BY CHARLES KUMOLU
NOBEL laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, wants President Goodluck Jonathan to tell Nigerians who authorised the military to prevent some governors of the All Progressives Congress,APC, from attending the final governorship election campaign in Ekiti State, describing the action of the army as unconstitutional.
He also called on the National Assembly to set up a commission of enquiry to unravel those behind the act, even as he regretted that the military dishonoured itself for accepting to be used to influence a democratic process.
Governors Rotimi Amaechi (Rivers), Aliyu Wammako (Sokoto) and Adams Oshiomhole (Edo) were among the APC governors stopped on Thursday by security forces from attending the rally in Ado Ekiti of Governor Kayode Fayemi, their party’s candidate in yesterday’s election in Ekiti State.
Briefing newsmen, Saturday, in Lagos, Soyinka urged the affected governors to seek redress in court, describing the matter as a dangerous precedent that should not be swept under the carpet.
His words: ”To prevent governors from entering Ekiti is unconstitutional. The matter should be charged to court. Supposing the governors were thugs, we will say that what the army did was constitutional. When the army starts acting like thugs, I see no difference between their action and waylaying the governors. So I am asking the military; when did you take up the job of electoral thugs? The governors should sue whoever is responsible”.
The Nobel Laureate explained that the action against the governors was the kind a former Police Commissioner in Rivers State, Mr Joseph Mbu, considered a proper conduct. He said: “I want us to think about this. When did Police Commissioner Mbu join the military? When we spoke in this hall people said what business does Wole Soyinka have with Rivers, what does Femi Falana have in Rivers State? What we were saying that day was that if we allowed this kind of conduct to be accepted, there will be escalation. It will happen in dangerous dimensions in any other place in Nigeria.’
”We have a responsibility in any part of Nigeria where the rights of the citizens are violated. It does not matter whether the person is a motor mechanic, governor or legislator. We have a responsibility to cry out and to tell Nigerians, ‘if you don’t speak now, it will come to you. And it is going to come with fatal consequences’. It is about time we put a stop to that.”
Sounding rhetorical, Soyinka said, “Who gave orders like that? Is it the Chief of the Army Staff? Is it a General somewhere? Is it the Korofo as they call them? Enough is enough. Fayemi has a name, Amaechi has a name, Oshiomhole has a name. Why is it that those who prevented them from exercising their citizens’ rights do not have names? It is always ‘order from the top’.
Sometimes we don’t even know where the top is. It happened in Rivers State. And now there is ‘order from the top’ to stop the governors. That type of language should stop. The military is being paid from the public purse. They are now taking sides in a political election. What do we do about this situation? The legislative houses must live up to their duties. They must wake up to their duties.
There has to be a commission of enquiry about what actually happened. We want a specific investigation. We want to know who is responsible. Who gave the order? We want these people to be called to give evidence. All the governors should sue for the violation of their human rights. They should make a case out of it.
Let us make an example once and for all. We can not continue with this kind of misconduct which makes us a laughing stock all over the world. Can you imagine what happened in the States just yesterday afternoon. Can you imagine the language that is being used to describe Nigerians. People were asking about what was happening in the wonderland of ours. Some said they heard that some governors were stopped, while one was tear-gassed.”
Extracts from Soyinka’s speech:
We’ll put the govt on trial
”That embarrassment must stop. So we will not be satisfied with any thing less than making us know who gave the order. If that does not happen, we will set up a citizens court. We did it in the fight against Abacha. And for Albashir of the Sudan. We got victims, witnesses and journalists to come and testify on the violation of human rights. We will ask for international help. If we can’t hold it here, we will hold it else where. It will be a shame if we are forced to hold it outside. We will place the government on trial. This must the very last time that such an incident will happen. I still can not believe that this thing happened. It appears like some kind of fantasy, some kind of Nollywood film.”
Military allies of Boko Haram
”In addition to that, I insist that those governors go to court to sue whoever is responsible for the violation of their rights. I want them to remember that they are custodians of the democratic process. So if they fail to defend themselves it would amount to dereliction of duty. There is something called abuse of power and it is very real. Using the military is dishonouring the military.
I am talking to the military now. Allowing yourself to be used this way is demeaning yourself. It is bringing yourself down. And the military has a lot to answer. I have called on Nigerians to please support the actions of the security forces in defending the security of this nation against Boko Haram. I have called for a non-partisan approach to the menace of Boko Haram. And I have used the language of please support the efforts of the military. But when the military conducts itself in this way, then we have to consider them allies of Boko Haram. Because Boko Haram does not believe in democracy.’
