Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Thursday criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of killings by herdsmen in the country, as well as his response to the abduction of over 73 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, last month.
The renowned writer also flayed the President for attending a wedding (Governor Abdullahi Ganduje daughter’s marriage to Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s son) in the North few days after the abduction of the schoolgirls, describing the President’s action as blasphemous.
Soyinka said Buhari’s disposition to the killings and abduction of the schoolgirls reminded him of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s approach to the plight of victims of the 2002 bomb blast at the Ikeja Military Cantonment in Lagos.
According to Soyinka, 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 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 described as insensitive how Buhari and other politicians thronged Kano State 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.
Soyinka spoke in Lagos on Thursday at the maiden edition of Ripples Nigeria Dialogue, organised by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism.
The dialogue was titled, ‘Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria,’ but Soyinka titled his keynote address, ‘From Myetti to Haiti, Notes from a Solidarity Visit.’
On the panel of discussants were a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; Prof. Pat Utomi, who was represented by Mr. Rasheed Adegbenro; and Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi of the Transition Monitoring Group.
Soyinka said Buhari’s reaction was typical of the “presidential response” to crisis in Nigeria, from Obasanjo to former President Goodluck Jonathan, who waited for “nearly three weeks to accept that nearly 270 plus of our children had been abducted from Chibok village,” and “insisted that it was all a ploy by the opposition to discredit his government.”
He said he recalled that following the statement credited to Obasanjo on the scene of the Ikeja bomb blasts, he (Soyinka) called then President to protest and “chided him severely” but the response he got from Obasanjo was “Kampala tie niyen – that is your own Kampala,” which he said remained a riddle to him till date.
Soyinka said, “Whatever the origin of that expression (Kampala tie niyen), it nonetheless takes us back to the nation’s latest Kampala in Dapchi and here I must express how gratified I was by the reaction drawn by another and contrasting event that took place not far from Dapchi and where that presidential declaration ‘I am not obliged to be here’ would have been more appropriate.
“… They said, ‘Oh yes, that wedding was a needed therapy for the trauma undergone so recently by the abduction of those girls.’ Now, that’s what I call blasphemy. I’m not a religious person, but that is blasphemy.
“…I talk of the Cana wedding. There are so many formulas that could have been adopted to ensure that the couple still had their wedding without the accompanied exhibitionist lavishness so soon after a national calamity.”
The playwright recalled that 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.
Soyinka also flayed the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, for his “unacceptable” comments on the killings by herdsmen.
Soyinka, who recalled how during his visit sometime ago to Trinidad and Tobago, the country had witnessed a coup, during which its then Minister of Defence, “in that so-called coup” in Trinidad, was shot in the leg, said, “I consider that shot, however painful, a far more honourable wound than the wound sustained by our Minister of Defence, who shot himself in the mouth with some unacceptable commentary concerning the rampages of the Fulani herdsmen.
“What did you expect them to do?’ – This is after people had been killed in figures of hundreds – ‘What do you expect them to do if you block their route?’ This is addressing victims of Fulani herdsmen; this is addressing issues of rape, of massacre of the takeover of farmlands, the takeover of villages, all over Benue, Taraba, etcetera, etcetera.
“Land grabbers are trying to build on a piece of land that is not theirs ‘and you obstruct them, what do you want them to do?’ Farmers are squatting on land on which they derive their food and complaining, daring to complain, that cows were trampling on their farms and eating their crops. ‘So, what do you expect the cow owners to do?’’
The don said he was surprised that Buhari had not sacked the Minister of Defence.
He added, “And of course, let’s not forget the abduction of the girls, the latest, Dapchi. It’s their fault; didn’t they know that Boko Haram doesn’t like girls going to school? Stupid girls, stupid teachers, stupid parents; serves them right. It’s very strange to be able to say outside the world that the Minister of Defence is still in Buhari’s cabinet.”
Soyinka said he usually got impatient whenever “I hear complaints such as Buhari has failed to go and sympathise with the people of Benue, with the people of Nasarawa, with the people of Plateau of whatever.”
According to him, what was needed was not sympathy but justice.
He said, “We are speaking here of one eternal commodity that is a fundamental human deserving – justice. That’s what we are speaking about. Sympathy with or without the ostentatious laying of wreaths at the mass graves of victims by the new messiahs; sympathy is an ordinary commodity accessible to all of us. We are speaking, however, of a people’s need for security and where the structure for that fails, bring the perpetrators to book, even while emplacing deterrence measures against repeat.
“We are speaking of governance will and responsibility; the readiness to respond with massive punitive action when the fundamental security of a people is violated. We are speaking here of a President showing up at the arena of human desecration, not to shed any unjust tears but to read the riot act and give orders right on the scene of violation; order his forces into action against the arrogant blood-thirsty renegades of society who wallow in the blood of others, having been assured, some way or the other, of a cloak of impunity. We are speaking of the courage to declare such monsters terrorists, enemies of humanity with the same dispatch as the declaration of far less violent, far less distabilising movement or the disruptive and supranaturalist, and sometimes nasty, in their attestation and activities. We are speaking, in fact, for a culture of even-handedness.”
