Sowore’s Re-Arrest: Soyinka Condemns DSS’ Action, Sends Message To Buhari

Professor Wole Soyinka                                                                                                     Omoyele Sowore

 

 

Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has condemned the invasion of a court in Abuja by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).

In a statement personally signed by him on Friday, Professor Soyinka asked President Muhammadu Buhari to call the agency to order.

He issued the statement hours after DSS operatives who came in at least three pickup trucks stormed the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja, in a bid to re-arrest Mr Omoyele Sowore.


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The attempt to make the arrested inside the court was, however, resisted by Sowore and his supporters, resulting in a scuffle between both sides.

Confronting the security officials, Sowore’s lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Mr Femi Falana, stated that it was very wrong to carry out such an operation in court.

He, thereafter, asked the officials to go out of the court premises after with Sowore was driven in Falana’s vehicle to the DSS office where he was re-arrested and detained.

In his reaction, Professor Soyinka likened the incident to what he called ‘Lessons from the African Wild Dog.”

According to him, disobedience calls to disobedience and the disobedience of the orders would only lead to the disregard of the authority of other arms of civil society by the people.

The Nobel laureate warned the government to uphold and respect judicial institutions in order to prevent the present situation from degenerating into chaos.

He also advised that those he described as the “wild dogs of disobedience” be taught some basic court manners.

Before Friday’s incident happened, the court had ruled to adjourn the trial of Sowore and his co-accused, Olawale Bakare, until February 11, 2020.

The duo are facing charges of treason following the demonstrations by some Nigerians under the #RevolutionNow to protest what they described as worsening conditions in the country.

The DSS released Sowore and Bakare on Thursday after refusing to do so in disobedience to two court orders.

Despite the refusal, the security agency insisted that it has always obeyed the orders of the court.

Read Professor Soyinka’s statement below:

Lessons From The African Wild Dog (Lycaeon Pictus)

A few years ago, I watched the video of a pack of the famed African wild dogs hunt, eventually bring down, and proceed to devour a quarry. It was an impala, antelope family.

The pack isolated the most vulnerable looking member of the herd – it was pregnant – pursued it, until it fled to a waterhole which, for such animals, is the nearest thing to a sanctuary.

A few minutes ago, almost as it was happening, I watched the video of a pack of the DSS, bring down, and fight over their unarmed, totally defenceless quarry within the sanctuary of a court of law.

I found little or no difference between the two scenarios, except that the former, the wild dogs, exhibited more civilised table manners than the DSS u court manners.

Only yesterday, in my commentary on the ongoing Sowore saga, I pointed out the near-perfect similarity between plain crude thuggery and the current rage of court disobedience.

Little did I suspect that the state children of disobedience would aspire to the level of the African wild dogs on a pack hunt.

I apologise for underestimating the DSS capacity for the unthinkable. I reiterate the nation’s concern, indeed alarm, about the escalating degradation of the judiciary through multiple means, of which disobedience of court orders is fast becoming the norm.

May I remind this government that disobedience calls to disobedience, and that disobedience of the orders of the constitutional repository of the moral authority of arbitration  – the judiciary – can only lead eventually to a people’s disregard of the authority of other arms of civil society, a state of desperation that is known, recognised and accepted as – civil disobedience.

It is so obvious – state disobedience leads eventually to civil disobedience, piecemeal or through a collective withdrawal of recognition of other structures of authority.

That way leads to chaos but – who set it in motion? As is often the case, the state, unquestionably. Such a state bears full responsibility for the ensuing social condition known as anomie.

It has become imperative and urgent to send this message to President-General Buhari:  Rein in your wild dogs of disobedience.  And for a start, get a trainer to teach them some basic court manners!

Wole SOYINKA

Soyinka Calls For ‘Holistic Approach’ To Nigeria’s Security Challenges

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, speaks during a visit to the Government House in Makurdi, the Benue State capital on November 5, 2019.

 

 

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has asked the Federal Government to take decisive action against Boko Haram, armed herdsmen, and the Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP).

He stated this at a meeting with Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State on Tuesday at the Government House in Makurdi, the state capital.

Professor Soyinka, who visited some displaced persons at their camp in the Abagana area of the state, noted that the insurgents and others were terrorising Nigerians.

READ ALSO: Why Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore’s President Must Be Arrested – Ortom

According to him, the security situation in the country requires the immediate attention of the government, especially at the federal level with an all-inclusive approach.

“It’s a pity that this area of the country is really besieged. First it was Boko Haram, then it is these herdsmen, and then recently there is ISWAP; it strikes me that a holistic approach has to be taken,” said the Nobel laureate.

He added, “It’s not the responsibility of Benue alone, it’s not the responsibility of the affected states alone; it’s a national responsibility.

