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AMNESTY: How GEN. Abbe misled Yar’Adua, by Soyinka

….Hails Jonathan for Dissolving EXCOF

By Daniel Idonor
APPARENTLY making reference to how the former Chairman of the Federal Government’s Amnesty Programme for militant youths in the Niger-Delta, General Godwin Abbe, ill-organised the implementation of the Programme, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, blamed the poor performance of the amnesty on those who managed the Pregramme.

Soyinka, who scored the amnesty programme low while fielding questions from State House Correspondents, after a meeting with Acting President Goodluck Jonathan, submitted that despite ailing President Umaru Yar’Adua’s brilliant idea behind the amnesty, the Nigerian government never prepared for it.

Soyinka who said he was impressed with the performance of Jonathan since he assumed the responsibilities of Nigeria’s Head of State, particularly hailed the Acting President for his decision to dissolve the Executive Council of the Federation, (EXCOF), saying that the action is in the right direction.

The Nobel Laureate’s talk with Jonathan was on the heels of an earlier planned meeting between the Acting President and leaders of the various militants groups in the area, as a follow up to a similar parley between the Gen. T.Y. Danjuma led Presidential Advisory Council, PAC, and the militants which held at Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, Thursday.

Even though the Friday talks with the militants was shelved, Soyinka’s meeting with Jonathan, no doubt, could be said to be the earlier scheduled meeting as Soyinka has been nominated by the militants to represent them as mediator.

He insisted that the issue of the underdevelopment of the Niger-Delta must be treated as a national matter of priority, adding that “It shouldn’t concern the delta people alone, as that sense of injustice is reflected throughout the entire nation”.

“The delta problem should be solved holistically by transforming the structural relationship of the whole nation and deal very seriously with the revenue derivation problem”.

Speaking on his mission to Aso Rock, he said “Just to say hello to Goodluck Jonathan, who I last met in Bayelsa during the early days of trying to solve the problem in the Delta, the advance team to look at the situation there, talk to the local people “stakeholders”, so on and forth. He was governor of Bayelsa at that time, so we met and had discussions. Since then, I have been following his career”.

Aside from that he noted what was uppermost on his mind was the Niger-Delta question, saying as you can imagine, what was uppermost in my mind was what was happening in the oil producing region”.

He described as ill-executed the implementation of the Federal Government’s Amnesty programme so far, saying that even though it a brilliant idea, poor execution has made it very unpopular among those it was meant for.

“The issue of the amnesty, the unfinished business and ill-executed amnesty programme which is a brilliant idea, but as I said to his predecessor President, the person he is acting for, Yar’Adua, I hope he will remember I did have a meeting with him, where we had a one on one, in addition with meeting him with the rest of the team”.

Way forward on amnesty

Let me begin by saying it was a marvelous initiative, it was a great initiative on the part of Yar’Adua, no doubt about that, but it was ill-organised, ill-thought out. Preparations were not made for it; preparations were not made to accommodate those coming out of the creeks, the militants.

The mentality of the nation also was wrong, each time I read of repentant militants, I feel like vomiting. What do you mean by repentant militants? Did they tell you they were repentant? Did they believe, even now, that they committed a sin? You repent when you are convinced you committed a sin.

Did they tell you that they committed a sin? So the mentality of the nation also has to be reshaped, many of them believe in what they did. The nation has and the government has a responsibility to turn the men around, and they begin that by remedying the conditions of existence, which led to their taking up arms in the first place.

You treat them not as repentant militants, not as subordinates, you treat them as equals who however decided on a certain path due to a historical malformation in society.

He noted that the talks between him and Jonathan are also in “continuation of my dialogue with the presidency over the Niger Delta region so those are the overriding things”.

On the outcome of the talks, Soyinka said “I don’t think one should ever talk of conclusions, you just exchange ideas, and that is exactly what we did. He told me of the motions that he has been making to revitalize the programme, I don’t even like to use the word amnesty programme, I never liked it, really”.

Hails Jonathan’s Approach to Governance

Commending the efforts of Jonathan towards quality electoral laws he said “I believe from our conversation, and even before now, that he is of a different cast of mind and that if everything is left to him, I have no doubt at all that there will be a commendable tempo in the passage of the Uwais report and recommendations.

Asked if the issue of ministerial nominees was discussed Soyinka said it was not the issue that took him to Aso Rock, saying that “I didn’t discuss that, the only thing I mentioned was that it was a good thing he dissolved his cabinet. That it was about time that is what I said. I don’t know most of them, so I won’t comment on them”.

According to him, while it will be too early to talk of successes recorded on the amnesty, his recent efforts, he said “You mean in the few minutes that I was there? You are asking if we could solve the whole problem. Let’s just say that I found his approach to it very positive and optimistic”.

He however disclosed that while Jonathan’s approach should be commended, he hoped that the Acting President translates his words into action, so as not push Nigerians to compare him with Obasanjo.

“Well, you know, people tend to forget that presidents are human beings, first of all, and they have relationships. I used to visit Obasanjo, at least when I thought there was something in him to benefit the nation. When I found there is nothing, I stopped. So it is not unusual for me to visit presidents”.

Electoral Reforms

On whether the Save Nigeria Group agenda formed part of his visit, he said “In fact we never mentioned Save Nigeria Group, we didn’t. You see, we like to compartmentalize things as much as possible, he has his presidential responsibilities, I have my responsibilities to the civil society, of which Save Nigeria Group happens to be one, and the citizen forum, which I am the head, is also another. If I came on behalf of the civil society, I will not come alone”.

“We also discussed electoral reforms, which he is a very clear supporter, he is very keen, a believer in it, I got very good vibrations from him. Unfortunately, one cannot transmit the same vibrations from the members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, many of whose members are unelected anyway, and would like to leave things as they are because they hope to benefit from this illegitimacy and the whole corruption of the electoral system”, he said.


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