”Boko Haram despises democracy. Some of their allies internationally say that the way to transform the society is not through the ballot box but through the bullets. That is the language of Al-Qaeda, that is the language of a number of fundamentalists all over the world. When an election took place in Algeria and was won by some fundamentalists, the first thing they did was to say that they were discarding democracy. That was the beginning of the problems in Algeria. And Algerians paid horrendously for it. We should not allow that to happen here. We want the President to tell us who sent those soldiers on a mission which very easily could have resulted to loss of lives. It is mind boggling. It is important we have it sorted out.”
Use the military to bring back the girls
”I did not want to speak on Chibok but we can not help returning to it again and again. I was shocked the other day when somebody sent a photograph of the President and his daughters. I don’t know whether it was a careless, thoughtless action or a deliberate act of provocation.
I was with the President on Bring Back The Book campaign years ago, today I am calling on the President to bring back the girls. It was in Port-Harcourt that we adopted the Bring Back the Girls slogan. I am very happy for the President that he is able to celebrate Fathers Day with his daughters.
The President is the Commander-in-Chief. The military should be used specifically in bringing back the girls, not embarrassing the governors. Yes, we all want to pose with our daughters and children and I am very happy for the President for putting that on Facebook. He must ensure that the military is posted to places where they are really needed, not in any act that violates the constitution.”
” What happened in Ekiti is a violation of the constitution and those who are responsible should be exposed and punished where necessary. I want to use this opportunity to tell Nigerians to accept that this is a very delicate situation.
And to get back hostages is a multidisciplinary task. And I am not holding anyone accountable at this moment for failure in that respect. What we will not accept is the misuse of facilities, especially security forces that should be directed at this priority. The security forces should not be used in any way to sabotage what we fought for.”
Consequences of apologising to Yusuf’s family
”We have a problem. I am sometimes worried when certain claims are made especially in situations of great sensitivity like this. We have a problem which exemplifies and summarises my position. I think all assistance should be explored.
The critical thing is to remove this burden of shame on us as a people. That is why I am very careful of not blaming those who are responsible because I know the nature of the problem too much. If somebody says I can talk and bring the children back, lets give that person the chance.
I remember that there are people who have much to answer for this. Those who adopted the approach of appeasement at the beginning when this menace was supposed to have been dealt with.”
” Those who went around apologising to the family of Yusuf, asking them to forgive and forget when a memorial service was being held for those killed at the United Nations Embassy bombing. Claiming that your mission there was to make peace is not the way to make peace.
We are reaping the consequences of that kind of appeasement. So that is all I want to say. However if people want to make up for their past errors, realising the size of the problem, that is fine. They should go to Sambisa forest and apologise for whatever they feel Nigeria has done to the sect, and then bring back the girls.”
Failure to bring back the girls
”I don’t have problem with foreign troops. They are experts and they have been doing this kind of assignment for a long time. In all activities including abductions, you look for experts wherever they are. So, we should go as far as possible in the search for solution. If it is the expertise that is suitable to the nature of the abductors, we should look into it.
If for instance we used experts at the very beginning, we would have gone far. If for instance the government had taken this abduction very seriously instead of waving it as a ploy to bring them down, I have a feeling that very little local expertise could have extracted the girls.
We don’t have to be soldiers to know that every day complicates the situation. It will be an eternal shame on us if we allow those girls to be forgotten. It will be an unforgivable act of dereliction if we allow those girls to be forgotten.”
Sending troops to Ekiti
”I am not saying that troops should not be sent to maintain law and order and to ensure that rigging does not take place. I am talking about playing thuggery. Those who should be protecting the polling booths on election day, are being used to stop electioneering campaign. That is pre- rigging in grand-style. That is also abuse of security.”
Amnesty to Boko Haram
”We must be very careful about amnesty. I said just now that I was actually involved in some of the efforts to resolve the MEND insurrection in the Niger delta. But I disagreed the way the amnesty was granted by President Yar’Adua. I even told the President that I disagreed with the way that amnesty was implemented. So when you talk about amnesty, be absolutely sure of what you are talking about. Amnesty without restitution is a poor incomplete form of amnesty.
When you extend amnesty to those who turned political insurgency to a way of making money, extortion, rape, intimidation, that is not amnesty. Amnesty is supposed to be a rigorous process not a loose kind of amnesty. So ask those calling for amnesty today the kind of amnesty they are talking about.
Are you talking of amnesty for those who bombed the market in Nyanyna? Are you talking of amnesty for those who abducted those girls and even traumatising them even till today? Are you talking of amnesty for the junior members of the movement? Are you talking about amnesty for that creature?
That monster, who was boasting to humanity in general that he is going to sell off the girls? There is a time to fight and a time to negotiate. that is what leadership is all about.”