Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka has said that Nigeria may not celebrate another Democracy Day as one nation if President Muhammadu Buhari fails to listen to the people and decentralise the system of government.
Soyinka said this Monday during an interview with Arise News, which focused on June 12 Democracy Day commemoration in Nigeria, where he described the country as a plane that is on a suicide slide, and that the citizens have the right to exit the plane before it nosedives.
He urged President Buhari to stop exuding false confidence and speak like a leader who is ready to take action concerning the country’s challenges.
“And that is what’s happening to people in the streets. That’s why they are moving, that’s why they are demonstrating; that’s why they are defying even threats from the police and the government – If you demonstrate, we will do this, if you do this, we will deal with you, we will talk to you in language which you understand – it does not wash with anybody any longer. Because if a nation is on a suicide slide, the people who feel that they do not deserve that kind of suicidal plunge have a right to say they are getting off this plane before it nosedives.”
The Nobel laureate noted that the upsurge in secessionist agitation in the country in recent times stemmed from Buhari’s refusal to listen to Nigerians.
When asked the question: “Do you think Nigeria can continue as one?” Soyinka responded: “Not if it continues this way. Not if it fails to decentralise. If Nigeria fails to decentralise, and I mean to decentralise as fast as possible, manifestly and not as rhetoric, then Nigeria cannot stay together.
“Again, it is not Wole Soyinka saying this. Everybody has said it: ex-heads of state have said it; politicians have said it; analysts have said it; economists have said it, and sometimes we get tired.
“I am saying this whole nation is about to self-destruct and I am not the only one saying it, except Buhari and his government listen and take action, we would not celebrate another Democracy Day come next year.
“Take for instance the position of the Southern governors on open grazing, at least 50 per cent of a nation are saying that within this democratic dispensation we are operating, we are saying on behalf of our people, we do not want open grazing anymore and then somebody sits in Aso Rock and says to them, I am instructing my Attorney-General to dig up some kind of colonial law, which arbitrated between farmers and herders.
“This means that he is not listening to what the people are saying, he is not listening to what the government representing them is saying. When I listen to things like that, I really despair. His last interview was instructive, not that there was anything new in it, one was just hoping that this government has transcended that kind of partisan thinking.”
Soyinka noted that President Buhari is abrogating the essence of democracy, saying there are lots of responsibilities, implications and commitment involved in a practicing democratic regime. According to him, democracy does not rest only on a sequence of symbolic gestures such as restoring June 12 as democracy day but an act that ought to be manifested consistently without an exception.
Commenting on the recent ban on Twitter in Nigeria, Soyinka observed that truncating the various channels of self-expression open to any polity amounted to absolutely abrogating the very essence of democracy.
“When you truncate any channel of self-expression of a people, you are literally becoming an enemy of democracy. It is so obvious and plain that I don’t even understand why one has to expatiate on it,” he said.
He noted that kidnapping had become a business in the western corridors of Lagos, Ogun, Kwara and other states but the President often come on air to act as nothing had happened. Soyinka argued that the creation of a regional security outfit, Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun, was a result of the frustration and desperation felt by the people.
According to him, Buhari was still asleep and unaware that the nation had changed dramatically over the last few years.
Soyinka stated that it was about time the president sacked most of the people in government around him, saying they are not doing him or the nation any service.
“I think they are people who say to him the things he wants to hear, if he is depending on them, his government is doomed and so is this nation. During this so-called democracy day, it’s time for some drastic thinking on the part of his government.”