Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Thursday criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of killings by herdsmen in the country, as well as his response to the abduction of over 73 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State, last month.
The renowned writer also flayed the President for attending a wedding (Governor Abdullahi Ganduje daughter’s marriage to Governor Abiola Ajimobi’s son) in the North few days after the abduction of the schoolgirls, describing the President’s action as blasphemous.
Soyinka said Buhari’s disposition to the killings and abduction of the schoolgirls reminded him of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s approach to the plight of victims of the 2002 bomb blast at the Ikeja Military Cantonment in Lagos.
According to Soyinka, Buhari, who did not deem it necessary to visit Dapchi after the abduction of the schoolgirls or the victims of herdsmen attacks in various parts of the country until he was criticised, was not different from Obasanjo, who promptly visited the scene of the bomb blasts in Ikeja in 2002, but told the “bedraggled survivors (that) surrounded him, pleading for help, protesting, “What do you want me to do? I’m not obliged to be here!”
He described as insensitive how Buhari and other politicians thronged Kano State for the wedding between the daughter of Kano State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, and son of Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State, when the entire country was grieving over the abduction of schoolgirls in Yobe State.
Soyinka spoke in Lagos on Thursday at the maiden edition of Ripples Nigeria Dialogue, organised by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism.
The dialogue was titled, ‘Rebuilding Trust in a Divided Nigeria,’ but Soyinka titled his keynote address, ‘From Myetti to Haiti, Notes from a Solidarity Visit.’
On the panel of discussants were a former governor of Anambra State, Peter Obi; Prof. Pat Utomi, who was represented by Mr. Rasheed Adegbenro; and Dr. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi of the Transition Monitoring Group.
Soyinka said Buhari’s reaction was typical of the “presidential response” to crisis in Nigeria, from Obasanjo to former President Goodluck Jonathan, who waited for “nearly three weeks to accept that nearly 270 plus of our children had been abducted from Chibok village,” and “insisted that it was all a ploy by the opposition to discredit his government.”
He said he recalled that following the statement credited to Obasanjo on the scene of the Ikeja bomb blasts, he (Soyinka) called then President to protest and “chided him severely” but the response he got from Obasanjo was “Kampala tie niyen – that is your own Kampala,” which he said remained a riddle to him till date.
Soyinka said, “Whatever the origin of that expression (Kampala tie niyen), it nonetheless takes us back to the nation’s latest Kampala in Dapchi and here I must express how gratified I was by the reaction drawn by another and contrasting event that took place not far from Dapchi and where that presidential declaration ‘I am not obliged to be here’ would have been more appropriate.
“… They said, ‘Oh yes, that wedding was a needed therapy for the trauma undergone so recently by the abduction of those girls.’ Now, that’s what I call blasphemy. I’m not a religious person, but that is blasphemy.
“…I talk of the Cana wedding. There are so many formulas that could have been adopted to ensure that the couple still had their wedding without the accompanied exhibitionist lavishness so soon after a national calamity.”
The playwright recalled that after Jonathan finally accepted the reality of the Chibok schoolgirls’ abduction in 2014, his wife, Patience “proceeded to stage one of the most nauseating acts of incoherent, tuneless, meaningless and purposeless investigative” session.
Soyinka also flayed the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan Ali, for his “unacceptable” comments on the killings by herdsmen.
Soyinka, who recalled how during his visit sometime ago to Trinidad and Tobago, the country had witnessed a coup, during which its then Minister of Defence, “in that so-called coup” in Trinidad, was shot in the leg, said, “I consider that shot, however painful, a far more honourable wound than the wound sustained by our Minister of Defence, who shot himself in the mouth with some unacceptable commentary concerning the rampages of the Fulani herdsmen.
“What did you expect them to do?’ – This is after people had been killed in figures of hundreds – ‘What do you expect them to do if you block their route?’ This is addressing victims of Fulani herdsmen; this is addressing issues of rape, of massacre of the takeover of farmlands, the takeover of villages, all over Benue, Taraba, etcetera, etcetera.
“Land grabbers are trying to build on a piece of land that is not theirs ‘and you obstruct them, what do you want them to do?’ Farmers are squatting on land on which they derive their food and complaining, daring to complain, that cows were trampling on their farms and eating their crops. ‘So, what do you expect the cow owners to do?’’
The don said he was surprised that Buhari had not sacked the Minister of Defence.