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Professor Wole Soyinka says the nation risks sliding into another civil war if the Niger-Delta crisis is not handled with tact.
Professor Wole Soyinka says the nation risks sliding into another civil war if the Niger-Delta crisis is not handled with tact.
The Nobel Laureate who addressed the press Wednesday in Lagos for the second time in one week believes the solution to the protracted crisis in the nation’s oil producing regime is to embrace dialogue rather than the present "silent monologue."
He warned against alienating people who are in position to facilitate the much-desired dialogue, noting that where that happens, we may end up with increased violence. He, however, decried the idea of hostage-taking saying that it was an unproductive way of seeking redress.
Soyinka also spoke on last week is PRONACO conference in Enugu, the Ibadan rally and conduct of the police, Fani-Kayode as well as on Frank Nweke, the Information Minister.
Niger Delta crisis
"The solution to the Niger-Delta crisis is that there must be dialogue. What we’ re having right now is an increasingly sanguinary, silent monologue. Why PRONACO started out in the first place was because of the cry for a people’s conference. It is simply because if you don’t listen to and arbitrate the genuine wishes of the people, you would end up with a series of monologue and increasing violence. And that’s exactly what is happening because we warned against shunning dialogue because if you do, you would still end up anyway having dialogue.
Even in brutal Sudan, some kind of dialogue is taking place, even though we’re calling for the trial of some of the members of that government for crimes against humanity. There was dialogue in Liberia. We’re saying let us learn from all these scenarios. Let us not turn the dissidents of the Niger-Delta into the Tamil Tigers of Nigeria, because if that happens, we’re going to have the Delta Sharks. And believe me, it is going to be far more lethal.
"There are people who are capable and trusted by interests groups in this country and if government makes a mistake of alienating such individuals, who can be used positively to initiate this dialogue, in the end, trust would be totally eroded and the danger exists that we would enter into yet another period of civil war. So while there’s time, we’re calling on all sides to please let us embrace dialogue.
And I am making an appeal also to the hostage-takers, please do not harm or kill the hostages. And please, release the hostages. Hostage taking is a very extreme mode of resistance and ultimately can be an unproductive measure to take in setting the revolutionary wheels. And so, I am making an appeal both on humanitarian and on philosophical ground, please release the hostages.
Soyinka also cleared the air on the aborted Ibadan rally, saying that he did not ditch the organisers.
"There’s some kind of impression going on around that I dissociated myself from the march (rally) in Ibadan. No, I did not. What I did was to correct the impression that I was going to be there physically. At no time did I say I would be there. And I had no intention of being there, for the simple reason that a new organization had been formed for this Oyo crisis, in which existed as a participant, the Citizens Forum. It is an independent body, which takes its own decisions. It is made of civil rights movements, NGOs, the usual familiar organisations, and some new ones. We (Citizens Forum) did support what they do completely. But I never said I was going to be there."
He reiterated the need to challenge the dastardly manner in which Rashidi Ladoja’s impeachment was conducted before it spreads to other parts of the country. He described it as "a cesspit of garrison rule which they want to extend to the whole of Nigeria.
"That is why it is important for those even outside Oyo State to take keen interest in what is happening in Oyo before it spreads. It is a cancerous growth. One garrison here, another garrison there and before you know, you are in a Mafia country."
He decried the high-handedness of the police during the botched Ibadan rally, particularly the manner the CD president, Comrade Moshood Erubami was rough-handled and arrested.
"I want to denounce again, police brutality. This (displaying photograph of Erubami being rough-handled by a policeman), is a most embarrassing picture. The police should be embarrassed for treating a human being like this. If you want to arrest a person, this is not how it’s done, except the person is violent. And I know Erubami who is being held here is not a violent man.
And from the report, which I was given, he didn’t offer violence. He in fact, didn’t resist them. I want to appeal to the police, once again, to please learn to imbibe the culture of the public voice; the culture of the street voice of the public, the right to congregate, to take part in rallies, to walk the streets. Those who organise these marches, are supposed, as a matter of courtesy and in their own interest, to inform the police, to say, oh, we’re taking these routes, and to ask for police protection.
