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Saro-Wiwa’s daughter: ‘I’ve no business with Niger Delta crisis’

Posted by By MAURICE ARCHIBONG on 2008/05/18 | Views: 1296 |

Saro-Wiwa’s daughter: ‘I’ve no business with Niger Delta crisis’

Although writer and environmental activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa passed on almost 13 years ago, the man literally resurrected in Nigeria recently. First, we met in Benin City, and later reconnected in Lagos. Our encounters in both cities took place in the most auspicious of places: Inside the local station of the National Museum. But, we must digress a little.

Although writer and environmental activist, Kenule Saro-Wiwa passed on almost 13 years ago, the man literally resurrected in Nigeria recently. First, we met in Benin City, and later reconnected in Lagos. Our encounters in both cities took place in the most auspicious of places: Inside the local station of the National Museum. But, we must digress a little.

Since Mrs. Hauwa Saro-Wiwa was the one the Nigerian media focused on, after the unjust hanging of Ken Saro-Wiwa, many people, not surprisingly, think she is the only widow the late writer and environmental activist left behind.

However, Sunday Sun can authoritatively reveal that the deceased author is survived by at least three women, who had children by him. Shortly, we would touch on that aspect, but first, let’s celebrate the fact that though dead, Ken Saro-Wiwa lives on in the children he sired, even as the books he wrote and the struggle he spearheaded have put a stamp of immortality on his name.
In Nigeria, where despicable leaders conspired to murder her father, life practically celebrated Noo, daughter of the late Ken Saro-Wiwa, recently. It was in Nigeria that Noo clocked 32 years of age on Monday March 21.

Born in 1976, in the oil rich City of Port Harcourt, Noo was taken to the United Kingdom (UK), when she was barely two years old: “It must have been in late 1977 or early 1978. It was my father’s decision. My eldest brother, Ken Junior, who was about seven or eight years old then, also moved at the time,” she said of the period her father realized his family was safer outside his own country.

All four kids at the time - Ken Junior, Gian, Zian and Noo - were flown abroad by Ken Saro-Wiwa. Noo and Zian are twin children, and the former is Kehinde, Yoruba name for the second child to emerge between a pair of twins; while Zian would be Taiye (first-born twin child), were the Saro-Wiwas Yoruba. Noo had another sibling, Tedum, who was Maria’s last child. But hear her rue: “Tedum, my younger brother, died in March 93.” He was buried on the Eve of her 17th birthday.

Maria is widow of Ken and she hailed from Bane, the same village as Ken, in Khana LGA. Hear what Noo said of her mother: “Maria was his only wife, but he (Ken) also had two daughters by a woman, who died in the 1980s. The two daughters live in US.” Hauwa, we gathered, came into the life of Ken Saro-Wiwa much later. “But, she had a son for my father,” Noo reminded.

Tightly packed lady with a large heart
Noo is beauty and intelligence packed in a relatively small frame; but she has a large heart. Although her father lost his life to the struggle for environmental preservation and a more equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth, Noo is not out to settle scores.
As to where she was on November 10, 1995; the day Saro-Wiwa was hanged, Noo’s funereal recall was: “I was at Kings College, London in November 10, when my father was murdered. When he went to prison in 1993, we were in boarding school, but my mother did her best to keep us protected. On October 31, 1995, when he was sentenced to death, my mother told me about it, and she also broke the news of my father’s execution to me.

“All of these put me off about Nigeria in the first place. All our lives in Port Harcourt, my father was always stressed up and angry about the Nigerian situation. It was all so depressing.”
Interestingly, these depressing circumstances are the very reasons Noo has been coming to Nigeria over the years. Hear her: “So I want to come back and see Nigeria in a different light.”
Noo has been visiting Nigeria gathering materials for her book. She, however, revealed: “The Niger Delta crisis is not part of my book. There’s more to me than that aspect of Nigeria’s history. Oil is what you always hear about; all you read about Nigeria is oil and nothing else. But, I want to see things for myself and show the world a different Nigeria.”

Noo is a travel writer and has contributed severally to The Rough Guide and other travel guides. Granta, a longstanding and globally famous British publishing company, has agreed to publish Noo’s book. Interestingly, the volume’s initial title was supposed to read, Trans-wonderland Amusement Park: In search of top 10 attractions. However, after several trips across Nigeria, Journeys in the Jaga-jaga-Zone came to sound more apt.

A friend of the museum
Noo is a true friend of the museum. “We went a lot to British Museums during childhood. There’s always something exciting happening at British Museum,” she declared. Not surprisingly, Noo visited the local museum in every town she toured during her three-month sojourn in Nigeria.
Of all the Nigerian museums Noo visited, she said National Museum inside the Old Residency, Calabar, is her favourite repository. She explained: “They have a lot of information. They put everything in context.” Noo revealed she prefers to guide herself without being rushed through the exhibits by some impatient guide.

Noo’s images of a different Nigeria
Some of her impressions of ‘a different Nigeria’ are truly things you’d hardly expect. For example, Noo had gone visiting the University of Ibadan (UI), where she interacted with veterinary students. She ended up attending a dog show, which she described as queer. “It was weird; yet enjoyed by so many Nigerian dog-lovers. It was not the image you expect of Nigeria.”

Aside Ibadan, Noo also visited Calabar and other parts of Cross River State, she toured the Marina Resort Museum, Old Residency Museum, Alok Open Air Museum, The Drill Ranch, The Ranch Resort and elsewhere. How did she find Cross River? Noo again: “I did enjoy my tour of that part of Nigeria a great deal, though Obudu is like too perfect. Calabar is just right, but still a bit un-Nigerian. It’s very different from other Nigerian settlements but it is still a bit jaga-jaga with all the Okada everywhere.

Noo’s expedition had also taken her to the Yankari Games Reserve in Bauchi State as well as the Plateau State capital, Jos, and Kaduna, Kano and Kwara States etc. In Kwara, she had toured National Museum, Esie; Nigeria’s first repository, and farms established by white Zimbabweans, who emigrated from that southern African country. She had a chat with one black and one white Zimbabwean farmer, both of whom spoke very well of economic opportunities in Nigeria, and their plans to mechanize farming all over Nigeria.

Hear Noo’s reminiscence on her visit to Suzanne Wenger’s Grove in Osogbo, Osun State. “All my money was finished; I had to pay a lot, about N1, 000 just to take in my camera. I wish I came to Nigeria with more money.”
Aside Lagos, this travel writer was also in Edo State, and spent three days in the Edo State capital, Benin City. In the same breadth, Ms Saro-Wiwa explored Nigeria’s ancient traders’ hub of Kano, in north-central parts. In Kano, as usual, Noo gravitated toward the local National Museum, known as Gidan Makama. Additionally, Noo went to Kurmi Market, one of the oldest and largest emporia in Africa. At Kurmi, she lamented the dying dyeing culture in Kano. As memento, Noo gave out her pant to be dyed at one of the last standing pits in Kano.

Links with her roots
Having virtually lived all her life in Britain, it would be asking for too much expecting Noo to be fluent in her mother tongue - Khana dialect of Ogoni language. She admitted: “I’m rusty with the language.”
On the other hand, Ken Junior, who was barely seven, when his father ferried him to safety overseas, has managed to retain his comprehension of Ogoni. On that score, “Ken is luckier,” Noo remarked.
On her perception, after this latest expedition to Nigeria, Noo remarked: “If we changed our mindset, Nigeria would soon become a very great and wealthy nation.”

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