‘FG abdicating responsibilities on herdsmen’

Wole Soyinka


The continued wave of armed herdsmen attacks across the country has irked Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who said the situation is currently forcing the Nigerian government to rescind its laws.

Last week, armed herdsmen extended their activities to Kogi State where over 25 people were killed and four in Edo State, a situation that has continued to send fear to Nigerians over the ability of government to tame the insurgency.

Taking a critical look at the situation during the maiden edition of Ripples Nigeria Dialogue titled: ‘Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria’ organised by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism in Lagos last week, Soyinka, after a critical analysis of the current democratic dispensation, concluded that Nigeria is a nation which leadership has not been up to its responsibilities.

In his address titled: ‘From Myetti to Haiti, Notes from a Solidarity Visit,’ Soyinka said activities of organized herdsmen who have been rampaging the nation and descending on innocent people, eating up their crops and burning down their farms are not given adequate attention by the government.

He said, “Let me stress this yet again, and without ambiguity, this is not a question of whether or not one agrees with the direction and methods of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), or the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for the Survival of Ogoni People (MOSOP), Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC) or Arewa, the issue is stark, unambiguous and unchallengeable. It is simply this, an organization has been rampaging up and down the nation, armed to the teeth, descending on innocent villagers and farmers, eating up their crops and burning down their farms, dismembering any protesters, raping their women young and old and defying all agencies of law and order.”

Also faulting the disposition of President Muhammadu Buhari towards the abduction of the Dapchi girls in Yobe State, Soyinka said, “Buhari, who did not deem it necessary to visit Dapchi after the abduction of the schoolgirls or the victims of herdsmen attacks in various parts of the country until he was criticised, was not different from the attitude of erstwhile President Olusegun Obasanjo, who promptly visited the scene of the bomb blasts in Ikeja in 2002, but told the “bedraggled survivors that surrounded him, pleading for help, protesting, “What do you want me to do? I’m not obliged to be here!”

He recalled that following the statement credited to Obasanjo on the scene of the Ikeja bomb blasts, he (Soyinka) called the then president to protest and also chided him but the response he got from Obasanjo was “Kampala tie niyen – that is your own Kampala, which remained a riddle to me till date.”

He also cited the case of former President Goodluck Jonathan, who waited for nearly three weeks to accept that over 270 children from Chibok Village in Borno State were abducted, saying Jonathan insisted then that it was all a ploy by the opposition to discredit his government.

“But after Jonathan finally accepted the reality of the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction in 2014, his wife, Patience, proceeded to stage one of the most nauseating acts of incoherent, tuneless, meaningless and purposeless investigative session.”

The playwright described as insensitive, how Buhari and other politicians thronged Kano for the wedding between the daughter of Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and son of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, when the entire country was grieving over the abduction of schoolgirls in Yobe State.He said there are methods that could have been adopted to ensure that the couple still had their wedding, which could have eliminated the presence of the president.

“There are so many formulae that could have been adopted to ensure that the couple still had their wedding without the accompanying exhibitionist lavishness so soon after a national calamity, and each of such options eliminated the presence of a president who had yet to respond with his own physical authority to the scene of human carnage close by.

“The nation was in mourning. A quiet wedding by the couple, minus the atmosphere of a national carnival, or else a shift of location elsewhere – Dubai, I understand, is the current favorite destination – one that the parental pair could of course afford. A festive convergence that included a gaggle of twenty-five governors, plus a president constituted a national provocation, not celebration.”He said in such instance, “President Buhari should have adapted the dictum of Obasanjo’s ‘I am not obliged to be here’ to the celebrants. Indeed, re-phrased that to read: I am obliged NOT to be here, and sent blessings and presents.”

On the hate speech bill, Soyinka said it is impetrative that Nigerians resist it’s passage by the Senate, saying, the bill is an attempt to silence government critics “the passage must not scale through, otherwise half the population of the social media would end on the execution block.“Let’s look at this supposedly corrective project most carefully: the death penalty if you are judged to have made a ‘hate speech,’ used language of incitement that may lead to violence or whatever.

“What is this but a ploy to stifle criticism and snuff out the fundamental right of expression. What does it amount to but a cover-up for corruption and impunity in high places? But let us not be fooled – they would not dare carry out such an outrageous sentence. No one denies that they can count on judges who will gleefully apply the law, and that prospect will be dangled over the head of all citizens with a restless social conscience.”Speaking on the topic of the dialogue, ‘rebuilding trust,’ Soyinka stated, “Rebuilding trust requires frankness, self-examination, and unflinching look in the mirror- both individually and collectively.”

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Wole Soyinka


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