The philosophy of late Ken Saro-Wiwa was re-enacted in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, at the Korean Cultural Centre, on Thursday, November 22, 2012, through reading of his works and what others have written on him, to commemorate the 16th anniversary of the killing of the environmentalist by the late Gen. Sani Abacha-led military junta.
The Director of Arojah Royal Theatre (ART), Jerry Adesewo, who introduced the line up in the programme, which was the ART Play Reading Party (PRP), said, the event was not taking the normal tradition, saying, “because we are here today to celebrate late Ken Saro-Wiwa; we shall read his works, interact on them, invite playwrights, poets and writers from other genres of writing, who have written on him to read their works. The truth is that Ken Saro-Wiwa deserves this. We dedicate this edition of our PRP to him and what he stood for before his death. Therefore, this will not take the normal reading of a play by one playwright. It is an assemblage of Saro-Wiwa works and those who have written on him.’’
Transistor Radio, from Saro-Wiwa’s Four Farcical Plays, was read and there was a standing ovation in appreciation of the creative ingenuity the late playwright displayed in the play. Chiedu Ezeanah, a poet, captured the general mood, saying that he was astonished to realize that the 419 syndrome, as dramatized in the play, had been in existence in Nigeria, and described Saro-Wiwa as a true crusader.
“If 419 started long ago, as captured in this play by Saro-Wiwa in the 70s, it means we are not moving forward in this country. BBC did a broadcast of the play in 1977. It (the play) was published before then. Ken Saro-Wiwa was a true crusader. I knew him personally,’’ Ezeanah said, before going on to read a Tribute he wrote for Saro-Wiwa, and called on writers to emulate his (Saro-Wiwa’s) lifestyle by being fearless and dogged in their writings.
The Vice President of the Association of Nigerian Authors, Denja Abdullahi, also read a poem from his anthology, dedicated to Saro-Wiwa, where he described the late environmentalist as a hero of the people. The poem, titled, “Africa Kills Her Son,” presented Saro-Wiwa as a true activist, who fought for minority ethnic rights and environmental degradation, but was killed unjustly.
Another poet, Dr. Kabura Zakama, read a poem, titled, “Dance the Guns to Silence,” from an anthology of poems, Hundred Poems for Saro-Wiwa, in which he celebrated the late Saro-Wiwa as a cultural activist, pan Africanist, and social critic, who will never be forgotten by Africans and African soil.
The reading of Isaac Attah Ogezi’s Under a Darkling Sky, a play on Ken Saro-Wiwa, took the guests in the PRP, who are members of arts and culture community, down memory lane on the activities of the Movement of the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), the killing of the Ogoni four and the Ogoni nine.
In the play, the late writer and environmental activist, comes alive as a character, who fought for his people and the entire Niger-Delta, devoting his intellectual and material resources; and refusing to be blackmailed or intimidated by death threats and imprisonment; yet he eventually paid the supreme price of death by hanging.
The event was attended by the Executive Secretary National Institute for Cultural Orientation, (NICO), Dr. Barclays Ayakoroma, the Vice President of Association of Nigerian Authors, Denja Abdullahi, a renowned theatre director, Jide Attah, a veteran journalist and poet, Chiedu Ezeanah, young poets, playwrights, novelists, short story writers, essayists, culture activists and journalists, among others.