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Soyinka to Buhari: We are heading towards collective suicide

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By Ozolua Uhakheme, Assistant Editor Arts

Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka has urged President Muhammadu Buhari to change his style of governance otherwise Nigeria maybe heading towards collective suicide. He noted that the ongoing governance posture of aggressive evasion spells only one end: collective suicide.

Soyinka who spoke in a statement made available to The Nation on Tuesday, warned against the backdrop of obvious division among the groups in the country as earlier pointed out by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo.

He said: “We are close to extinction as a viable comity of peoples, supposedly bound together under an equitable set of protocols of co-habitation, capable of producing its own means of existence, and devoid of a culture of sectarian privilege and will to dominate.

“On Africa Day, May 2019, organised by the Union Bank of Africa, I similarly seized an opening to direct the attention of this government to warnings by the Ota farmer over the self-destruct turn that the nation had taken, urged the wisdom of heeding the message, even while remaining chary of the messenger. That advice appears to have fallen on deaf ears. In place of reasoned response and openness to some serious dialogue, what this nation has been obliged to endure has been insolent distractions from garrulous and coarsened functionaries, apologists and sectarian opportunists.

“The nation is divided as never before, and this ripping division has taken place under the policies and conduct of none other than President Buhari – does that claim belong in the realms of speculation? Does anyone deny that it was this president who went to sleep while communities were consistently ravaged by cattle marauders, were raped and displaced in their thousands and turned into beggars all over the landscape? Was it a different president who, on being finally persuaded to visit a scene of carnage, had nothing more authoritative to offer than to advice the traumatised victims to learn to live peacefully with their violators? And what happened to the Police Chief who had defied orders from his Commander-in-Chief to relocate fully to the trouble spot – he came, saw, and bolted, leaving the ‘natives’ to their own devices. Any disciplinary action taken against ‘countryman’? Was it a spokesman for some ghost president who chortled in those early, yet controllable stages of now systematized mayhem, gleefully dismissed the mass burial of victims in Benue State as a “staged show” for international entertainment? Did the other half of the presidential megaphone system not follow up – or was it, precede? – with the wisdom that they, the brutalized citizenry, should learn to bow under the yoke and negotiate, since “only the living” can enjoy the dividends of legal rights?

Read Also: Soyinka: Obasanjo is right, Nigeria more divided under Buhari

According to him, to reel off any achievements of a government – genuine or fantasised, trivial or monumental – is thus to dodge the issue, to ignore the real core concerns.

He stressed that no government, however inept, fails to record some form of achievement – this was why it were elected, and it takes real genius to succeed in spending four years actually doing nothing. “What it fails to do, or what it does wrongly, deceitfully or prejudicially is what concerns the citizenry. Across this nation, there is profound distrust, indeed abandonment of hope in this government as one that is genuinely committed to the survival of the nation as one, or indeed understands the minimal requirements for positioning it as a modern, functional space of productive occupancy.

“Donald Trump is not without a governance pass mark here or there – indeed, he has been touted for the Nobel Peace prize in some quarters, backed, predictably, by the quota Nigerian columnist – yet who dares deny, outside Republican diehard circles – that the great United States of American is brutally divided, and is even unraveling under the Trumpian phenomenon!

“Back to our own yaws however: Are pensioners still considered human, deserving the rewards of labour without further labour? Many collapse from that extended labour of recovering routine entitlements. Even routine access to that basic human requirement – food – is now under question, as farmers are chased off their farms in large numbers.

“Instead of timely action, urged stridently by beleaguered governors and of course by ‘professional agitators’ — appeasement of the violent food saboteurs was the preferred route to food security – operating under fancy names like RUGA. So how do you persuade graduates and young school leavers to try their hands at farming instead of flooding urban centres looking for non-existent white-collar positions? To get killed and dismembered? And what is the score within those much-coveted urban precincts? Lop-sided appointments to crucial positions in Civil Service and parastatals! Consider the prime economic cash cow – petroleum – exposed a few months ago as a reeking cesspit of nepotism. Who is the Minister of Petroleum under whose watch such an unprecedented contempt for geographical parity – uncontroverted till today — became entrenched? That happens to be none other than the nation’s president – and he did make a show of astonishment at the gross disparities, promised to subject the anomaly to immediate enquiry.

Continuing, he said: “May one ask what action has been taken to rectify that presumably “nation-unifying” compilation? It all casts a long, unedifying shadow backwards to those days of agitation by Tai Solarin and the mercuric engineer, Awojobi when the same Buhari took forceful charge of that ministry, promised to get to the root of the flying charges – anyone still recall the saga of the missing millions? He made a beeline for the home of a prominent political leader and carted away loads of files in his illegal possession. In vain the nation awaited enlightenment – Nothing!

“National divisiveness? Just where does culpability lie? Does centralist usurpation divide or bind? The answer is obvious in daily effects. We have even heard the charge laid at the feet of governors. When the constitutive units of this nation take steps to rescue themselves into the ‘unifying’ quagmire into which they have been plunged by a creaking, clearly unworkable centralised system, guess who squawk, gnash their teeth and threaten to call down thunder even where such remedies are backed by constitutional provisions! Alas, the dare of ignorance! And after being confronted by the legitimate right of states to at least salvage their existence and protect their citizens, guess who trundles out constrictive parameters, and attempts to dictate to governors how such state prerogatives should be exercised! Come under the umbrella of a failed Inspectorate Usurper – ordered the Garbled megaphone. Just on whose authority?

“We do know – let this be stated for the umpteenth time! – that the rains did not just begin to beat us yesterday in this nation. We know when the clouds began to gather, where the deluge began and turned to severe pounding. We can pinpoint the first trickle of the torrent of appeasement, of illegal extortions and concessions. Past leaders will not be permitted to forget or gloss over own self-centred interests and nation corrosive lapses that brought us to this parlous present. But we do endure in this here and now, in the immediacy of current governance, so let no uppity flunkey attempt to divert attention from current realities, realities that now clearly pronounce this nation of once promising prospects a basket case of abject penury and insecurity, where hordes of trained minds and sturdy limbs roam the streets as beggars, as haphazard vendors of the products of other peoples, other lands!” he added.

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