————–14
2.1 REVIEW OF RELATED SCHOLARSHIP—————————————————————18
3.1 EXPLOITATION IN TANURE OJAIDE’S GREAT BOYS: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD————————-36
3.2 OFFICIAL COMPLICITY IN KEN SARO-WIWA’S A MONTH AND A DAY: A DETENTION DIARY————————————-42
3.2.1 VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS————————————————————————————-42
3.2.2 POOR INFRASTRUCTURE—————————————————————————————————–
3.2.4 POLITICS OF DISPOSSITION———————————————————————————————-
4.1 COMPRATIVE ANALYSIS——————————————————————————————————
4.2 CONCLUSION AND SUMMARY ——————————————————————————————-
The thrust of this study is hinged on the theme of exploitation and official complicity in the autobiographies of Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary and Tanure Ojaide’s Great Boys: An African Childhood. The study reveals the excruciating pain the people of Niger Delta had to undergo as a result of the discovery of oil in their land since 1956 to present. This study also examines the dimension of exploitation and official complicity of the Nigerian government and its ally, the Multi Nationals as perpetuated against the people of the Niger Delta region and the revolutionary impulse of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Tanure Ojaide in their attempt to question and upturn strongly entrenched status-quo in Nigerian political economy. This study examines the daunting effect of oil exploration activities, its new creation in the Niger Delta environment and on the existence of the people. We state that the two autobiographies address the theme of exploitation and official complicity, deforestation, human rights violation, poor infrastructure, unemployment, politics of dispassion among other that are the core of this study. Hence, the adoption of Marxist criticism as a theoretical frame works for the explication of the two autobiographies. We conclude that the only solution to the problem of Niger Delta is comprehensive investment in infrastructure and human capital development, the cleaning of the land affected by oil spillage in Niger Delta region and the Oil Companies should operate with safety measures.
The discovery of Oil in commercial quantity in Oloibiri on January 15,1956 in the Niger Delta of Nigeria-placed Nigeria among the rank of Oil producing countries in 1958. The above vibrant economic discovery in Niger Delta necessitated a momentous means of revenue generation for the Nigerian Government. The activities of the multi-nationals as well as the exploitative trends of economic consideration and environmental degradation have peopled crisis, tensions and varied flow of responses as a result of exploitation and official complicity that now dominated the literature of the Niger Delta. Darah(2011) posit that;
…the nations and peoples of the Niger Delta have been engaged
In another war, a war of verbal weapons to emancipate their territory
And natural resources from the avaricious grip of the federal
Government and its international allies.(3)
To the Niger delta, this verbal war is also carried through and experienced in the literary lines as major actors interrogates and explicates its excruciating pains he feels in his mind. In his attempt to portray the temperament of Niger Delta writers, Nwahunanya(2011) opine that;
From those we refer to as the pioneers or patriarchs of Niger Delta
Literature, we notice abinitio a dominant concern for the plight of
Men and the environment in the region. The literary responses
Were indeed aimed at highlighting the socio-economic, political,
Environment and other problem that have affected the human
Population and the flora and fauna in the region.(xiv)
The principal theme in Ken Saro-Wiwa A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary and Tenure Ojaide’s Great Boys: An African Childhood corroborates the ideology in Nwahunanya’s above assertion. The centrality of this theme to Niger Delta literary piece from that region cannot be over emphasized. As observed by Ikpe(2011),”Successive governments of Nigeria have exploited the resources of this region with reckless abandon”1. This exploitation and reckless abandon have stirred the creative impulses of creative ingenuity of writers within and outside the region.
The virtual destruction of the environment and its attendant effects on all facets of the peoples ways of life have created an increasing feeling of insecurity, estrangement from their means of substance and official complicity are all reflected in this essay and mediated upon the theme of exploitation and official complicity in the works of Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary and Tanure Ojaide Great Boys: An African Childhood.
The Niger Delta sensibility has been sharpened by socio economic exploitation and official complicity. In their responses in literature and the pattern of the peoples life style has been restructured by the changes of socio conditions of the land. There is this tone of severity and submission occasioned by circumstances which now reflects in their literature. Nwahunanya posits that;
As the land bleed oil, so the people tears in their abject poverty
And real blood as they fall under the constant assault of government
Agents dent to silence their protests. The writers have through
Creative literature increased their pressures on sensitive minds in their
Calls for a dispassionate reconsideration of the environmental and
Human rights issues which have repeatedly constituted their thematic focus.(xvi)
The cardinal theme in A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary is the issue of environmental pollution and deforestation as a result of Oil spillage and the complacent of the Nigerian government that benefits solely from the proceeds of the petroleum. Ken Saro Wiwa(1995), asserts that;
Today, the Ogoni people are involved in two grim wars. The first is the
35 year old ecological war waged by the multinational oil companies,
Shell and Chevron. In this most sophisticated and unconventional war,
No bones are broken, no blood is spilled and no one is maimed. Yet,
Man, woman and children die; flora and fauna perish, the air and
Water are poisoned and finally, the land die. The second war is a
Tyranny, oppression and greed designed to disposes the Ogoni people
Of their wealth and subject them to abject poverty, slavery,
Dehumanization and extinction.(148)
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: Detention Diary term to interrogate and awaken the consciousness of the people from these unilateral wars against them as prosecuted by the Nigerian government and multinationals. Ken Saro-Wiwa’s autobiography aims at the deconstructing the exploitative constructed society and to stir up the psyche of the people to defend themselves thereby defending the land.
A cardinal theme in Tenure Ojaide’s Great Boys: An Africa Childhood is passion for the environment, for his early childhoods which portrays his peoples’ agricultural experiences that is now destroyed by multinationals. He says:
Every day’s need was provided by the creeks and streams. Nobody fretted over food there was always fish or bush meat for whenever you wanted to cook or eat. Many times I roasted fish or meat to accompany roasted yam and plantain, which the oil was delicious and I kept them in my mouth for long to relish the savor. (70-71)
The author’s overwhelming passion for his environment, for an anchorage, streams from the chaos created by multinationals in his environs. Because of Ojaide’s concern for a connection, for accommodation, he portrays a typical Niger Delta region when the land was at “peace”.
To the Niger Deltan, land is a major factor in his development and molding of his mind. The existence and survival of the Deltan are intimately woven around the turbulent reality of oil spillage and destruction of the environment. The Niger Delta sensibility has been sharpened by socio economic exploitation and official complicity in their responses in literature and the pattern of the people’s life style has been restructured due to the changes of the social conditions of the land. There is the tone of severity and submission occasioned by circumstances in the land that the people have no option but to reflect it in their literature.
Niger Delta is not developed despite billions and trillions of petroleum Dollars. A place is said to be developed when it attain the height of political, educational and economic advancement. Walter Rodney(1910) sees development as;
A society develops economically as its members increase jointly their capacity for dealing with the environment. This capacity… is dependent on the extent to which they understand the laws of nature (science), on the extent to which they put that understanding into practice by devising tools (technology), and on the manner in which work is organized (10).
The region cannot deal with environmental issues because, it is capitally intensive. It can’t help the situation because the multinational and the Nigerian Government have “vowed” to continue oil exploration activities with total disregard for environmental safety measures. The multinationals and Nigeria Government have made it difficult for the people to attain freedom as a result of what Bassey(2011) refers to as “domestic colonialism” and the virtual destruction of the environment. It is therefore pertinent that the literature of Niger Delta protest and captures these crises and dilemma of oil producing region as the government and multinationals refused to clean up the population reeking the environ. For the writers are partakers of the collective brutalization of the people of the region, A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary and Great Boys: An African Childhood gives insight to the problem of the people and to stir them to conscious action.
1.2 Definition of Terms
Autobiography; according to Onwugbuche(2006) “…an autobiography is an account of one’s own life. It is a form of biography in which the subject is the author…autobiography is seen as a deliberate literary product “(16).
