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Soyinka to Buhari: Nigeria’s crumbling, close to extinction

…says OBJ’s warnings, accurate reading of situation

Nobel Laureate and civil rights activist, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday, joined the raging debate on the state of the nation, declaring that Nigeria was not just a failing state, but a crumbling edifice and a contraption teetering on the very edge of total collapse.

Soyinka said that even though he had never been a fan of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, his recent remarks on the state of the nation were an accurate reading of the situation of things in the country. He said that even when Obasanjo and other past leaders were complicit in the deteriorating condition of Nigeria, his serial warnings in recent years cannot be ignored if the country must be rescued from total collapse. “I am notoriously no fan of Olusegun Obasanjo, General, twice former president and co-architect with other past leaders of the crumbling edifice that is still generously called Nigeria.

I have no reasons to change my stance on his record. Nonetheless, I embrace the responsibility of calling attention to any accurate reading of this nation from whatever source, as a contraption teetering on the very edge of total collapse.

“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,” he said.

In a strongly worded message titled: BETWEEN ‘DIVIDERS-IN-CHIEF’ and DIVIDERS-IN-LAW’, which he released to media houses yesterday, Soyinka raised series of posers about recent happenings in Nigeria and accused President Muhammadu Buhari and his government of failing to address the most critical challenges agitating the minds of the populace.

The playwright recalled that in May last year during the commemoration of Africa Day, he had cause to direct the attention of Buhari to similar warnings by Obasanjo over the selfdestructive path the government had chosen to take Nigeria through and urged the government to heed the message, even if it did not like 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? “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! Inequity reigns, and solutions are trivialised,” he said.

Soyinka, whose message was laced with lots of sarcasm, did not spare the state governors and members of the National Assembly over their perceived complicity in the parlous state of the country. He attacked the non-challance of state governors and the legislature to the agitation for radical political reforms, insisting that they could do more to save the country. Soyinka recalled that over the years, well-meaning Nigerians have expressed misgivings about the over concentration of powers at the centre and the need to evolve a true federal structure, but such agitations were frustrated by certain elements opposed to change of the status quo.

He described the current optical system in Nigeria as “a crude, militarised centralist contraption” which must be dismantled because of its illegalities and substituted with a more efficient governance system, which must be decentralised, providing broader access to opportunities.

He lamented that every previous effort to effect this needed change was turned into opportunities for legislative junketing and budget padding. “Legislators watch with indifference in this day of human advance, as individ-uals are sentenced to hang for expressing their views on the relative apprehension of religious avatars, not a squeak emerges from such lawgivers. Pedophiles and cross-border sex traffickers are honoured in the act, granted immunity on cooked-up alibis of religion. Is this nation a theocracy? Nigeria is a suppurating slaughter slab, and it boggles the mind that supposedly wise and lettered men, sheltering under any religious mandate, would go into a solemn huddle to ‘legitimately’ augment the toll of mindless killings that now plague the land. “…

But the fault is not one-sided. Let governors also wake up to their constitutional rights and duties. There are vast areas of those rights that have been trampled upon, usurped for far too long. Forget legislative jamborees of constitution reviews – we have had our fill of them – all the files are gathering dust. It is time for Reparations! Dust up those files and head for the courts. Prepare for namecalling, just as long as such names embody – Dividersin- law! “Only then shall we uncover who are the real Dividers- in-Chief? If individual voices rankle, then perhaps it is time to convoke a Nation Survival Conference.

Let all sections and group interests place their cards on the table and starkly articulate what we all know and endure on a daily basis, and proffer solutions, debate moves towards a collective – rational and sincere – undertaking of nation formation.

The ongoing governance posture of aggressive evasion spells only one end: collective suicide,” he said. He expressed dismay at the plight of pensioners and other senior citizens as well as the farmers who can no longer go to their farms as a result of insecurity across various farming communities in the country. According to him, rather than the government at both federal and state levels tackling the insecurity that had triggered food crisis, they have chosen to appease the armed herdsmen, terrorists and bandits terrorising the farmers with the land under the controversial RUGA scheme.

The erudite scholar also raised concerns about the lopsided appointments to crucial positions in the Civil Service and parastatals of government, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and Ministry of Petroleum Resources where President Buhari holds sway as minister.

He alleged that the petroleum sector, which is Nigeria’s “prime economic cash cow”, had become “a reeking cesspit of nepotism” under Buhari’s watch. Soyinka expressed disappointment with the handlers of the government over their penchant to dismiss the complaints of Nigerians with claims of achievements of the government, adding that such attitude was deliberately designed to dodge the issues to ignore the real concerns of the masses. He urged officials of the government not to bamboozle the citizenry with real or contrived achievements on infrastructure as that was why the government was elected and owed the people those basic social and economic deliverables. Soyinka argued that while it would be a misnomer for any government not to record any achievement in four years, it is actually what it fails to do, or what it does wrongly, deceitfully or prejudicially that concerns the citizenry.

He said that there is profound distrust across the nation as Nigerians have lost hope in the current 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.

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