But I want to make it absolutely clear that the court ruling in this respect, is unambiguous and it is not negotiable, demonstrators do not require a permit or permission or a leave from the police. That colonial carry-over has been struck out ignominiously and decisively.
And the police should be ashamed to be citing either by words or actions, this invalid document which was a colonial document. Again, I say the police have a responsibility to provide protection to the public voice, to the street voice of the public whenever it is requested. But they have no right whatever to brutalize the public.
If this continues, we may have to organise nationwide demonstration and rallies to protest the police. And the police would require such a large stock of gas canisters to deal with such nationwide actions, because this issue has got to be settled once and for all. In the interest of justice, democracy and the public, police brutality must end."
I wish to assure you that at no time did Dim Ojukwu order anybody to walk out of that meeting. He sat with us for several hours, he listened intensely to what was going on. In fact, he performed the Kolanut breaking ceremony. He told us he had to leave early because he was not feeling very well and we embraced both when he came and when he was leaving. He left in a very orderly manner accompanied by his associates. I can assure you that Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu at no time, neither staged a walk out nor ordered anybody to walk out. Of course, there were some heated moments during the meeting. There was a moment when a small group of people felt they were not having their way, and so stormed out rather noisily. In other words, they did walk out, but they also walked in and they completed the meeting with us and participated in the fashioning of the communiqué. In effect, nobody walked out permanently."
Soyinka who had to chair the meeting in the absence of the chairman, Chief Anthony Enahoro who got to the event rather late and deputy, Dr Beko Kuti who is indisposed and hospitalised in London said the experience was fascinating.
"It was very fascinating for me to have to chair that meeting which I wasn’t prepared for. But it was a very useful experience and it taught me a lot of things."
He however revealed that saboteurs have infiltrated the group.
"There is no doubt at all that there are sources within PRONACO which are being planted, which were planted and whose whole mission is to disrupt the meeting. I have identified, at least two, but I would not name them now, and who hold absolutely no interest in the progress of PRONACO. All they want to do is disrupt the project, both inside and out. I have also observed some of their actions outside."
The Nobel Laureate also denied accusation of undemocratic conduct in the fold.
"I think people who complain about lack of democracy in PRONACO should be very conscious of their own conduct because sometimes, they are the ones behaving undemocratically. They are the ones who want to impose their own opinion on the majority."
When asked about Chief Femi Fani-Kayode’s reply to his last week call on the president to resign, Soyinka said he never considered any statement by the presidential aide.
"I never read Femi-Fani-Kayode. I’m usually informed about him. The things that come out of his month, I suppose, have to be sieved, before they become even acceptable to any normal human being. So I get reports of what he says through about six different sources. And for me, he’s (Fani-Kayode) not unusual. He must do his job. It’s a competitive job.
I am only talking about Nweke because I was surprised that it was somebody new. So I wanted to introduce myself to Nweke and to introduce him to me. Otherwise, I don’t think I should dignify Fani-Kayode. I knew his father, I fought his father to a standstill, in the old Oyo. And it is a pity, I think all the intelligence…. the family had a quotient of intelligence, which stopped at a certain point. So you can see where the intelligence (in the Fani-Kayode’s family) stopped. So I cannot bother myself responding to anything Fani-Kayode says."
The Minister of Information, Frank Nweke jnr got the full length of Soyinka’s tongue over his statement on cultism and the Pyrates Confraternity, which the literary guru founded during his undergraduate years.
"I want to commend through you my publication (Cult: A People in Denial). But wait I thought Fani-Kayode was Minister of Information. I was surprised to see one Nweke, has he displaced Fani-Kayode, because you know there’s rivalry? Everybody is doing their best to eject the other and curry favour of the president. So, maybe Fani-Kayode has lost out.
