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Atlas Cove jetty attack not assault on Yoruba – Soyinka

By Dapo Akinrefon
LAGOS — NOBEL LAUREATE, Prof Wole Soyinka, has said that the Federal Government is isolating the Niger Delta problem, declaring that the crisis can only be solved through a holistic approach.

He also lampooned those suggesting that the Atlas Cove Jetty bombing carried out by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) was an assault on the Yoruba nation just as he commended Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State for not turning the attack into a tribal issue.

Prof. Wole Soyinka (left) and Mr. Tony Uranta at a press briefing in Lagos on the Niger Delta crisis,  yesterday.  Photo: Sylva Eleanya.
Prof. Wole Soyinka (left) and Mr. Tony Uranta at a press briefing in Lagos on the Niger Delta crisis, yesterday. Photo: Sylva Eleanya.

Addressing newsmen in Lagos, Prof Soyinka explained that violence was already institutionalised in the country adding that the Yar’Adua administration, if not careful, may lose the opportunity of solving the crisis in the Niger Delta.

He, however, called on MEND to flush out dissidents from its fold to curb unwarranted attacks on innocent citizens in the future.

His words: “Let’s not mystify violence. Violence has been institutionalised in this nation anyway and at no time more than under the last president of this nation. So, let’s not over-dramatise violence. Therefore, nobody in this country should expect an organisation like MEND to be composed entirely of angels, that will be ridiculous.

But MEND also has a responsibility to assist the general community in flushing out its own racketeers, its own extortionists, its own opportunists. This is the responsibility of any liberal organisation.

Prof. Wole Soyinka at a press briefing in Lagos on the Niger Delta crisis,  yesterday.  Photo: Sylva Eleanya.
Prof. Wole Soyinka at a press briefing in Lagos on the Niger Delta crisis, yesterday. Photo: Sylva Eleanya.

The government of Yar’Adua is once again about losing an opportunity. Why do I say that? The hand of amnesty, the offered rehabilitation money, the proposed structure for demobilisation is okay but this government is making a fundamental mistake, it is isolating the problem.

“The crisis of the Niger Delta region,” Soyinka maintained, “can only be solved holistically because the core issue for which MEND is fighting, from what I have researched in my contacts with some of the militants is exactly what majority of this nation has been fighting for, for so many years.

The restructuring of this nation, the equitable rights, like fiscal federalism for instance, talking about issues of revenue allocation, derivation, generation. We are talking about the distortion that has taken place since this nation attained independence.”

He further pointed out that MEND was, in a way, embarking on the same campaign which PRONACO fought for, noting that “MEND in other words, is simple PRONACO by other means and what PRONACO was about was precisely to avoid the resort to this other means.

“The aims of MEND and PRONACO, in fact, tally. And the problems of Niger Delta cannot be solved outside a holistic concept of what Nigeria should and what is meant to be and the kind of extensive laborious exercise that PRONACO undertook for nearly two years is precisely to avoid the means that has been actualised by organisations like MEND.

It will be very foolish and naive for anyone to think that once you just solved the problem in a little corner, you have therefore solved the fundamental issues”, he stated.

The nobel laureate who regretted the attack on the Atlas Cove jetty stated the need for the Federal Government to compensate families of the victims who died in the attack just as he urged that the attack should not be “sentimentalised.”

He said: “We must begin by sending out our condolences to the relations of the victims of the Atlas Cove attack. We must deplore the necessity of any kind of action that leads to losses of Nigerians lives or even create and absence of insecurity.

These are things that are lamentable, they are not normal to them, we are not living under normal circumstances.
“I will like to appeal for instance to various bodies and urge the Lagos State government to do something for the victims, for the dependants of the casualties of that attack and also, wherever possible, beef up security because that is the responsibility of any kind of responsible government.”

In addition, he pointed out that “there are dangers which are greater even than the blowing up of an oil depot anywhere.

We are thinking about the conflagration but then, there are other forms of conflagration which can emerge from the kind of language, which is used and the kind of attitude that are expressed, whenever an unusual and abnormal event of this nature happens.

“I particularly pick issue with the attempt to turn this into an assault by one ethnic group against another or by any organisation against an ethnic group; in other words, I insist that our response cannot be based on the kind of ethnic recognition.

Yes, indeed, a violence took place on Lagos soil, the Lagos State government which is responsible for the safety of its citizens, has a responsibility to act in a way, to reassure and to protect its own citizens, that is understood.

“The governor is the Chief Security officer of Lagos and the constituency of the governor is Lagos State. But I noticed with great commendation that Governor Fashola never attempted to turn this into an assault on an ethnic group, Fashola spoke as Governor of Lagos, with the concern of Lagos, zone of responsibility and he stopped at that.

What I deplore is the attempt by other groups to suggest that this was an assault on the Yoruba people. As a Yoruba man, I want to speak quite clearly I do not feel that I have been assaulted because of my ethnic affiliation and the reality of my ethnic grouping,” he stressed.


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