From the foregoing, it is necessary to assert that autobiography contains the life and time of the writer which we might consider important and highly influential to the emergence of his achievement. This is so, in the sense that it is “a deliberate literary product”16 and the said output of the “product” must have a utility value to the consuming literary readers. He further asserts that;
…it is important to recognize that the deliberate or conscious
effort is fuelled by certain motives. This may be confessional
in which the driving force behind it is the need to unburden
one’s self of a feeling of guilt (16).
I do not wholehearted agree with the above, in the sense that; not all unburdening is tilted toward the purgation of guilty heart but “certain motives” in the society which termed to hold the writer and his society captive from psychological, economical and political dimensions which are the meta element of freedom. Leslie Stephen corroborates the above when she says;
The true autobiography is written by one who feels an
irresistible longing for confidential expression; one who
is forced by his innate constitution to un-bosom himself
to the public of the kind of matter generally for our closet
From the above explication, I can say that autobiography like must literary piece in the world is a speaking art that shades light on issues that are personal to the autobiographer and contains a liberating light to the society and posterity that comes in contact to it. Autobiography is a form of interrogative literary piece; it is in most cases a response to the society in which it strives, as the writer tries to justify and indict certain elements and actions of the masses and the leaders thereby leading to the purgation of content cork mind of the artist and the igniting the desire for change.
Finally, the beauty of autobiography is not necessary the total capturing of the day to day experiences of the author but the capturing of the exceptional experiences of the author and the portrayal of the said experiences to the enlightenment and liberation of man on his struggle in life as can be seen on the autobiography of Chukuma C. Ibezute’s Rediscovering my mission, The autobiography of martin, Luther King JR, The story of my experiment with the truth: An autobiography of mahatmak Gandhi ad Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary.
“Successive government of Nigeria have exploited the resources
of this region with reckless abandon”(1)
The above poser shows how successful the successive Nigerian governments have exploited the resource of the people of the region without any regard to them. The recklessness in Nigerian’s government is the use of the people’s resource to their own detriment, the destruction of the people’s life as well as their environment. Various scholars have identified exploitation within the premise of economic exploitation; likewise I can say that economic exploitation of the Niger Delta is carried through under the supervision of the Nigerian Government.
1.2.2 Official Complicity
The core of the term Official Complicity is hinged on the concept of the awareness of certain person in the position of authority about certain action that can be detrimental to those he or she is assigned to watch over but turn a blind eye to the said Official responsibility as a result of complacent or inducement. As critically observed by Onyema (2011)
The unethical practice of the multinational oil companies,
destructive flares of (s) hell fire, and the complicity
of the Nigerian government, become snatches of discourse
presented as vignettes of experiences that occur and recur
in this gory tale of crude doom in an oil boom era(198).
Furthermore, the Nigerian government is complicit in the crime of degradation of Niger Delta because she is aware of its occurrence and has the ability to stop the crime but fails to do so because of its economic benefits to her and its allied brothers the multinationals. As such, the Nigerian Government allows the Multinationals to carry out environmental war against the people of Niger Delta despite her ability to stop it. Chinaka (2011) explicates further;
From the war through the several military dictatorship
government, the Niger Delta has become one of the most
militarized region in Nigeria. Some of the few exposed
exposed examples include the military raiding of the
Umuechem community in 1990 with a score of casualties,
The popular Ogoni crisis which occurred between 1993
and 199, the military devastation of Odi community in 1999,
the ravaging of Odioma and Ugborodo communities etc…the
tensions and death tolls increase daily especially as other
communities like Iwerekhan community who tolled the path
way of peaceful and legal approach have only ended up with
The Nigerian government militarized the Niger Delta to provide enabling environment for the further destruction of the environs, and as a punishment against the people for their perceived wrong in protest against exploitation. The Nigerian Government through its legislation and series of decrees, like the petroleum decree of 1969, land use decree of 1978 among other is all tilted toward the dispossessing of the people of their divine right to the benefits of their inherited lands and it resources. Ikpe(2011) corroborate my assertion when he argues that;
…The federal Government views every protest by the Niger
Delta, whether peaceful or violent as criminal and must be
Thus, one can portray the Nigerian Government with all amount of certitude as a de-facto accessory to the crime of the destruction of the environment in Niger Delta. The Nigerian Government through its action has moved from just being a complicit in the crime against the region to a conspirator.
1.3 Scope of study
This study shall be limited to the autobiographies of Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary and Tenure Ojaide’s Great Boys: AnAfrican Childhood. The consideration of these works is because the writers were able to raise significant issues of national importance with the main purpose of calling on the people that are concern about this issue to profer solutions to the plights of the masses. We have decided to limit this discourse within this scope because; the themes of exploitation and official complicity are the bean of the peoples’ plights.
1.4 Background of the Authors
Background of Ken Saro-Wiwa
Ken Saro-Wiwa born in 1941 at Bori, River State, the son of Jim Beeson Wiwa, a business and community chief and a farmer. He was brought up in a large, supportive family with strong tribal links. He was educated at government college, Umuahia and on completion obtained scholarship to study English at the University of Ibadan. In the mid 1960’s he became a graduate assistant at the University of Nigeria and then an assistance lecturer at the University of Lagos. However, He soon took up a government post as the civilian administrator for city of Bonny in the Niger Delta, and during the Nigeria Civil War he was strong supporter of the federal cause against the Biafrans. In the early 1970s Saro Wiwa served as the Regional Commissioner for Education in the River state Cabinet, but was dismissed in 1975 because of his support for Ogoni autonomy. In the late 1970s, he established a number of successful business venture in retail estate and during the 1980s concentrated primarily on his writing, journalism and television production. His intellectual work was interrupted in 1987 when he re-entered the political scene, appointed by the newly installed dictator Ibrahim Babangida but Saro Wiwa’s soon resigned because he felt Babangida’s supposed plans for a return to democracy were disingenuous.
He is the author of Prisoners of Jabs, A Forest of flowers, Sozaboy: A novel written in Rotten English, and A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary among others. From 1990 his writing was slowed down by his role as president of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), and he embarked on a campaign to bring their plight to the attention of the world. In 1993, after the election Day disturbances, Saro Wiwa was imprisoned for a month and a day. In May 1994, four Ogoni leaders were killed suspected of collaborating – the military authorities arrested and charge him for murder on second November 1995 Ken Saro Wiwa was sentenced to death. Eight days later he was executed at Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
1.4.1 Background of Tanure Ojaide
Tenure Ojaide was born in Oil rich but economically impoverished Niger Delta area of Nigeria, Tanure Ojaide was raised by his grandmother in a riverine rural environment. He attended a Catholic Grammar School and Federal Government College, Warri. Ojaide was educated at the University of Ibadan, where he received a bachelor’s degree in English, and Syracuse University, where he received both M.A. in creative writing and Ph.D in English
A fellow in writing of the University of Iowa, his poetry awards include the Commonwealth Poetry Prize for the Africa Region (198), the All African Okigbo Prize for Poetry (1988,1997), the BBC Arts and Africa Poetry Award(1988) and the Association of Nigerian Authors Poetry Award(1988,1994,2003, and 2011). Ojaide taught for many years at the University of Maiduguri and currently the Frank Porter Graham Distinguished Professor of Africana Studies University of North Carolina at Charlotte, where he teaches African/ Pan-African literature and arts.
He received a National Endowment for Humanities fellowship for 1999/2000 academic year to collect and study the “Udje Dance Songs of Nigeria’s Urhobo People.” With a Fulbright Fellowship, he taught at the University of Maiduguri and Delta University, Abraka, in the 2002/2003 academic year. He has read from his poetry in Britain, Canada, France, Ghana, Israel, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Spain, the Netherland, the United States, and South Africa, Botswana, Cameroon, and to Nigeria to discuss his writing. The second international Ojaide conference was held in July 2008 also at Delta State University, Abraka. He represented Nigeria in Poetry Africa 2005 at the University of Kwazulu Natal, Durban, South Africa (October 10-16,200). Tenure Ojaide was the 2005 recipient of the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s First Citizen Bank Scholar Award for his creative writing and Scholarship. His poetry, a blend of oral tradition and modern techniques, has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, French, and Spanish. He had published many works which includes; Waiting for the Hatching of a Cockerel, The Tale of the Harmattan, Great Boys: An African Childhood, The Activist, The Blood of Peace etc.
