|Buhari and Soyinka|
While speaking in response to the recent clamour for a second term in office for President Muhammadu Buhari by some loyalists and supporters, Soyinka expressed shock over the development.
He said this at the Freedom Park, Lagos, yesterday, where he unveiled 10 Nigerian writers who would be leaving for Lebanon, in a cultural exchange programme, "The Sail Project", between The Wole Soyinka Foundation and Cedar Institute, University of Lebanon.
“Why are we talking about a second term for heaven’s sake? I don’t understand this. We have hardly gone half-way or barely gone half-way and people are already talking about positions. I refuse to be part of that discussion and absolutely refuse to be part of that discussion,” Soyinka said.
The Professor of Comparative Literature also reiterated the need to restructure Nigeria and declared it was wrong for anyone to agitate against it.
Soyinka who noted that restructuring of the mind could be done on a daily basis, further added that, “when people use words like restructuring, reconfiguring, you can call it reconfiguration, you can call it return to status quo, you can call it reformulating the protocol of association, you can use those long words, but, you can use a single word like restructuring, it doesn’t matter. Everybody knows what we are talking about.
“Number two, there are those who try to divert direct attention away from the main issues by mounting platitudes, cliches like it is the mind that needs restructuring, you know who I am about. This constant process of restructuring the mind is both an individual exercise as well as theological exercise.
"People go to churches and mosques to have their mind restructured; they go to school, they go to extra-mural classes to have their mind restructured. Restructuring the mind is not the issue, nobody is saying the exercise of restructuring the mind should not be undertaken; anybody who indulges in self-examination is already engaging in mind restructuring.
“I find it very dishonest and cheap; time selling, trivializing the issues, when I hear the expression that it is the mind which needs to be restructured. Who is arguing it? Who is denying that? It is not a substitute, why are you bringing it up?
“We are talking about the protocol of association of the constituting part of a nation, we are talking about decentralization, that is another word.
“This country is over-centralised…So, individuals should not now try and sidetrack the issue and say concentrate on that rather than this. Are you saying that you cannot reconstruct the mind and reconstruct the nation at the same time?
“My take on it and my express advice to the citizenry is that they should not allow themselves to be sidetracked. Call it whatever name, what we are saying is that this nation is long-overdue for reconfiguration. That is the expression I chose to use now.”
Soyinka was also of the view that it was wrong for president Buhari to say the unity of Nigeria is not negotiable. He noted that it was another was another attempt to ‘sweep the issue under the carpet,’ and insisted that no one talked about dismembering the country.
“We know there are movements for secession; let Buhari and others go and address this separately. This should not be mixed with the demand of a nation for reconfiguration. People should stop answering the demand for secession by pretending to answer the demand for reconfiguration.
“Secession should be a different thing. To try and suggest that the moment you say ‘restructure,’ you are calling for disintegration, is for me, intellectually dishonest, that is not the issue at all.
“The issue of outright secession is totally different. Even if it is only one state that is left, that state has a right to say, ‘listen you people, let us restructure this state.’ The protocols which have gone into the making of this state are no longer valid or have been distorted along the way or have been abandoned and we want to go back to the original set of protocols that created what we call this national entity. In other words, there are choices all over the place, you can say you want to re-invent the wheel completely or you can say you want to go back to the original protocol of association, whichever way,” he said.
Assessing Buhari’s administration in the last two years, Soyinka said that there were gaps, citing the issue of security as a case study. He said: “The average citizen feels less secure now than it did few years ago, that is evident. When people talk about state police, there are reasons for that; when they talk about bringing policing right down to the community level, they know what they are talking about. This is part and parcel of reconfiguration or reconstruction.
“The economy, there is a big question on it right now; fortunately everybody admits that we went through a very bad patch; right now, is the question of have we come out of it or not? In fact there is no question about it. The past few years have been years of internal economic disasters for the average citizen, but it is a question of who laid the seed? When and where and how were the seeds laid for the agony this nation is going through the last few years?”
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