Saro-Wiwa has last laugh with message in a nappy

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The Independent Online
Ken Saro-Wiwa, the Nigerian writer and environmental activist who was executed by his country's military regime last November to tremendous international outcry, wrote a satirical account of the circumstances leading up to his death while he was in prison.

The manuscript was smuggled out of his cell in the nappy of his one-year- old nephew a month before he died, revealed Ken Wiwa, the late activist's son.

The short piece, a part-fictional, part-allegorical account of a man in prison who knows he is to be executed, bears obvious similarities with Mr Saro-Wiwa's own situation. He savagely satirises both the Nigerian establishment and the Shell oil company, which he believed was polluting his native Ogoni lands. It was his agitation against Shell Oil's operations that invited his government's ire and ultimately led to his almost summary execution.

The manuscript is being dramatised by the Contact Theatre Company in Manchester next Saturday. Entitled On the Death of Ken Saro-Wiwa by Ken Saro-Wiwa, the production is completely faithful to the original. "The writing has such spirit and depth that we are not adapting or altering it at all," said Kerry Michael, the producer. "It is a sensitive and politically charged piece of writing."

Mr Ken Wiwa, who lives in Britain, got hold of the manuscript last December. Though it was in the form of a computer printout, Mr Wiwa has no doubt about its authenticity.

"The style is consistent with his other writings. Nobody else could have written that piece," said Mr Wiwa. His father did have a computer in his cell for a while, he said.

Towards the end of the piece, Mr Saro-Wiwa "reports" on his own death, laughing at Nigeria's culture of awarding contracts for anything and everything: "The coffin had to be no more than five feet long and one foot wide ... Poor Ken was squashed into this contraption. And being used to protesting injustice, his corpse squeaked and screamed. The officer who had won the contract for putting Ken in the coffin ran for his dear life. So the Military Administrator had to do the job himself. He duly cancelled this aspect of the contract and demoted the officer for cowardice."

In the final lines he cocks a snook at the Nigerian government by predicting the worldwide condemnation that would follow his death.

n Nigeria has told the United Nations it will amend legislation under which Mr Saro-Wiwa and eight other activists on behalf of the Ogoni people were convicted and hanged last November, Reuter reports from New York.

It has also agreed immediately to review all cases of detention without trial under a 1984 decree, and to examine whether ecological and environmental problems affect the oil-producing Ogoni region.

Nigeria's consent to these and some other recommendations of a recent UN fact-finding mission was contained in a letter to the Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali from Auwalu Hamisu Yadudu, special adviser on legal matters to the Nigerian Head of State, General Sani Abacha.

The letter was an interim response to the UN mission's report, given to Abacha earlier this month by UN emissary Lakhdar Brahimi. Both documents have been sent to the president of the General Assembly, which last December overwhelmingly condemned Nigeria's "arbitrary execution, after a flawed judicial process" of Mr Saro-Wiwa and his colleagues.