1.5 Theoretical Framework
The theory we have adopted for this discourse is Marxism, Marxism originated from the Communist Manifesto by Marx, Engels and Lenin. Communism doctrine is predicated on an ideal society in which everything is equally shared. Marxism is a movement that is founded upon the ideology of the emancipation of the working class, subduing all forms of domination by the bourgeoisies.
While Marxism stands for the destruction of the capitalist state and has as its aim in the withering away of the state all forms of institutionalized violence, Marxist not only support the right of the working class to exercise a domination over bourgeoisie, they actively fight for that.
The society from which an artist metaphors always in most cases informs the issues He writes about. It is a valid truth that literature is not created in the vacuum as it mediates on social political issues that the artist grapples with in his existence. Charles Bressler gives vents to the above when he says that;
… society shapes our consciousness; that social and economic conditions directly influences how what we believe and values and that Marxism offers us an opportunity and a plan for changing the world from a play of bigotry, hatred and conflict resulting from class struggle to classless society, where wealth, opportunity and education are actually accessible for all people (115).
Tanure Ojaide and Ken Saro-Wiwa find themselves in a society that is characterized by a distinctive social stratification, featuring the oppressed and the oppressor. Both Ken Saro-Wiwa and Tanure Ojaide calls for a non violent revolution that will over throw the bourgeoisie class that is represented by the Nigerian Government and the multinationals. They therefore adopt the Marxist ideology, Nwahunanya(2011)emits that;
Creative works of literature are product of the society’s libido.
The psychological approach may illuminate the create process,
but the goings-on in the psyche itself are not central as such to
literature since they are only preparatory to the act of creation
and psychological truths become artistic values only if
they enhance coherence and complexity in a work. (36)
The reason for the foregoing is that the writer is an active participant of his society and by extension recreates the collective experience of the people. The African experience thus transcends the concept of “Arts for Arts sake” theory but performs a function in the society in which it thrives and emerging into a moralistic light in questioning of societal practices.
A non-violent revolution is a revolution using mostly campaigns of civil resistance, non violent-protest to bring about the departure of government seen as tyrannical. This concept of non-violence is seen in Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: A Detention Diaryand Tanure Ojaide’s Great Boys: AnAfrican Childhood, these autobiographies portrays disillusionment and exploitation that constitute the social realities of majority of the Niger Delta region. The authors succinctly display their contempt for the agents of exploitation and degradation of the environment. While Ken Saro-Wiwa’s approach was peaceful protest and non violent direct confrontation with the forces of exploitation and a clarion call for resource control by the people. Tanure Ojaide’s approach was a subtle presentation of how the comings of multinational have set in doom in the Niger Delta region and to awaken the people to the past “glories” of the region and its environment.
Although the historical canon of the world is replicated with instance of revolution which varied in terms of the method and motivations but the end product in most cases have always being the change in the socio political and economic construct of the society.
2.1 REVIEW OF RELATED SCHOLARSHIP
The Nigerian government and multinationals have paid lip commitment to the environmental problem of the Niger Delta in recent past. Their inability to put faith in their stated commitment has necessitates responses of varied degree. It is the same drive for environmental justice and the need for the freedom of the people from the captivity of oil exploration and exploitation that have necessitated the use of protest in literature and the revolutionary arm struggle in Niger Delta. In as much as peace and solution to contemporary problems is not achieve through the use and sound of the guns and bombs of the military and dissent group encounter, we will focus our study on the use of revolutionary aesthetics in literary lines and non violent protest as a catalyst for heightened interrogation of the perceived exploited people of the Niger Delta. The sound of protest in Niger Delta has lasted as long as Sarah’s barrenness that the people have no option but to be complacent of their problem. Therefore, Just as Sarah takes her problem to God, the likes of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Tanure Ojaide, J.P. Clark among others have elected themselves through their creativity to take the problem of the Niger Delta to the self appointed “God” and “gods” of the Nigeria and the Niger Delta through dialogue which most times have been just a sounding crash of cymbals, and the elected eyes of the region have no option but to protest their neglect in literary lines and in the physical as it is identified with Ken Saro Wiwa. Chinaka (2011) affirms the above when he emits that;
Failure to discover any other means of pressurizing the
Government in finding lasting solution to the needs of
and aspirations of the people, revolutionary violence
has fast and popularly become a handy tool for the
oppressed to gain attention for negotiation with the
oppressor in order to seek redress(35).
The reason for the above poser is that, revolutionary aesthetic is a response to socio economic stratification. It is enshrined in the organic relationship between the socio political and socio economic ideology of the literary component of the society. It initiates ideological revolution against the capitalist system and socio political ethos through the literary and physical lens of non violent protest and the x-raying of the people’s plights in a subtle indictment of forces of exploitation.
The basic method of revolutionary aesthetics is articulated in the works of Ken Saro-Wiwa and Tanure Ojaide. Their concern was on mechanics of exploitation of the capitalist system which is the replica of Nigerian Government and Multinationals. This form the basis of the assessment of the A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary and Great Boys An: African Childhood. As Nwahunanya (2011) affirms that;
…literature of the Niger Delta is encased in a tone of lament
or morning. It is a literature that deploys the emotion of tears
to elicit sympathy and empathy for the human condition in an
identifiable human location; and it draws attention of men and
women of conscience to the plight of the exploited, the oppressed
and the subjugated, marooned as it were in their natural habitat.
This literature solicits positive interventions that would erase or
at least alleviate the sufferings occasioned by hunger, disease and
Ken Saro-Wiwa is concerned with the mind withering exploitation of the people of Niger Delta that he adopts a radical non violent response and activism to the decadence of economic stratification of Nigeria environ. In A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary. He interrogates the Nigerian society that has “vowed” to continue oil exploration actives in the region and to deprive the people of their legitimate right to the benefit from the resource that have cursed their existence. Ken Saro Wiwa attacks the gory conspiracy of the Nigerian government and multinationals as he stages protest in the Niger Delta, including traveling to international communities to appeal to men and women of conscience to save Ogoni people of what he called “slow genocide”. Nwahunanya (2011) asserts that;
Protest Literature arise in societies where there are anomalies in the
Political and economic structures put in place by the ruling to drive
Their dominant ideology. In Niger Delta, as in other part of the world
Protest is employed to draw attention to the anomalies that must be
be addressed if society must function without stress(38).
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary has it focus on Niger Delta people in Nigeria. The Autobiography which portrays the reversed dream and frustration of the people of that region has continue to stir critical reactions still date due to the visible gloom that is generated by continuous successive neglect even from the government of the state. Onyerionwu and Onukaogu (2011) corroborated above when they posits that;
…Ken Saro-Wiwa, poet, novelist, short story writer and television
dramatist. Much of this writing achieved a reputation for both
committed national and considerable environmental sensibility(55).
It is this “committed national and considerable environmental sensibility” that have cut short the existence of Ken Saro-Wiwa as a result of his flea to dare even the government. Commenting on genre of interrogated piece, Oriaku emits that.
As ‘a detention (prison) diary A month and a day becomes in
the tradition of protest literature. Underlining the protest motif
are the narrator-protagonist’s assertion of his innocence and, its
corollary, his highlighting of his victimhood. The controlling image
is that of inequality and injustice in the (Nigerian)society(231).
