Soyinka, Others Drum Support for True Democracy at Ajibade’s 60th Birthday Colloquium

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Yinka Olatunbosun

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and other advocates of democracy in Nigeria have called on journalists to emulate the virtues of Kunle Ajibade who courageously fought against the oppressive military rule through his insightful investigative reports.

Soyinka made this call while delivering his opening remarks at the colloquium in honour of Ajibade at 60 which was held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Victoria Island, Lagos. The colloquium which was part of the series of activities organised by friends of Ajibade, had the theme: ‘A Brighter Future for Nigeria and how to get there’.

He observed that Ajibade’s career as an investigative journalist was “an eye-opener” which nullified the belief that some people in Nigeria are untouchable. With reference to Ajibade’s report on a former Inspector General of Police (IG) that led to the police chief’s removal from office, Soyinka highlighted the varying deeds of Ajibade that should be remembered.

Chaired by a politician, veteran journalist and elder statesman, Chief Olusegun Osoba, the talk sessions featured prominent human rights activities such as Femi Falana, Ayo Obe, Ayisha Osori among others.

The talk session was preceded by a poetry reading by Obari Gomba and an eulogy by the poet, Odia Ofeimun.
In his submission, Falana urged the government to enact a law to make military training essential for all Nigerian citizens. This call was made in reaction to the incessant killings that had been reported in some parts of the country.

Falana also voiced his concern on the structure of the Nigerian police and how the system has incapacitated the state governments in the control of the Nigerian police. He blamed the structure for the cycle of impunity around criminal activities that had existed in military days and now in democratic rule.

“In a country where there is impunity, killings will continue,” he said.

Former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and presidential aspirant, Kingsley Moghalu, lamented over the critical state of Nigeria’s economy, the culture of recycling political class and national discord.
In the same vein, a human rights lawyer and former House of Representative candidate for Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Ayisha Osori, called for the democratisation of Nigeria’s political parties.

According to him, “Politics in Nigeria is an industry with stakeholders. It is an industry that does not want new members. We must challenge the old myth that politics is a dirty game. We must change the narratives. Politics should be a place for the best of us and not the worst of us.”

The pro-democracy activist and lawyer, Ayo Obe, urged Nigerians to seek social inclusion and shun bribery and corruption.

A senior advocate, Lai Babatunde, revealed to the audience that Ajibade was jailed for a story he did not write but he would not divulge the identity of the writer.

Other colleagues of the celebrant recounted some details of their practice as journalists during the military rule and the constant fear of threat to life.

Babafemi Ojudu recalled some extreme measures taken to authenticate facts and the consequences.
“13 of us were in detention in different parts of the country,” he recounted.

The Governor of Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola, congratulated Ajibade, and urged all of them not to be despair over the state of the country, concluding that the sacrifices made by the likes of Ajibade are in vain.