But are you sure Fani-Kayode wasn’t the Minister of Information before? So where has this Nweke been? I mean, so much is happening in the whole country, we haven’t heard Nweke’s voice. He hasn’t informed the nation about everything, look at the on-going business in Dafur, we had a narrow escape you know. Sudan, that racist, repressive regime nearly became the chairman of the African Union, and this is the sort of activities in which I expected Minister of Information to be involved, mobilising the nation behind one of the solutions; the continued presidency of Olusegun Obasanjo.
Anything at all, to avoid this murderous, rapist regime of Sudan taking over and disgracing the race. The rape is still going on there, the refugees are still being brutalised, displaced… I mean, there’s clear genocide taking place in Dafur. This is one of the clear constituencies of Olusegun Obasanjo. Does the Minister of Information inform Nigerians about anything? No, we never heard of him. Delta is on fire. We rely strictly on the media both inside and outside to let know us what is going on. I never heard a squeak from (Frank) Nweke, the minister of information. None. All kinds of events are taking place. Oyo State, we never heard anything through Minister of Information.
Suddenly, the man decides to lie. He comes out with a big lie that the Pyrates confraternity is at the root of all the cultism in this nation. And when you look at the occasion, the timing is very mysterious. Some of you may not now that there is any character called Chief Abiola Ogundokun. I got a phone call that he just came out with another publication of his scurrilous magazine called Conscience International, and this time devoted to cultism, (something like Wole Soyinka as the cult boss). Anytime that Wole Soyinka takes on the government, whether it is Abacha or Obasanjo, Ogundokun has a way; I think he has a stack of various publications, I think he goes to the Minister of Information and say, listen, I can help you, if I have a little money, I think this can be out on the street tomorrow.
So the timing of this collaboration about cultism between Ogundokun and what’s his name again (Nweke), the Minister of Information is so interesting. More grease to his elbow. Anyway I hope now that he’s awake, he’d let us know that it is not Femi-Fani-Kayode who is the minister of information and that he’s taking his responsibilities seriously. But I recommend this book to him, which was presented some months ago, on cults and people in denial. I also did a kind of a town hall meeting in Abuja on the occasion of my birthday last year. Instead of the usual lecture, I decided to have it on this very problematic issue (cultism) which is not to be trivialised the way Nweke, Frank Nweke, has attempted to trivialise it.
He used it in a very irrelevant context; I mean, he was supposed to talk about education, but instead he decided to propagate a lie. There are articles here (in the book), which are good for him.
Nweke, go and read this book before you open your ignorant mouth to accuse people of wrongdoing when it is people like you who have debased the universal culture of fraternity. Everywhere in the world, as I keep reminding people, fraternities exist.
Many, if not all of the presidents of America, were members of campus fraternity. University campuses have fraternities. They have buildings allocated to them where they live, where they have their own fun and when they become too bad, they are punished.
Then if you really want to know how fraternity becomes debased, you have to ask very serious questions: Was it fraternities, which corrupted the outside societies or was it the outside societies, which infiltrated and debased the fraternity culture? If he is looking for an answer, I would advise him to go and look for a certain register; a register which got missing after the raid on Okija shrine.
The Inspector-General of Police (Tafa Balogun) said emphatically that he had information, the register where all those who applied to the Okija cult had to sign their names. Now, we haven’t heard anything of that register ever since. The cultists have been released for lack of evidence against them and that register has mysteriously disappeared.
Nobody has heard of that register anymore. Now that I know that we have a minister of information, I would like to invite him to tell us what happened to that register. To reveal to this nation and the world who are the owner of the signatures and the names on the register. When we have unearthed that little mystery, we’d begin to unravel the greater mystery of how innocent campus fraternities came to be debased, to be corrupted, to be polluted and bastardized by the outer society. That is where we should be looking at.
The Pyrates Confraternity is not a cult. It is registered, it is open. Some of the most prominent citizens in this country, across all walks of life are members of Pyrates. And Pyrates no longer operate on campuses. Where they think that they do, it is up to the university authorities to apply the most rigorous aspect of the disciplinary measure, including expulsion, to get rid of those masqueraders, those phony pedantic on campus. If you fail to do his job, sorry, I cannot help you."
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