From the above, we can favourably assert that Ken Saro-Wiwa brought a new dimension to protest literature in Nigeria by his willingness to engage the perpetrators of evil physically through series of non violent protest and to keep a written document as un-exorcise spirits of response to exploitation and to show that his people were exploited and as they are continuously being exploited today. Ken Saro-Wiwa is a visionary martyred whose spilled blood has generated both peaceful and violent responses to the issue of Niger Delta. Commenting on Ken’s motivation Okome(2000) asserts;
Ken Saro Wiwa’s case has been a long running battle with Nigeria
The “long battle” is the same one that claimed his life because of Wiwa’s refusal to be silenced by Nigerian government and multinational but which they did in death. Okome(2000) corroborates the above when he asserts that;
…What Ken Saro Wiwa did to this movement to save his people
from the huge degradation of life and property was to break the
the extreme corrupt local chief who represented the suffering
people in their dealings with the federal government over oil
The above shows that Ken Saro-Wiwa contend with the new form of trinity in the Nigerian society, and this is a great battle to save the soul of Niger Delta from the ravaging madness of oil exploration that have deft the solution of modern tablet of silence. The best solution is a peaceful engagement of all “forces” in and out of the region. Okome continues;
…the Anglo-Dutch oil company that operated in the Niger Delta,
Felt secure with government promises to keep the area safe of
The viable process of keeping the area safe is to kill Ken Saro Wiwa as their action proof true in this case. He has to die because of the symbiotic relationship between Ken and the environment. Okome (2000) corroborated the above when he emits that;
Ken Saro-Wiwa has been part of the growth of the Niger Delta, its
ancient and glorious history and culture, and now its gradual but
persistent economic and environmental nose-dive from the 1960s
It is this “part” which has being the core of his existence that motivates his resolve to speak against administrative exploitative construct of the Nigerian society. He is fully aware that the environment and its resource is part of the fragmented whole of his existence. Okome affirms further;
If Saro Wiwa’s literary works generated so much debate here
in Nigeria, his political ideas about the Nigerian federation
was even more controversial, his book on the Nigerian civil
war(On A Darkling Plain an account of The Nigeria civil War),
carefully conceived around the minority/majority problem
of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, aroused heated hate-debate,
especially among members of the three largest Nigerian
ethnic groups. Ken Saro –Wiwa insisted and maintained
that a multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation such as Nigeria
must respect the rights of minorities, especially in the
matters dealing with the distribution of wealth(xi-xii).
From the above postulation, we can argue that A Month and A Day has stand up in great debate for the people of Niger Delta to benefit from the resource that have conditioned their existence. In commenting on the achievement of Ken Saro-Wiwa, Okome(2000) observes;
Ken Saro-Wiwa was controversial in life, and continues to be so in
Death…his name and idea have now stood firm in the stream of
debates issuing from Nigerian politics(xii).
Yes! The concept of truth cannot be affected by time except such issue is address then there will now be re-modification of the concept that led to the debate. The said debate in Niger Delta can be averted only if their problems are holistically addressed. Okome continues;
Ken Saro-Wiwa was a man who was a man was conscious of his
role in his community and in the larger political configuration
This consciousness is carried through in his literary line and in particular A Month and A Day. Oha(2000) observes;
… The song is a cry from the depths of being, a psalm(8).
It is necessary to add that; the totality of A Month and A Day is a cry from a being who have being oppressed by the forces he contend with to free his people. “Cry” therefore, becomes a tool for liberation of the oppressed people of the Niger Delta when it is found in sincerity and in literary line. Cry in literary lines, cries into eternity in a society that refused to addressed issues raised by it. The above can also account for the physical realities of responses emanating from the region as a result of successive failure of the Nigerian system to address the cause of the cries in Niger Delta. Ojeke(2000) observes;
His notion of literature is such that its production and consumption
Are of practical necessity for the healing that such effort and
Knowledge could bring to society (28).
It will suffice to say that literary healing is that of psychological and spiritual conditioning of the mind in the part of change for good. This-is for those who avail themselves of the sincerity and purifying influence of truth in literary lines. However; the reverse is the case in Nigerian society as a result of leaders reading phobia and the covetous hearts of many ethnic jingoists to continue eating the fruits of guilt and their fear of the enormity of repentance and its concept of restitution. The Nigerian government and its allied prefer to continue in their part of “righteousness” rather than accept the artist postulation even when it is encased in the core of truth. Consequently; A Month and a Day becomes a sword of two edges, a sword to smith injustice in Niger Delta and to spite the conglomerate of exploitation. Ejeke (2000) affirms that;
Little wonder then that he did not restrict himself merely to writing
vitriolic criticisms of the Nigerian socio political and economic
situation but active become involved in the attempt to rectify some
of those ills…He violently protested the economic, social, political
and environmental degradation encourage and perpetuated by the
federal Government of Nigeria and the oil prospecting and exploring
We cannot whole hearted accept the above, in the sense that it looks like a religious half truth, we are moved to ask; if outspokenness against ones exploitation in a society of exploiters is more than the exploited is a form of “violent protest” as postulated by Ejeke. We stand to be corrected, or the art of valid truth or truth saying and carrying of green leaves to call for administrative attention constitute violent protest. Therefore; it becomes necessary we state for the interest of posterity that violence was directed against the novelist rather than what Ejeke by his submission wants us to belief. Ejeke unknowingly tilted to the above submission when he emits that;
He succinctly declared that the major task before Nigerian is the
eradication of “the politics of evil, of force and violence, deceit, of
corruption and greed, of banditry masking as patriotism which has
reduced our people to penury and beggardom, and institutionalized
theft and brazen incompetence.”
He, whom Ejeke refers to Ken Saro Wiwa, said the above, consequently we can say that Ejeke’s imputation of “violent protest” might be consider as a miss-type from his inking heart. We can assume to understand Ejeke’s conception of violent protest when he states that;
His crusade against corruption and victimization of people by
government turned him into an enemy of the state and a section
of the people were adversely affected by his critical and satiric
plays and novels, essays/articles and poems (21).
Well we can say that Ejeke’s postulation of “violent protest” is the effect of Ken’s works has on the reputation and psychology of the oppressor of his people. Ejeke continues;
Through his effort, the Ogoni people became the best organized
and articulated minority group pressing for the environmental,
social, economic and political rights, thus becoming the crusaders
in the politics of minority groups in Nigeria and perhaps in all of
The blood of Ken Saro-Wiwa has stirred up various responses on the issue of Niger Delta. Ejeke affirms the above when he opines that;
Ken Saro-Wiwa fought and died for his convictions-unjustly. He had
the interest of the interest of the oil-producing communities and
particularly that of the Ogoni people at heart in his struggle against
an unjust, illegitimate, and highly repressive politically dictatorial
system…though he is dead today, Ken Saro Wiwa’s question loom
large over the nation(23).
His conviction therefore, is the emphasis that the people of Niger Delta benefits from their land. Though Ken is late, the issue of minority is still seen as early as a newly conceived postulation. Commenting on Saro’s achievement, Garuba affirms;
In his various speeches, writing, and other activities, Ken Saro Wiwa
had sought to draw discursive attention to the realities of the slow
genocide of the Ogoni people and the degradation of their
environment because he recognized the fact that the inability of the
Ogoni people to represent themselves had made their situation more
tragic and their circumstances more despondent. His mission, there
fore, was to give voice to a silenced, marginalized minority who were
not only being physically decimated as a people but who had also
been representationally erased from national and international
Yes! Ken Saro-Wiwa is the eye of the Ogoni, like Edogo(55) was to be the eye of Ezeulu in Arrow of God but unlike Edogo, Ken Saro Wiwa didn’t join the exploiters of his people and the new exploitative Nigerian “religion” of oil exploration and exploitation. He stands firm as the voice and the eyes of his people. He never joined the internal colonializers to exploit his people. Garuba continues;
The primary significance of Ken Saro Wiwa’s writings and his
various activities on behalf of the Ogoni people, in this regard,
has been to re-inscribe the concrete and historical into the linguistic
world of floating signifier and the culturalist mire into which minority
discourses appear to be sinking for Ken believed son much in the
materiality of discourse that he seemed to have lived his life, in his
last days, just to prove that point. He believed that his last days,
just to prove that point. He believed that his ability to take
literature into the streets or, put differently, to take street in to
literature, was his ultimate triumph against those who to silence
We can convincingly state that the reason why Ken Saro Wiwa takes literature into the street is to meet with the Nigerian leaders who doubt the place of creative power of literature in national discourse. By his action, he has altruistically engaged the consciousness of all concern about the plights of his people. Although he paid with his life, the street that he took into literature still drums his conviction to posterity. Iloeje (2000) came down hard on Ken Saro Wiwa when he affirms that;
Saro-Wiwa speaks affectionately (115) of “Ogoni Oil”. But he
refrains from speaking of coal discovered in Enugu early in the
century in such corresponding ethnic possessive terms. If there
was Ogoni Oil, would there not be Igbo coal? Yet, Enugu and her
coal played a major role in initiating the interdependence ethnic
socializing in Eastern Nigeria long before oil was struck in Ogoni
land or anywhere else in Niger Delta(116).