On the recent description of Nigeria as a shithole by President Donald Trump of the United States of America, Soyinka said Nigerians who flood the Internet with negative comments were to blame.
He said, “There is confusion between the right not to be insulted and the right to feel insulted…What does Donald Trump read? Does he read? I have no idea, but I know he does not miss reading Twitter. Now, who are the champions Twitters of the world? Nigerians. Nigerians Twitters, they violate all written and unwritten laws of human decency, they concur, they degrade, they contaminate everything they touch… So, when Donald Trump, who doesn’t miss his morning Tweets encounters their toxic outpouring, what other conclusion does he obtain?…any alien visiting this planet and logging onto the Internet will come to the same conclusion as Donald Trump, who lives right on this planet and breakfasts on Tweets.”
In his own contribution, Obi narrowed the problem of distrust to misrule and wastage of public resources.
According to him, there could not be trust in a society where nepotism is placed above merit, saying ‘nepotism is the biggest form of corruption.”
Speaking on Utomi’s behalf, Adegbenro stressed that knowledge should be a major yardstick in electing leaders, rather than electing people based on the mere promise that they would perform.
Halt killings by herdsmen, Senate, Reps tell Buhari
The Senate and the House of Representatives on Thursday urged Buhari to halt the killings by herdsmen and punished perpetrators.
In the Senate, members expressed concern about the continued killings by herdsmen and called for more actions by the President.
The call was made in the Senate when the lawmaker representing Kogi East Senatorial District, Senator Atai Aidoko, moved a motion on killings by herdsmen on Wednesday in his constituency.
He said “more than 20 people” were killed in an attack on a community in the Dekina Local Government Area of Kogi State.
Aidoko said, “This situation is urgent and needs our attention.”
The lawmakers unanimously granted prayers of the motion, one of which was “to condemn the attacks in strong terms, sympathise with the traumatised victims and observe a minute silence for the dead.”
They also urged “the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces to direct the military and police to move in (to Kogi) and to bring the situation under control.”
The Senate also urged the Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, and all security agencies in Kogi State to arrest the perpetrators of the gruesome killings and ensure that they are prosecuted.”
The President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki, in his closing remarks, said, “We all condemn these attacks. We must see that these people are sanctioned.”
Saraki had earlier, before the prayers were granted, asked the lawmakers to recommend short-term solutions to the security crises in the country pending the consideration of a special panel set up by the Senate to review the crises.
In the House of Representatives, members asked the Executive arm of government to take decisive steps in halting killings by herdsmen in Plateau State.
It also condemned the recent importation of military uniforms and arms into Kogi State by agents linked to the State Government.
The House passed the resolution in Abuja on Thursday after the Plateau State caucus moved a motion to raise the alarm over the renewed attacks.
It called for the immediate disarming of “killer herdsmen” by security agencies and the tightening of security in vulnerable communities.
Mr. Istifanus Gyang, who moved the motion on behalf of the caucus, said 45 people and another 29 had been killed in Bassa Local Government Area and other communities respectively in the past days.
“If urgent steps are not taken, the security situation in Plateau will escalate,’’ Gyang said.
The session, which was presided over by the Speaker, Mr. Yakubu Dogara, also condemned the build-up of arms in Kogi State.
A member from the state, Mr. Sunday Karimi, alerted the House to the importation of arms into the state.
Karimi informed the House that the Nigeria Customs Service and other security services had questions to answer on how the arms found their way into the state.
Buhari politicising abduction of Dapchi girls –PDP
The Peoples Democratic Party, however, described as iniquitous, the alleged attempt by Buhari to use the abduction of schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, to score political points.
The PDP said the President’s comparison of the Dapchi incident to similar abduction of schoolgirls in Chibok, Borno State, in 2014, appeared pregnant with meaning, especially in the face of pervading speculations and conspiracy theories that trailed the Dapchi abduction.
The PDP, in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, on Thursday, said the comments by the President, as well as his aloofness to the people in the troubled states so far visited, had confirmed that the belated visits were mere afterthoughts orchestrated for political reasons.
He said, “Nigerians need to know; is there a heinous script in which our innocent daughters in Dapchi have become pawns?”
Ologbondiyan said these were some of the reasons his party urged the National Assembly to institute an independent inquest into the Dapchi abduction and make its findings public.
Suicide bombers killed in foiled attack
Two suicide bombers were killed in a failed attempt to infiltrate and bomb a suburb of Maiduguri, Borno State.
The two suicide bombers, both female, were said to have hurriedly detonated the improvised explosive devices strapped on them to avoid being caught alive.
This led to their death, while nine other persons were injured.
The spokesman for the police in Borno State, Joseph Kwaji, said, “Corpses and injured victims have been taken to hospitals and normalcy restored.”