Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Wednesday backed former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his worries about the insecurity in the country arising from banditry and the spate of kidnappings.
Obasanjo had also called for all stakeholders to meet to find ways of tackling the problems confronting Nigeria.
Soyinka who saw nothing wrong in Obasanjo’s statement, however, bemoaned the response of the federal government to the concerns raised by the former president.
He warned that the government should be careful not to be too dismissive of such meaningful contributions.
The playwright spoke in Lagos at a special panel session at the UBA Africa Conversion, a programme held to commemorate the 2019 Africa Day. The theme of the event is: “Africa’s History Redefined: Our Past, a Path to the Future.”
Besides Soyinka, other members on the panel moderated by a legal practitioner, Ms. Ayo Obe, included Chairman of UBA and Founder, Tony Elumelu Foundation, Mr. Tony Elumelu; Afrobeat musician, Femi Kuti; Guinean historian and playwright, Prof. Jibril Niane; and daughter of late first President of Ghana, Ms. Samia Nkrumah.
Soyinka said from what he read in the media and the response of the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the government ignored the message while worrying too much about the language in which it was couched.
He said: “I see that the government is not happy with the statement made by former President Obasanjo. Now, everybody knows me and Obasanjo, and at the same time, I think we should be very careful not to be too dismissive or even abrasive.
“Obasanjo was calling for a meeting of stakeholders to tackle some of the very serious aspects of social malaise this country is undergoing. He was talking about kidnapping, talking about youth suicide and stating that it is about time that across board, irrespective of ideology, polity, religion, that we better all sit down and tackle these issues immediately; and I will suggest that even more immediate.
“This country is undergoing a horrendous descent into the abyss spiritually, morally, ideally, even in the whole system. We are watching a huge mass of people descend into a state of brutishness, the like of which we have not experienced in this country. And so, if you go into the streets and you say Africa must unite, what the man in the street is going to say is Mr. Leader, will you get my people out of the kidnappers’ den first and then, I will come and talk to you about unity.”
Soyinka also disclosed that the issue of Boko Haram was being discussed at the British Parliament and wondered if Nigeria and Africa should ask Britain to suspend the discussion to allow the continent surrender to Boko Haram in the name of unity.
“Right now let me reveal, the issue of Boko Haram is being debated in the parliament in England; right now as we are speaking. Well, should we just go to them and say don’t worry, we are being united; and all we have to do is surrender to Boko Haram,” he stated.
He stated that while having unity and common language in Africa was important, it has to be particularised to each nation’s condition and realities.
Earlier, Elumelu had called on Africans to unite and work towards the economic empowerment of the continent.
He said UBA decided to identify with the Africa Day to remind the people of Africa of the responsibility to uplift the continent.
“To us, Africa Day is synonymous with who we are and what we are. Identifying with the Africa Day is an opportunity for us to remind ourselves, remind the world, and remind Africans that until we are able to provide economic opportunities for every African, we have miles to go, and we cannot sit back and relax. So for UBA, this is not just a celebration; it is much more than a celebration,” he added.