What Iloeje failed to note is that Enugu coal is not as dislodging as the oil in Niger Delta. And that people becomes emotional personal and possessive when such thing threatens their existence. Enugu coal is not and was not a threat to the sustenance of the Igbo living in that region like the way oil exploration activities is to the people of Niger Delta. It is worthy of note that Iloeje would have become possessive if the coal in Enugu has dislodged his people from their ancestral land and threatens the sanity of their humanity. Iloeje affirms further;
He was alien to the dream which Biafra became to such people
And also to their tenacious clinging to that dream and its promise
Of security and the pursuit of happiness.(118).
From the above, we can see that Iloeje’s coming down on Ken is motivated by his belief in the Igbo course of 196os which Ken saro Wiwa is averse to. Iloeje and ken are people who were angered hurt by the treatment mated out against their people in the Nigerian society by the Nigerian government and its ally, from whatever side of the coin we decide to examine the ethnic issue. We shouldn’t be surprise if ken soundeds the way he did, likewise the same submission is applicable in the case of Iloeje.
Chronicling the achievement of Ken Saro Wiwa and our explication, Ojaide (2012) affirms that;
Whether we like it or not, Saro-Wiwa’s writing and activism
helped in the establishment of the NDDC(Niger Delta Develop
ment commission) (31).
From the forgoing we can see that the fossils of Saro’s past action are an illuminator toward the solving of the problem in the Niger Delta.
The contribution of Tanure Ojaide to the portrayal of battered and bitter existence of the people of Niger Delta as a result of oil exploration and exploitation has also received critical attention, in the sense that most of his works contains element of chastisement of the activities of Multinational and Nigerian government in their oil exploration of hate. Darah(2011) corroborated the above when he posits that;
The poetry of Tanure Ojaide…fits into the tradition of outrage
against political injustice, exploitation and environmental disaster
…is the most prolific in the Niger Delta (13).
Darah is concerned with the temperament of Tanure Ojaide, although in poetic lines, but the same can also be adduced to his autobiographical composition, in the sense that it portrays the retrogression of peace in the environment of Niger Delta and the absolute decay of the environment by the unholy romance of multinationals. Onukaogu(2011) affirms that;
Ojaide has grown to become probably the most committed
and consistent literary activist of the Niger Delta crisis subject
…Ojaide’s reputation as a leading Niger Delta writer has been
well established. Ojaide, in his status as one of the international
public faces of the Niger Delta, has been both lachrymal and
revolutionary. Both patterns of addressing the desperate issues
of the Niger Delta from a literary perspective runs through his
poetry, and indeed, the entirety of his literature(56).
This commitment is tilted toward interrogation and awaking of the consciousness of his people from the weighty burden that the resource in their land have entrusted to them. Conclusively, we can say that the protest literature in Niger Delta have taken two dimensions which it includes protest in literary line without physical activism and literary protest in consonant with physical non violent protest. Responding to Henry Abukuburo’s question, Ojaide(2012) affirms that;
[Akuburo asked], your subsequent collection labyrinth of the Delta
marked the beginning of your pre-occupation with Niger poetics;
why has it remained a literary fascination?
[Ojaide answers], Once you born in that part of Nigeria and experience
What is going on, you are bound to do something. The writer is like a
Chronicle-he is chronicling the experiences of his people…you will see
Those things in my poems as well as the coming of shell and how the
Oil exploration was affecting places. I was trying to respond to how
Those things were affecting our people. I think, as the environment
Was changing, it made me try to relate what I was experienced, as a
Child and what I was experiencing then (in my twenties and thirties)
We can favourably posit that almost all Ojaide’s literary creativity is responses to the Nigerian society that has scruffy the existence of his people. He continues;
As a write, you use what you are familiar with, materials that are close
to you. We live in the Niger Delta….(30)
The above is true in the sense that as sociology of literature help us to understand that literature is a mirror of the society but not altruistic mirroring due to the factor of time and psychological variables. However, we can aver that Ojaide’s postulation and his work Great Boys; An African Childhood mirrors beyond what is happening in Niger Delta but not too close to the physical realities of the great damage and carnage the people are experiencing as a result of lack of environmental safety measures of the oil exploring companies and the potency of oil to destroy the land.
The likes of Inyabri, Abru among others are of the view that Tenure Ojaide’s Great boys: An African Childhood and Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: A Detention cannot pass for an autobiography because, to them it is not the total record of their existence as the name autobiography potent. To those who belong to this said school of thought, these are my humble submission;
That Tanure Ojaide’s Great Boys: Am African Childhood is an autobiography in the sense that it portrays the most interesting aspect of Tenure’s existence which has influenced his literary creativity and one of the dominant achievements of his as a human. Great Boys: An African Childhood portrays the lost glory of Niger Delta and the author’s growth to maturational amidst the flora and fauna of the environment.
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s A Month and A Day: Detention Diary is an autobiography although some scholars have argued that the writer has favourbly called his work a diary and ask what right do I have to call it an autobiography. These are my submission; that readers in the twenty first century, no matter how their read a literary work in modern or traditional way, they have a pattern right to response positively or negatively different from authorial intension. Consequently, it is necessary I state that my intension is not negatively directed against the interrogated literary piece for as I once commented in the interview of “campus light” of October (2012)
“That the critic is an impetus to a near perfection of literary work of Art (5) “
It is this issue of “near perfection” that I seek in A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary by means of a re-interrogation of popularly held view, due to my contact with the text. My humble submission is that; A month and A Day: A Detention Diary captures the author’s confrontation with the forces of exploitation in Niger Delta. Although Ken Saro-Wiwa has written On a darkling plain. An account of his personal experience in Nigerian Civil war, still A Month and A Day: A Detention Diary can pass for an autobiography because it is the detail of his past life and among the fragmented whole of his existence. Finally; the battle of nomenclature is not necessary in the sense that most literary composition is a literary social political variance in the physical realm that might have an emotive effective of on the composer and thereby enshrining the issue of self which plays out in the carriers of the action and imbuing iota of autobiography.
3.1 EXPLOITATION IN TANURE OJAIDE’S GREAT BOYS: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD
The discovery of oil and its exploration in Niger Delta has led to various levels of environmental pollution such as destruction of aquatic lives, deforestation, noise pollution and aridity of land among others. The above will be explicated jointly and examined under the header of deforestation.
