Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, said on Thursday that no power or force should crucify Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, for returning to the Peoples Democratic Party from the All Progressives Congress.
Soyinka, while clarifying that he was not campaigning for any political party, said that was his position on those who defected from the APC to the PDP.
He said, “I am not campaigning for any party. That is my position on those that leave their party to another. They do it for all kind of reasons. And I do not believe that Ortom, the governor of one of the states, should be crucified by any power or force for taking decision.’’
The playwright spoke in Lagos at the launch of his latest interventions series, Interventions VIII, titled Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes?: Gani’s Unfinished Business. The book, which formed the text of his speech at the 10th memorial lecture of the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), was officially released to the public by Bookcraft on July 3, 2018.
Soyinka said he had, in a letter written to Ortom, told the governor that, “As the leader of a state that experienced attacks, you have a right to seek the promise of an alternative means of security for your people because they remain your primary responsibility.
“We are all free over the actual choice of an alternative destination but no one can deny the inalienable entitlement to such action especially when they are provoked by disillusionment and sense of impotence under existing association.
“Suddenly we see the beginning of a heavy-handed campaign, reprisal and unruly circles over your political decision. This goes beyond any immediately-affected state. And alert us all to the threat against uncommon democratic definition and the basic right of free choice of political powers towards its attainment. I can only urge you to remain resilient, unbowed and undeterred.’’
The don also berated the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission for investigating the governor, adding that Ortom left his former party ‘‘due to the crisis in the country.’’
“Due to the crisis in the country, someone defected and then the EFCC started chasing him. Does that look like a coincidence or what?’’ Soyinka queried.
He said ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo was busy hijacking existing movements, warning Nigerians to be wary of him.
He added, “He frustrated the June 12 and often put himself forward on any issue. He is welcome to reform and as his slogan may be, the redemption process has started. I don’t give up on him and you will be astonished how I have often wished him well when he inaugurated his Presidential Library, I had planned to attend the event but I had a rethink.
“I don’t remember the good he has done. It will be very difficult to find one. I can’t remember one at this moment.’’
He noted, however, that between now and 2019, there was still an opportunity for a reform of the country.
According to the playwright, there are acts of mis-governance and unforced errors under the Muhammadu Buhari administration.
He said, “There are unforced errors and acts that are considered stupid. And failure to secure lives and languages of self-excusing which were condemned in the past but resurfacing all over the place.”
Soyinka, who decried the glossing over of “intolerable degrees of bloodshed in the country,” said, “Also, failure to exert authority when and immediately when due which led to the killings. There is a cheapening of lives. The value of lives in the last year or so, on a level we haven’t witnessed in the country for a long time; and that is one of the reasons it has become essential that we all embark on ground- clearing for a new generation of leaders. And to make sure that in the process, we don’t bring back what we are just getting out from. That is one of the stupid acts that we could be held responsible for by the coming generation.’’
The session was moderated by a media professional, Mr Kunle Ajibade; Chairman, Editorial Board of the Nation Newspaper, Sam Omatseye; and human rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana (SAN).
Some others at the session included Prof J.P. Clark-Bekederemo, Prof Ademola Abass the Special Adviser to the Lagos State Governor on Overseas Affairs and Investment, Gboyega Banjo; General Manager and Chief Executive Officer of the Musical Society of Nigeria Centre, Lagos, Kolawole Koiki.