“And I hope that this government has seen the result of taking things easy when they should be taken by the throat and tackled very decisively; now that they’ve seen how violence calls to violent, how impunity calls to impunity, and arrogance calls to arrogance.”

 

Philosophy Of Disorder

Professor Soyinka also condemned the herdsmen attacks which claimed several lives and left hundreds displaced in Benue.

He decried the situation where a group of persons would threaten the peace of a state in a civilised society when the government takes decisions in the interest of its people.

The Nobel laureate said, “When you have any kind of unit in an overall community which says, ‘either you do this or we’ll show you’, this is the mentality which led to the virtual takeover of an order by a philosophy of disorder.

“The possibility that any section of society can call the shut for the totality, and I’m referring to when Benue State passed the law about open grazing and the criminals, the homicidal maniacs had inhaled to say ‘you take the law out or else’ … that means we don’t live in a civilised society.”

‘Unprecedented Level Of Paranoia,’ Soyinka Slams FG Over Charges Against Sowore

Professor Wole Soyinka                                                                                                Mr Omoyele Sowore

 

 

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has criticised the Muhammadu Buhari administration over the charges of treasonable felony and other counts filed against the detained Convener of #RevolutionNow Protest, Mr Omoyele Sowore.

Professor Soyinka condemned the government’s action in a statement personally signed by him and forwarded to Channels Television on Saturday.

After weeks of detention in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), the government filed seven counts charge bordering on treasonable felony and money laundering against the Sowore, the publisher of Sahara Reporters and former presidential candidate of African Action Congress in the 2019 general elections.

READ ALSO: Stop Trying To Muzzle People, Soyinka Condemns Clampdown On Protesters

A Chief State Counsel in the Department of Public Prosecutions of the Federation at the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr Aminu Alilu, signed the charges on behalf of the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami.

The charges were filed on Friday, a day before the expiration of the detention order of the Federal High Court in Abuja which permitted the DSS to keep Sowore for 45 days.

 

‘Depressing News’

Professor Soyinka, who had earlier warned the government against the use of force to clampdown on citizens exercising their fundamental human rights, said the government “has indeed attained an unprecedented level of paranoia.”

He explained that he initially thought the news of the charges filed against Sowore was fake, stressing that he does not expect those who filed the charges to believe them.

Read the full statement below:

This is utterly depressing news. So, the Sowore affair has moved beyond harassment and taken on a sinister direction.

Outside the country where I happened to be engaged at the moment, I can testify that the immediate reaction around me was to dismiss this as yet another grotesque product of Fake News, of which Nigerians have become the greatest practitioners.

I confess that I also joined in this school of thought – at the start. Further checks have, however, confirmed that this government has indeed attained an unprecedented level of paranoia.

I do not believe that the Justice Department itself believes in these improbable charges, as formally publicised.

So, once again, we inscribe in our annals another season of treasonable felony, History still guards some lessons we have yet to digest, much less from which to learn.

Welcome to the Club, Mr. Omoyele Sowore.

Wole SOYINKA

Stop Trying To Muzzle People, Soyinka Condemns Clampdown On Protesters

 

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has once again warned against the use of force to clampdown on citizens, especially when they are exercising their fundamental human rights.

He gave the warning at an event organised on Saturday in Lagos, as part of the activities marking his 85th birthday.

“One of the beauties of existence is the ability to express oneself,” Professor Soyinka said.

He added, “It’s a fundamental human right which we cannot compromise and it is important to send this strong message to this government and to the security services to stop trying to muzzle people when they come together to exchange ideas.”

READ ALSO: Health And Education, ‘Best Asset To Give’ The People – Buhari

The Nobel Laureate stated that government institutions must respect the right of Nigerians who wish to deploy demonstrative means to question the policies and programmes of the government.

He decried that the recent attempt by security operatives to stop a pro-democracy gathering in Lagos was a display of intolerance by the government.

Professor Soyinka re-emphasised what he described as ‘the simple truth’, stressing that creativity takes place in an atmosphere of absolute freedom.

Condemning the disruption of peaceful protests by citizens, he said, “You (the government) are reducing them (the citizens) as human beings and you are also reducing yourselves as human beings because it means that you are afraid to listen.

“And those who are afraid to listen, usually, are guilty people; that is why they do not want to listen.”

“The reduction of the freedom of any one of us however small, however minor; the reduction of the rights to expression of any one of us is an infringement and assault on the rights of all of us, whether we are part of that particular exercise or not,” the Nobel Laureate insisted.

Professor Soyinka was one of those scheduled to speak at the symposium organised by a group under the aegis of Coalition for Revolution at the Ikeja area of the state on August 19.