Deforestation: The Great Boys: An African Childhood is a revolutionary piece to the youths and adults from other region. The autobiography evokes with subtle portrayal of the consequences of the activities of oil exploration activities of Multi Nationals in the Niger Delta region. It portrays the various effects of oil exploration activities in the region as will be examined under the literary text under interrogation. Tanure Ojaide through the telling of his childhood experiences retold the story of his people. The interrogation of the text reveals that the coming of Shell in October 1958 was more or less the dawn of deforestation. Tanure Ojaide (1998) corroborated the above when he avers that:
Sometime after the rains in 1958, about late October, Shell-BP
came. A lot of people, from cities, came to our area. They came
wearing helmets, in pickups jeep….they tore through forests,
through rubber plantations, through farmlands and through
creeks, cutting paths….The opposite direction cleared into
the bush to make way for the other(Great Boys: An African
The deforestation of the Niger Delta environment represented at the start of oil exploration activities in 1958 was more than a military invasion that touched on all aspects of the people’s existence. The “tore through (126)” according to Ojaide was a comprehensive one in the sense that the forest, farmland, rubber plantations among other economic and environmental trees were affected by oil exploration and exploitation. Not only was their environment destroyed, their means of livelihood was destroyed as a result of this significant “tore through”. However, the forest lost its peace to a new dawn of economic civilization and the actions of the Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals in the Niger Delta region. Ojaide corroborates the above when he opines that:
The forest was no longer a quiet place, sounds of heavy trucks
carrying huge machines, some tall in conical fashion, broke the
quiet of the area. The boisterous noise of workers, elated by their
oyibo work that earned them a fortune shattered the legendary
silence of the rustic landscape (126).
The above is more than a poet lament in The Deserted Village but this is an Ojaide’s lament in Great Boys: An African childhood of what has seized the peace of Niger Delta and its environs. The multi nationals did not stop at deforestation and the invasion of peace but new dimensions were introduced to their on-slaughter. This new dimension is portrayed by Ojaide thus:
We used to lie outside the early part of the night to tell stories.
We fell asleep most times and woke when it was cool enough to
in the house. Then one day, we awoke to an intense heat and a
monstrous cloud of fire in the sky. Nobody knew what type of fire
rose so high as to threaten God…. I woke from sleep in a panic
and in a dazed frenzy of the strange brightness in a supposedly dark
night shouted for help(126).
The eternal day which is meant for those with heavenly hope is set forever in the existence of the Niger Delta region as a result of the refining fire of crude oil. The people of the region are exposed to immense heat. The emission from these Multi Nationals threatens their existence. Ojaide continues:
That fire of God or of a demon became the symbol of the national
economy. Nobody saw where the oil was being produced, with the
exception of where there had been a broken pipe. The oil was piped
to Ughelli or to Port Harcourt and into ships that sail overseas. The
villages and towns around the oil wells have been “compensated”
by the oil company, and they had to endure the heat and the angry
god’s of fire that lit their night into eternal dawn(126).
This shows the effects of oil exploration in the Niger Delta region. It is a micro representation of the macro plights of resource curse and oppressed people of Niger Delta. The foregoing captures the resultant damage on the totality of the people’s life. Ojaide laments thus:
Within months a pipe line broke and the streams were covered with
thick seams. The fish floated belly-up, and no one would eat dead fish.
Hunters discovered that bush animals were becoming rare sight. The
grasscutters and antelopes appeared to have relocated to quieter and
darker places. Farmers saw their cassava and yam leaves wilt and burn
out. Of course, the underground tubers were shriveled and couldn’t
be eaten(126 – 127).
Oil exploration activities can be considered as new art of creation which is opposed to already created divine environment. Oil spillage did not only destroy agricultural and aquatic lives visible to Ojaide but it destroys other marine lives such as marine animals and sea birds. The destruction of the wildlife as a result of oil spillage leads to destruction of the people in the sense that their means of sustenance is completely destroyed and their environment is completely contaminated. The government could not protect the people. He further argues that:
The oil companies were part of government, and who could tell
it to leave? As my Grandma put it “ If the moon does not shine well,
who will go to the sky to put it right?” Government is a sacred animal
like the iguana of the Orogun people, and whoever hurts or kills it will
The people of Niger Delta have being incurring such damnation not because the people touched the Government but because the oil exploitation is a deadly necessity to drive traditional economy that is oil focused. The cutting down of trees and oil spillage affects the soil texture and it invariably leads to aridity. The above arise from the short sightedness of Multi Nationals and Nigerian government to understand that the trees in the environment have a profound function it performed in the environment and in the lives of individuals and agricultural produce where it is situated. This is evident in Ojaide’s speech:
We are not land people, we are not an open country people.
As I grew, I saw the trees axed away, despite the forest… I saw
trees cut down to drive away the fear of witches. In a frenzy,
trees were felled. No trees… Everywhere was becoming bare,
and water was drive away for more land. For the first time
I began to hear that there was little left of farmland, that
the only land worth farming was the distant piece in Uyo,
where there was no new oil and no village around(127).
The action of the Multi-National in Niger Delta, has actually led to sterility in once fertile land of Niger Delta. The indiscriminate cutting down of trees to drive away the “witches” the people were used to was enough to batter the people’s psyche and destroys their environment. In the name of driving away the witches, Multi Nationals and Nigerian government exposed the earth surface to direct rays from the sun and it invariably affected micro and macro organisms in the soil. We can strongly aver that the actions of Nigerian government and Multi Nationals have actually contributed greatly to climate change in Nigeria and the harsh realities of environmental responses of excess rain fall and flooding in most parts of Niger Delta. Ojaide adduces to the above when he asserts that:
At night the gas flame lit the sky and almost consumed
the moon that I had grown up with. The harmattan months
lost their cool to the flaring gas, which had brought eternal
heat. Once in a while dead ants littered empty spaces. They might
have been sacrificed to the fire god that held the wealth of the
The new creations of the Nigerian Government and the Multi Nationals have adverse effect on Niger Delta region. It is the height of environmental pollution that led to the dead of ants that acts as organ decomposers to planted crops before their geminate.
3.2 Official Complicity in Ken Saro-Wiwa’s A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary
3.2.1 The Violation of Human Rights
Through the Ken Saro Wiwia’s non violence protest and his interactions with the agents of the Nigerian government we see various shades of human rights violations. Saro Wiwa was arrested and illogically imprisoned because of his outspokenness and non violent protest against the violation of his people’s collective right to existence as is of the divine entrustment to all being. This is evident in Ken Saro Wiwa’s speech:
…Before me was an armed security man flagging the car down,
his rifle pointing at my chauffeur’s head. Then, just as suddenly,
more security men in mufti headed for the rear of the door of
the car, swung it open, and ordered me to get down(3).
The Nigerian Government was willing to send the whole barrack after a defense-less civilian with absolute disregard for his sanity. Ken Saro Wiwa’s arrest on 21 June 1993 at Port Harcourt in UTC junction was more like a military invasion than an arrest. The sight of the security personal was enough to drive Ken Saro Wiwa into insanity. Ken Saro Wiwa avers thus:
…I was asked to write a statement about my activities on election
day, 12 June 1992. The Ogoni, under the leadership of the Movement
for the Survival of the Ogoni people(MOSOP), had boycotted the
election. I asked perfunctory to be allowed to see my lawyer before
committing myself to paper. The request was turned down(5).
Ken Saro-Wiwa’s desire to galvanize his people to form a common front that like other ethnic groups in the country was considered as aberration in a state that pride itself as a secular state. He was arrested, interrogated and stripped off his innocence even when the Nigerian law states that an accused is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt. His peoples’ free will whether to vote or not to vote was called into question. He was molested because of Ogoni moral rights to selves’ decision. Saro Wiwa continues:
…The senior police officer told me that on Election Day, 12 June 1993’
Police men had been made to frog watch people in Ogoni and there
had been disturbance(6).
There has been constant physical and psychological molestation of Ken Saro Wiwa in the sense that he became a regular inmate of the police station. In A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary; there is a symbiotic relationship between Human Rights violation and constant resistance by those whose rights are violated. This is highlighted in the case of the youths of Ogoni who had to react against their leaders being arrested for his outspokenness against their subjugation. Ken Saro Wiwa asserts thus:
I was to learn later that Ogon youths had shown far more solidarity,
far more courage, than I had credited them with. Not knowing what
had happened to me. They had gone in a group of 500 or more to the
offices of SSS and opened every single door in an effort to take me.
And when they had found me there, they had gone to the central
Police station in Port Harcourt, where they engaged the riot
in a struggle. They picked up canisters of tear gas shot by the police
before they could explode and threw them back to their tormentors.
