Soyinka warns Nigerian government against muzzling dissenting voices
The Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Saturday decried the “complicit” silence of President Muhammadu Buhari on the activities of herdsmen across the country.
Soyinka, who spoke on increasing activities of the marauders during a chat with the Pidgin Service of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), said President Buhari ought to have addressed Nigerians in order to ease the tension amongst farmers and herdsmen in the country.
He warned that the current situation across the country, particularly in the South-West, may develop into another civil war.
Nigeria fought a 30-month civil war over five decades ago.
The war which pitched the Igbos in the South-East against the rest of the country was fought from 1967 to 1970.
The Ondo State Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, recently gave the Fulani herdsmen a seven-day ultimatum to leave the state’s forest reserves.
Also, a grassroots politician in Oyo State, Sunday Adeyemo, aka Sunday Igboho, had last month led residents of Igangan, Ibarapa local government area of the state to evict leaders of Fulani settlements in the area after giving them an ultimatum.
He accused the Fulani leaders of harbouring the herdsmen who perpetrate criminality in the area.
In his remarks, Soyinka pledged to support whatever decision is taken to secure people’s rights to live in dignity.
The playwright said: “What do they expect of us now that the war is on our doorstep? Of course, there will be mobilisation and if we keep waiting for this to be centrally handled, we are all going to become, if not already slaves in our land. That to me is personally intolerable. It is not an acceptable condition.
“And whatever it takes, I stand ready to contribute in any way and I have made my governor understand this, that we are here not just to live in but to live in dignity.
“Right now, our dignity is being rubbished. My forest is being taken over, it’s been shrinking, my normal hunting ground is shrinking. My family tells me that if I go in-depth again, they will have me institutionalised.”
Soyinka also said the first solution to the recurring menace is for Buhari to address the nation on the level of insecurity and the way forward.
He said the President should say openly that ”yes, I know I am the patron of the cattle rearers association etc., and I am a cattle rancher myself and it is a business. And I do not run my business by killing people. I do not run my business by raping, by displacing or by torturing.
“I do not run my business by occupying land that does not belong to me and I am warning a business people in the food commodity, all cattle reared, whatever comes to you for illegal occupation for trespassing on other people’s property is your business and I am ordering the army, I am ordering all the security forces to back citizens’ efforts in flushing you out.”
The Nobel Laureate said he expects nothing else at this stage from Buhari other than the statement he suggested.
“It is very late already but it is not too late. This is a language that we expect from President Buhari and as much as that language does not come, I must consider him as quite complicit in what is going on because the buck stops at his desk.
“We may enter a phase of serious skirmishes which get more and more violent and may develop into civil war and a very untidy mercy one. That’s my biggest fear. Unless an action is taken.
“I am very glad that the governors are coming together and are discussing in all seriousness. I’m happy they are pulling in groups like Miyetti Allah, obviously knocking some sense into the head of their leaders and they are talking about accepting the decision of governors and agreeing to obey,” he concluded.