Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Oil makes us impotent

“I had a surprising call this week,” the author Richard North Patterson told the audience that had gathered last weekend as part of the PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature. It was former President Bill Clinton. Mr. Patterson’s new novel, “Eclipse,” is based on the case of the Nigerian writer and activist Ken Saro-Wiwa, and Mr. Clinton spoke of a phone call he had made 14 years ago to Gen. Sani Abacha of Nigeria, asking him to spare Mr. Saro-Wiwa from the hangman.

Mr. Clinton said General Abacha “was very polite,” but “he was cold,” Mr. Patterson related. “Clinton took away from that, among other things, that oil and the need for oil on behalf of the West and other places made Abacha, in his mind, impervious.”

The event’s moderator, the Nigerian novelist Okey Ndibe, added an unexpected epilogue. A friend in the Abacha cabinet said the general later boasted: “All these pro-democracy activists run to America and expect America to save them. But the U.S. president himself is calling me ‘sir.’ He is scared of me.”

Source: New York Times