They tore down a part of the brick wall which fenced off the police
Station from thse rest of the town. And almost all night they lit bonfires
Along Aggrey Road to place a distance between the brutality of the
and themselves. They made sure that the town of Port Harcourt heard
their protest at my arrest. And no one could stop them(18).
And one sees from the above not the celebration of violence, but the epitome of the resilience of an oppressed people. It shows that the human nature cannot endure the constant battering from so called superior authorities. We can aver that the above is a defining characteristic of most oppressed people in the world in general and the Ogoni people in particular.
3.2.2 Poor Infrastructure
It is against morality and clean conscience for the region that produce the resource that generates infrastructure in the country to be left in shambles as a result of successive neglect by the Nigerian Government. It is ironical that the depleting resources of the Niger Delta are not use for their own development as a people; rather they are now curse to their existence. We can state that the resources in Niger Delta are not use for the development of human capital or for the development of infrastructure in the environs. Ken Saro Wiwa affirms in lamentation:
The state road irked me. It was one of my over riding concerns. Not
the road itself, but the fact that in this rich, oil bearing area, the
roads should be so rickety, while in the North of Nigeria, in that arid
part of the country, there were wide express ways constructed at
great cost with the petrodollars which the delta belched forth. The
injustice of it cried to the heavens(19).
Irrespective of how we tend to examine the above issue, it is an open secret that petrodollars was used to build better roads in the North, East and West while those who the resource is got from their land have no road to boast of. Niger Delta is not a place to be or to boast of although it provides the nation wealth; this is as a result of the nature of its environment. No thanks to oil exploration activities. He further asserts that:
The population of Lagos had exploded once oil money from the Delta
Had been cornered by the nations rulers and transferred to Lagos
from hapless communities like the Ogoni and the Ijaws who were too
few to defend their inheritance….most of that money was also spent
foreign luxuries like car, and soon the few roads in the city were
clogged with cars, rendering movement well nigh impossible. Over
head bridges became the norms of this city(33-34).
This dramatizes the neglects of the region. It is this neglect that led to Ogoni Bill of Rights in 26 August 1990, which was tilted toward the liberation of the people from exploitation and enshrining of resource control. The most painful part of it is the Nigeria made billions from the resources in the Niger Delta and still runs into debt and none of this debt was tailored to human capital or infrastructures development in the Niger Delta. However, Ken Saro Wiwa highlights the brutal realism of neglect and abject poverty. In the description of the recklessness of Nigerian government he stated thus:
Nigeria has an external debt of over thirty billion dollars. None of
that debt was incurred on any project in the Ogoni area or any
project remotely beneficial to the Ogoni. The International Monetary
Fund and The World Bank, been on the payment of the debt, are
Encouraging intensified exploitation of oil and gas, which constitute
94 percent of Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product(97).
The poverty level of the people of Niger Delta is at a high level and compounded by lack of infrastructures.
Since 1958 to present, the discovery of oil and its exploration in commercial quantity in Niger Delta has facilitated the unemployment rate in the region as a result of the huge deposit of depleting resources in the land and its attendant effect on the land which has a direct effect on the occupation of the people. Ken Saro Wiwa’s words described the above when he asserts that:
The Ogoni people have settled in this area as farmers and fishermen
Since remembered and had established a well organized social system
…petroleum was discovered in Ogoni in 1958 and since then an
estimated US hundred billion dollars’ worth of oil and gas has
been carted away from Ogoni land. In return for this, the Ogoni
people have received nothing. Oil exploration has turned Ogoni in
to a waste land: lands, streams, and creeks are totally and
continuously polluted; the atmosphere has been poisoned, charged
as it is with hydrocarbon vapours…Acid rain, oil spillage and oil blow
outs have devastated Ogoni territory. High-pressure oil pipe lines
crisscross the surface of Ogoni farmlands and villages dangerously
The above captures a society that does not guarantee much to the existence of its citizenry but punishes them to death. The Nigerian system has succeeded in favouring few while punish and neglect the teeming population of the region. We can aver that oil exploration and its spillage is one of the drivers of unemployment in the Niger Delta. It is of valid truth that oil exploration in Niger Delta has resulted to heighted social hardship, inequality and a psychological trauma for the people whose land breeds employment for others and billion dollars while it breeds penury and unemployment for the people of Niger Delta. This is captured in Ken Saro Wiwa’s speech:
The result of such unchecked environmental pollution and
degradation include the complete destruction of the eco system.
Mangrove forests have fallen to the toxicity of oil and are being
replaced by noxious nypa palms; the rain forest has fallen to the
axe of the multinational oil companies, all wildlife is dead, marine
life is gone, the farmlands have been rendered infertile by acid rain
and the once beautiful Ogoni countryside is no longer a source of
fresh air and green vegetation. All one sees and feels around is death.
Environmental degradation has been a lethal weapon in the war
Against the indigenous Ogoni people. Incidental to and indeed
Compounding this ecological devastation is the political
Marginalization and complete oppression of the Ogoni and
Especially the denial of their rights, including land rights (96).
A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary; is an analysis of a failing Nigerian system and its economic construct and politics. The autobiography captures the socio Economic deprivation of the citizens as a result of their means of livelihood been destroyed by oil exploration. Ken Saro Wiwa adopts an interrogative laments approach in the autobiography. Ken Saro Wiwa and his people are caught in the ravaging union called Nigeria and in the tragedy of survival. A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary encapsulates the lamentations and frustration of the people of Niger Delta over a dislodging power of resource curse that threatens their existence and strips them of their sanity of a means of livelihood. Ogoni land as well as Niger Delta is in a state of near Hiroshima and Nagasaki except something is done then the assaults and casualties that their unemployment and smoothing of their existence will be greater than the two cities hit by the atomic bomb of August 6,1945. This portrayal of the after effect of socio economic stratification of contemporary society calls attention for the issues so far raised to enabled the people benefit from their resource by not divine act but those who are numerous greater than them.
3.2.4 Politics of Disposition
Multi nationals and the Nigerian government use their military power to dispossess the people of their land and its resources. A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary is a harvest of tears against such smothering dispossession as perpetuated by the Economic found twines of the Niger. The autobiographer cries out:
On 30 April, disaster struck. Shell had been dualizing the Tran-Niger
Pipeline, which carries oil from most parts of the delta through Ogoni
territory to the export terminal at Bonny. They had not carried out an
environmental impact assessment study. They had not negotiated
with the landlords whose land they were using and/ or desecrating.
They simply got soldiers of the Nigerian army to guard them,…the
soldiers had gone through a number of Ogoni villages, but when they
got to Biara, where a major oil spill had polluted the streams and the
land two years earlier, incensed villagers, mostly women, turned out to
question them. The women held twigs as they had been advised to do
to indicate that they were protecting peacefully. The soldier emptied
their live ammunition on them(156).
The above pictures the fate of Niger Delta. Not only are they dispossessed but they are killed in the process if they dare to question their exploiters and die in the process if their keep quiet. The Multi Nationals operating in the Niger Delta region carry out their oil exploration without applying environmental safety measures. The peoples’ lands are seized by force and they are left without a means of livelihood. The destruction of the people by forceful military intervention and environmental degradation occasioned by oil spillage has dispossessed the people, physically, economically and psychologically. Ken Saro Wiwa(1995)asserts thus:
I have to state that MOSOP did not stop Shell, although
though we did let it be known that the company was persona
Non grata in our land because of its destruction of the
environment, its uncaring exploitation of the community,
and its refusal to make any restitution whatsoever for the
harm it had done to the Ogoni people and environment(160).
The cries of yesterday are still heard in Ogoni land in particular and in Niger Delta in general. The attitude of Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals has been business as usual in their resolve to prevent the people from benefiting from their resources. Saro-Wiwa argues further:
I consider the loss of the Niger River Delta a loss to all mankind
and therefore regard Shell’s despoliation of the area as a crime
to all humanity(168).
The agents of government and multi nationals did not only succeed in depriving the people of the benefits from their depleting resources but they went as far as destroying the Niger Delta Rivers which are a means of livelihood and survival of the people of the region.
