(An excerpt from Under a Darkling Sky, a play by Isaac Attah Ogezi, published by Hybun Books International, Lagos, 2012)
PART 2: Scene 2
The Saro-Wiwas’ sitting room in Khana. Night. SARO-WIWA is seated in one of the settees, pulling at his pipe rather meditatively, flanked on his sides by NENE, his wife, and four or more Ogoni elders and some youths. It is a few hours of the same day.
SARO-WIWA: [sadly] It’s obvious that Albert Badey’s mission is to disrupt the movement. Who sent him remains a mystery to me.
1ST ELDER: I’m afraid to say, sir, that you don’t have to go very far. He and his cohorts are in the pay of the Abacha government. Him, Chief Edward Kobani, and Chief Orage, fear them.
2ND ELDER: Hear, hear, hear!
3RD ELDER: [a couple of nods] You can say that again.
SARO-WIWA: Ironically when Kobani himself expressed his reservations privately to me of Badey’s good faith and that he knew for a fact that the latter was meeting with the infamous group that had denounced MOSOP publicly after the shootings on April 30, 1993, I had truly thought that he was merely transferring the rivalry of Bodo, their common homeplace, to the committee which I was not going to allow that to happen. Now I realize that I was wrong.
4TH ELDER: If I can remember very well, Chief Orage was one of the signatories to that press release the group in question gave over the shootings of innocent villagers, inviting the government to do whatever it wished in order to establish law and order in Ogoni.
SARO-WIWA: Sure. You’re right. My only regret today is that we didn’t remember to forewarn ourselves against those sycophantic leaders who would not only stop at libeling MOSOP alone but go out of their way to sow seeds of discord in the movement. Deliberately using the government and its naked use of force against MOSOP, its leaders and the Ogoni people.
1ST ELDER: It’s indeed a tragedy.
2ND ELDER: Was it not the same Chief Edward Kobani who called such traitors vultures?
3RD ELDER: Yes, you sure have a good retentive memory. I remember very vividly the time that he said it. [In awful mimicry] I call them vultures all those who prey on the tears and blood of their people, the government-paid chiefs who abdicate their sacred duties to sell their people into modern-day slavery as our forefathers did for minor items such as beads, mirrors, alcohol and tobacco.
4TH ELDER: [laughing] Very well put and exactly in his voice. [The others give a short laughter]
SARO-WIWA: That was what I was afraid of all along. If we give our common enemy the slightest opportunity such as a division or a breach in our midst, it will be duly exploited by them and we’re finished. [Pause] At first, it was the frantic attempt made by Dr. Leton, Chief Edward Kobani and Albert Badey to sell the idea of the resumed construction of the Shell oil pipeline by Wilbros at public meetings, which was not only unanimously rejected by the Ogoni people but by the Gokana villagers across whose land the pipeline was due to pass. Still not satisfied at always being at loggerheads with the popular wishes of the Ogoni people, these troika, these same card-carrying party politicians on the Steering Committee of our movement, also tried desperately to scuttle our plan to boycott the June 12 Presidential Election, all to no avail. They called on me in my office to pressure me unethically into rescinding the democratic decision of the committee arrived at by voting. Come to think of it now, it was at the specific instance of the same Chief Edward Kobani that the boycott proposal was put to vote and was approved by eleven votes to six.
4TH ELDER: It’s unfortunate, sir. [Pause] Imagine the way they walked out on us at the meeting in such a most ungentlemanly fashion.
1ST ELDER: Yes, it was so disgraceful. I never believed I could live to witness such a public display of shame. Tch, tch, tch.
SARO-WIWA: [somberly] I was not pleased by the ugly scenario that I witnessed tonight. For the first time I nearly lost my grip on the movement, what with the angry youths shouting at the top of their voices. I pray that that should never happen again in our lifetime before we have the father of all violence on our lap. Agreed that the elders in question have always pitted themselves against the Ogoni people by their rather unpalatable stand in grave issues that affect Ogoni, but that shouldn’t be a licence to deny them of their fundamental right to fair hearing at the meeting. At the very least, we could outvote them eventually if it came to that. No, it was quite disheartening. I’ve never, in my wildest imagination, dreamt that I’d see our beloved Ogoni people as divided as this. [There is a pause]
2ND ELDER: Oh Ogoni, the land of our ancestors!
3RD ELDER: What are we going to do now to woo them back to the fold?
SARO-WIWA: Let’s allow the whole thing to first calm down for today. First thing tomorrow morning, I’ll go to Giokoo and see them. As Badey rightly said, in politics we always agree to disagree. There is no permanent friend nor permanent enemy but permanent interest. The interest of the Ogoni people is at stake at the moment and we must all put aside our personal pride and egos to protect this common interest that binds us together even at the cost of our lives. As for me, I’ve committed my entire life to the Ogoni cause. [Passionately] In the quest for justice for my people, neither prison nor the threat of death nor death itself could ever deter me.
ALL: We, too.
