Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has said those calling for the sovereign nations of Biafra and Oduduwa have rights as free citizens to call for secession.
In a statement, the professor criticised the use of force against the agitators of self-determination, insisting it is the responsibility of the leadership to persuade them. “It is time to think outside the box. That many, in so doing, find no landing place except dissolution, is not a crime. It is not peculiar to any peoples, and is embedded in the ongoing history of many, and not only on this continent.
“It is their natural right as free citizens, not slaves of habit and indoctrination. Where disillusion rides high, sentiment tumbles earthwards, and the only question becomes: what can be salvaged? It thus remains the responsibility of leadership to persuade them, through both discourse and remedial action, that there are other options. Attempted bullying is not a language of discourse, nor the facile ploy of tarring all birds with the same feather,” he said.
While speaking on President Muhammadu Buhari’s statement about the genocidal threat, Soyinka said while he was not in support of those killing and destroying government’s properties, the President’s statement to ‘deal with them in the language they understand’ was wrong and ‘tragically untimely.’
“I hold no brief for those who resort to burning down police stations, slaughter their occupants simply for the crime of earning a measly monthly pittance, torch electoral offices, assassinate politicians in calculated effort to set sections of the country against others in the promotion of their own political goals.
“These are largely nihilists, psychopaths and/or criminal lords, soul mates of Boko Haram, ISWAP, Da’esh and company, not to be confused with genuine liberators. All over the world, throughout history, elections are denounced, boycotted, and generally delegitimized without recourse to wanton butchery.
“When, however, a Head of State threatens to ‘shock’ civilian dissidents, to ‘deal with them in the language they understand’, and in a context that conveniently brackets opposition to governance with any bloodthirsting enemies of state, we have to call attention to the precedent language of such a national leader under even more provocative, nation disintegrative circumstances. What a pity, and what a tragic setting, to discover that this language was accessible all the time to President Buhari, where and when it truly mattered, when it would have been not only appropriate, but deserved and mandatory!
“When Benue was first massively brought under siege, with the massacre of innocent citizens, the destruction of farms, mass displacement followed by alien occupation, Buhari’s language – both as utterance and as what is known as ‘body language’ – was of a totally different temper. It was diffident, conciliatory, even apologetic.
“After much internal pressure, he eventually visited the scene of slaughter. His language? Learn to live peacefully with your neighbours. The expected language, rationally and legitimately applied to the aggressors, was exactly what we now hear – ‘I shall shock you. I shall deal with you in the language you understand,’” he said.