4.1 COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF A MONTH AND A DAY: A DETENTION DIARY AND GREAT BOYS: AN AFRICAN CHILDHOOD.
A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary and Great Boys: An African Childhood are protest autobiographies against exploitation and official complicity, these are the major themes that crisscross the two autobiographies. The two autobiographies give multi dimensional views of the problems of the Niger Delta. Saro Wiwa and Ojaide in their works portray exploitation and official complicity as a synthesis of the problem of Niger Delta and the said synthesis which is a catalyst for frustration; social inequality and dehumanization of the people of the Niger are combustion for the revolution violence in both works. Violence however, as a cap clothe of satire over exploitative construct of the Nigerian system.
Violence is employed as an interrogative liberating force of the people of Niger Delta and as a means of class consciousness which tend to highlight the glorious past of the region, gory present and its bleak future as a result of oil exploration activities.
Ken Saro Wiwa in A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary and Tanure Ojaide Great Boys: An African Childhood: are autobiographies steeped in the portrayal of the symbiotic relationship of official complicity and exploitation. There is the idea of exploitation induced deforestation and environmental degradation by the actions of the Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals. The autobiographies capture a society that is in a constant state of captivity as a result of the resources or better still ‘curse’ in their soil. The works capture the irony of existence as the resources from the region are a blessing to a few but it becomes a curse to the owners of the land, the masses. It shows how the inhumanity of the new creation of the Nigerian Government and its ally, the Multi Nationals dehumanized and batter the existence of the people of Niger Delta.
A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary deals with Saro Wiwa’s direct confrontation with the exploitative economic alliance of the Nigerian Government and the Multi Nationals. It is Saro’s conscious motivation of the people of Niger Delta to rebel against the conspiracy of the Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals in their region. There is the Marxist revival in the consciousness of the Niger Deltans. Ken Saro Wiwa took active participation in the liberating thrive to free his people against economic captivity. He traveled both far and near to plead the course of his people and on each occasion he emphasized through his speech that the only offence his people have committed against Nigeria is the possession of the oil that is situated in their land. He corroborates the above when he asserts thus:
“…contact both Amnesty International and Greenpeace…Ogoni
People were being killed all right, but in an unconventional way” (88).
The resources in Niger Delta kill the people in an “unconventional way” as we have already explicated in the body of this discourse. The above is Ken Saro Wiwa’s lament against the Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals to the International community to come to the aid of his people and each trip he made strengthens his convention of the guiltlessness of his people. He argues further:
“The visit to United States sharpened my awareness of the need to
organize the Ogoni people to struggle for their environment… I
had pointedly stated that inter alia’ We refuse to accept that the
only responsibility which Shell-BP owes our nation is the sopilation
of our land…’And I had written the poetic lines:
The flares of Shell are flames of hell
We bake beneath their light
Nought for us save the blight
Of cursed neglect and cursed Shell(79)”.
Saro Wiwa’s A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary calls the attention of the International community to compel Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals to bear full responsibility of their new creation in the belaboured land of Niger Delta. A Month and a Day: A Detention Diary is a litigation against the exploitive construct of the Nigerian system and Saro Wiwa affirms to the above when he aver thus:
“It being my credo that literature in a critical situation such as Nigeria’s
cannot be devoid of politics. Indeed, literature must serve society by
steeping itself in politics, by intervention, and writers must not write
merely to amuse or to take a bemused, critical look at the society.
They must play an interventionist role. My experience has been
that with African governments can ignore writers, taking comfort
in the fact that only few read and write, and that those who read
find little time for the luxury of literary consumption beyond the need
to pass examination based on set texts. Therefore, the writer
must be l, homme engage: the intellectual man of action. He must
take part in mass organization(81).
It is this conviction that motivated Saro Wiwa to be confrontational and take literature into the street to inform the Nigerian society about the unjustified exploitation of his people since the vast populace of the Nigerian society does not read. It is this interventionist role that is the core of the engagement of the force of exploitation in A month and a Day: A Detention Diary. A Month and a Day is an account of a grown up man speaking with grownups in his attempt to liberate his people from withering condition. Saro Wiwa has played this intervention role in all most all of his literary works that the Nigerian Government felt uncomfortable and had to eliminate him from the surface of the earth. However, is postulations in literary lines are still playing the role he was passionate about.
Tanure Ojaide in Great Boys: An African Childhood delves into the issue of exploitation and official complicity but in a subtle manner. He tells the story of his glorious childhood and invariably indicts Nigerian Government and Multi Nationals as bilateral party to the dehumanization and degradation prevalent in the Niger Delta region. Thus, Ojaide advocates for the use of non violent protest through literary lines no matter how long it last. This is seen in his authorial presentation of the problems of Niger which was more of a passive illustration of the plights of the people of the Niger Delta unlike Saro Wiwa who advocates for non violent protest against exploitation. In highlighting the evil of oil exploration and abandonment of the people of Niger Delta Ojaide calls for a revolutionary change to such construct.
Literature has always kept faith with the realities of the human society. This is the cognitively truth in the literature emanating from the Niger Delta which is predominantly protest literature and this cuts across all genres in the literature of the region. The dominant theme that pervades both Tanure Ojaide’s Great Boy: An African Childhood and Ken Saro Wiwa’s A Month and a: a Detention Diary is the revolt against exploitation and official complicity. A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary and Great Boys: An African Childhood unmasks the ‘vowed’ anomalies in Niger Delta. Through the literary lens of Saro Wiwa and Ojaide we see the complicity of the Nigerian Government and the Multi Nationals in their exploitation and degradation of the environment of the Niger Delta. The autobiographies call for a rebellion against the impediment on the people’s existence. The autobiographies are convincing representation of the Nigerian economic and political climate. Saro Wiwa and Tanure Ojaide are Marxist writers who are concerned with the plight of the masses and seek to deconstruct and reconstruct the already constructed machines of exploitation. The work explicates how the Nigerian Government has failed to take up their responsibility as a result of their new creation rather they prey on the people of Niger Delta. The authorial vision depicted in the interrogated text is concerned with the loss of sanity of existence as a result of the train of oil exploration and the prevailing wreckage it heaps on the people. Just as Achebe wrote against Western prejudices heaped on the African continent by Eurocentric critics against Africa and its literature Ken Saro Wiwa and Tanure Ojaide write in respond to bilateral economic and political decimation of the people of Niger Delta. So far, the interrogated text highlights the social ills inherent in Nigeria and it seeks for social justice. The autobiographies raise biting issues in the polity of the national life, such as deforestation, aridity of land, destruction of aquatic lives, poor infrastructure and unemployment, politic of disposition among other. In A month and a Day: a Detention Diary the comprehensive repression and oppression of the people is explored and called into question. The autobiographies offer the reader a keen insight into the illusion of realities that exists in the Niger Delta region. Great Boys: An African Childhood chronicled the deprivation and exploitation of the people as a result of the rich deposit of oil in the land.
It has been established through our interrogation of A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary and Great Boys: An African Childhood that the problem of Niger Delta is that of a comprehensive neglect of successive Nigerian Government and the refusal of the Multi Nationals to operate in the region with safety measures.
In conclusion, Ken Saro Wiwa and Tanure Ojaide in their autobiographies laid an enduring legacy that will fight the exploitative conglomerate of the Nigerian system as it regards the issue of the Niger Delta. They use their autobiographies to reawaken the people of Niger Delta into self consciousness and to encourage them to rebel against the forces that exploit them out of existence. A Month and a Day: a Detention Diary and Great Boys An African Childhood capture the stark realities of Niger Delta region.
A. Free and compulsory education for the people of the Niger Delta.
B. The people of Niger Delta should be trained in onshore and off-shore oil exploration activities, so that they will be gainfully employed.
C. It is necessary that the Multi Nationals clean up the Niger Delta land that has been affected by oil spillage and apply environmental safety measures in their oil exploration activities.
D. Infrastructure investment in Niger Delta.
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