Soyinka: I Nearly Renounced My Nigerian Citizenship on Four Occasions

Wale Igbintade

Nigeria’s foremost playwright and political activist,Professor Wole Soyinka, has revealed how he almost renounced his citizenship of Nigeria on three or four occasions.

Speaking at the 20th Anniversary of the Gani Fawehinmi Annual Lecture, the Nobel Laureate cited two instances when he felt he could no longer be at peace being a Nigerian.

He cited the case of a women sentenced by a Sharia Court to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death, and the case of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and his companions, who were found guilty and hanged in 1995.

Speaking on the theme “Right to Self-Determination and Agitation for Secession in Nigeria,” Soyinka said if he, as an individual could be pushed to the point where he decided to renounce his nationality, it could happen to other segments in the country.

“I have always asked myself the question way back in the experience of this nation. What is it that leads a section of a society to secede from any national entity. What are the avoidable ones, and what are the unavoidable ones? I can only go by personal experience

“At least, there are three or four occasions when I felt like I cannot with any peace of mind continue to be a member of so-called Nigerian nation. One of it was when a woman was sentenced, to be buried up to her neck and stoned to death.

“I was in Italy delivering a lecture in a University, and I began to look for a new place to continue and end my existence. I felt I could not continue to be a member of any country, which is so cruel and so unjust. If that had taken place, I would have Japa long time ago.

“The second one is my sense of total impotence and bewildness when the structure of law and justice were so manipulated, so debased and so rubbished during the trial of Ken Saro-Wiwa, and his companions that even lawyers like Gani Fawehinimi had to withdraw because they did not want to lend their names to what was going to be judicial butchery.

“I said to myself, if those men were hanged, I will leave and not return to this nation. So, I made up my mind to secede,” he said.

Soyinka, who chaired the occasion added that, “It is not one society when you have different gradations of law, different gradations of sensibilities towards that institution, that entity called justice and therefore eliminates one of the critical causes why units within the national entity choose to secede.

“It is issues like that which after a critical mass, a momentum of its own in which people say listen, let’s get out of this mess and form our own community.”

The guest speaker, comrade Femi Aborishade, observed that the current foundation upon which Nigeria was hoisted was characterised by pervasive poverty, insecurity, injustice, impunity, corruption, organised violence and underdevelopment

According to him, neither secession nor restructuring alone, without more, was the ultimate solution to the problems of poverty and physical insecurity.

Aborishade submitted that the fundamental solution to the problems of poverty and physical insecurity “is paradigm shift in the philosophy of governance,” adding that, “unless there is a paradigm shift in the philosophy of governance, the problems of poverty, and by necessary implication, the problem of physical insecurity would merely be replicated in the emerging Republics or in the restructured Nigeria.”

In his remarks, the co-host of the event, President of the Nigerian Bar Association, Yakubu Maikyau, SAN, stated that the absence of justice, honesty, sincerity, equity,fairness, good governance and the utilisation of our resources for the common good of the Nigerian people were the root cause of secession.

“The existence of a right of so described in the theme of this lecture, it’s not a right. I will personally wish to or decide to assert or advocate to be asserted in the context of our present day Nigeria.

“What in my view has exacerbated the exercise of that right to secede is the absence of justice. Honesty, sincerity, equity,fairness good governance and the utilisation of our resources for the common good of the Nigerian people,” he said.

Another discussant, comrade Ezenwa Nwagwu, said “the Nigerian people in my village don’t want to secede to anywhere. They sing national anthem till tomorrow. What they want is better lives for themselves and they can make that happen.

“The Nigerian people want a big, prosperous country. This whole idea of Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa is used when they want to have dubious advantage.”

The 20th annual lecture in the series focused on the late Fawehinmi’s legacy and principles of justice, fair play, human rights, democracy, and true federalism.

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