SARO-WIWA: Thanks for your unalloyed support. [Pause; pensively] Let the day break and I’ll be off to see them. Anger against a kinsman must never be felt to the marrow.
[Enter LEDUM MITEE, the Deputy President of MOSOP along with two other members of the Steering Committee of the movement. It is obvious that all is not well, going by the woebegone, fidgety expressions on their faces]
SARO-WIWA: [pessimistically, without a preamble] I guess all is not well, Mitee.
MITEE: You’re right. The birds have fed on our heads. And, alas, our world is rudely torn asunder. Let Mother Hen and her children now come for the spoils.
SARO-WIWA: Those are heavy words, Mitee. Has our world been so torn adrift?
MITEE: That would be putting it mildly, Ken. We’re undone.
SARO-WIWA: [bravely] Well, our people say that no matter what the eye sees, it can never bleed blood. Do sit down, Mitee, and tell it all like the real man that I know you to be. What sad news are you the unlucky harbinger?
MITEE: It’s not something that calls for sitting down. And please don’t flatter me. There are grave moments in a man’s life that rob him of his manliness, and the penis as a result must pass water like the vagina.
SARO-WIWA: In spite of the situation, you’re still at your most eloquent. So what happened? Out with it, man.
MITEE: I’m afraid that Chief Edward Kobani, Albert Badey, Chief Orage and Samuel Orage are dead.
SARO-WIWA: [shocked] What!
MITEE: Yes, Ken. This was what happened to our world. While we slept, the enemy struck.
SARO-WIWA: This is unbelievable. I mean, how did they die?
MITEE: They were most cruelly murdered a few hours ago at Giokoo in a violent riot which took place there after our meeting.
SARO-WIWA: [still stunned beyond words] Hmm. God of mercy. Edward Kobani dead?
MITEE: Yes. I didn’t witness the general mayhem myself but one of our men here who saw it all said it was most gruesome and horrifying. That the foursome met a most ghoulish and brutal end that one would not even wish for one’s enemies. [To one of them] Go ahead and tell them how you saw it happen.
AN OGONI MAN:
It is not what the mouth will like to recount:
The riot was an aftermath of an impromptu rally
Convened in a tense atmosphere by some angry youths
To purge the land of what they called traitors and saboteurs;
Of some reactionary Ogoni elders in consort with
Our common enemy.
Speaker after speaker spoke with fire on their tongues
Of how these same elders nearly disrupted the congress
Meeting of MOSOP some hours ago. Emotions ran wild
A keg of gunpowder waiting to be detonated.
Suddenly the hot blood running amok in their veins
Found an outlet in the mayhem unleashed later
And without prior planning the rally degenerated into a riot
As the bloodthirsty youths made for Kobani in his residence
Met him reclining in a cane-chair after an exhausted day
And immediately pounced upon him amidst his cries for help
In a flash, his body was dismembered
With the limbs coming away from the trunk.
Drunk with blood, they made for Albert Badey,
Dragged him out of his sitting room where he sat
Dinning with his family. The axes and knives
Made mincemeat of his body as he ran here and there
Begging for his dear life from inhuman bloodhounds
Who could well pass for beasts.
His family looked on helplessly
As their father was butchered in a most gory manner.
Insatiate, the angry youths now possessed
By some implacable god of vengeance
Stormed the houses of Chief Orage and Samuel Orage
And brought them to the same gruesome and sad end.
When the soldiers arrived much later, it was to meet
A land in mourning, soaked in a deluge of tears.
SARO-WIWA: [grief-stricken] The thing I had always feared has finally happened. Job said: “the thing I feared most has come upon me.” You’re right, Mitee. Let the Mother Hen and her children now come for the spoils.
MITEE: That’s it. [Pause] What shall we do now?
SARO-WIWA: [matter-of-factly] We shall do nothing but wait for the worst. The deed is done and can never be undone. [Pause] What this military junta had always wanted, to implicate us, to lock our heads against one another, to catch us off-guard, has alas happened and from this very moment we must learn to sleep standing. We should all be prepared; ready for the worst.
MITEE: O Ogoni! If only the gods and our ancestors will only look down at what has befallen us!
SARO-WIWA: [ignoring MITEE’s lamentation] That is what the military cabal only needs to implicate us for complicity in their murder. They will accuse MOSOP of this crime, in which I suspect the security agencies all had a hand in it, using hoodlums to infiltrate our ranks, to impersonate angry Ogoni youths to commit this dastardly crime. The real culprits for this crime are Shell and the federal government of the Nigerian nation-state but they’ll look for scapegoats in MOSOP.
[Enter a troop of heavily armed soldiers, police and other security operatives. They cock their guns, covering everybody in the room]
LEADER OF THE TEAM: [in his parade-ground voice] In the name of the law, you are all under arrest. We may have to shoot if any of you tries to escape or resist arrest.
SARO-WIWA: We won’t give you that luxury.
[The group is rounded up and herded towards the exit as the lights fade out]