Nothing That Sowore Has Done Suggests A Violent Overthrow Of Government – Soyinka

Impunity Will Prevail If Legal Community Continues To Betray Its Calling – Soyinka
File photo: Professor Wole Soyinka addressing reporters in February 2018.

 

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka said on Sunday that nothing which the human rights activist, Omoyele Sowore, has said or done suggests a violent overthrow of government. 

While stating his stance on the arrest of Mr Omoyele Sowore, by the Department of State Services, the Noble Laureate said that the deployment of alarmist expressions such as “treason”, “anarchist”, “public incitement” etc. by security forces have become so predictable and banal that they have become meaningless.

He adds, “Nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government”.

READ ALSO: Protest Marches Are Not Treasonable Offences In Nigeria, Says Falana

Prof. Soyinka asked the police to stick to its task of protecting and managing protests, and not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on words like revolution.

Below is the Nobel Laureate’s full statement.

“SURELY, NOT AGAIN!!!

Deployment of alarmist expressions such as “treason”, “anarchist”, “public incitement” etc. by Security forces have become so predictable and banal that they have become meaningless. Beyond the word ‘revolution, another much mis-used and misunderstood word, nothing that Sowore has uttered, written, or advocated suggests that he is embarking on, or urging the public to engage in a forceful overthrow of government. Nothing that he said to me in private engagement ever remotely approached an intent to destabilize governance or bypass the normal democratic means of changing a government.

I therefore find the reasons given by the Inspector-General, for the arrest and detention of this young ex-presidential candidate totally contrived and untenable, unsupported by any shred of evidence. His arrest is a travesty and violation of the fundamental rights of citizens to congregate and make public their concerns.

This is all so sadly déjà vu. How often must we go through this wearisome cycle? We underwent identical cynical contrivances under the late, unlamented Sani Abacha, when he sent storm-troopers to disrupt a planning session for a similar across-nation march at Tai Solarin School, Ikenne. This was followed up by a personalized letter that was hand delivered by the State Security Services to me under their summons, at their Abeokuta so-called ‘Annexe’ with near identical wording to the threats contained in today’s release from the desk of the Chief of Police. At least, I was summoned, not subjected to a terrorist midnight arrest. Some irony!

The same pattern Pavlovian conduct manifested itself under yet another supposed democratic ruler who personally declared that the gathering of civilians to deliberate on, and propose a constitution for the nation was ‘high treason’, and would be resisted by the full rigour of state power if we persisted.

The Inspector-General of Police mobilized his forces and issued inflammatory proclamations, but PRONACO went ahead despite all the thundering from Aso citadel. Can the police ever learn anything also their tear-gassing and brutalizing of grieving mothers who marched peacefully to protest the deaths of their children in a plane crash inferno? Their mission, under that same regime, which was simply to deliver a letter to government house in Lagos, demanding greater safety in airline operations, yet such a rational intent, born of traumatic circumstances, was quashed on the sidewalks of a supposed twentieth century nation.

And yet again, even a faceless cabal under yet another civilian regime refused to be left out of the insensate play of power. A march on Aso Rock calling for an end to governance by a ghostly entity was slated to be crushed, but fortunately, a conflicting balance of interests decided in favour of a reduced trajectory of protest. And so on and on and on, in a nation which continues to speak at once through both sides of the mouth, spewing out the same Treason monotone, as if this was a magic incantation that could substitute for the venting of mass feelings, even as collective therapy!

May I invite the Inspector-General to wade through the daily journals of the past few weeks and months, read and digest the calls by numerous sectors of society – across professions and national groupings – for demonstrations against the parlous conditions of society, all identifying ills to which attention must be drawn, and urgently, through mass action? Demonstrations and processions are time honoured, democratic ways of drawing not only the attention of government to ills, but of mobilizing the public towards a proactive consciousness of their condition, and thereby exhorting civil society also to devise means of ameliorating their condition through their own efforts?

Religious bodies have urged such remedies, so have civic associations. The ready recourse to arrests, incarceration and threats to civilians are ultimately counter-productive. They alienate the citizens, erode their confidence in governance responsiveness, and thereby advance the very extremist nightmare that security agencies believe they are acting to thwart.

If we cannot learn from the histories and experiences of other societies, let us at least learn from ours. Freedom is not so glibly qualified. It cannot be doled out like slops of charity from soup kitchens. Let the Police stick to their task of protecting and managing protests, not attempt to place their own meaning and declaration of intent on bogey words like – revolution!”

RUGA Settlement: Ooni, Soyinka React To Threats By Northern Youths

 

Following the 30-day ultimatum given by a group of Northern youths asking governors opposed to the idea of Ruga Settlements to back down or risk Southerners living in the North being asked to leave the region, some prominent Nigerians are calling for deliberate efforts to douse rising ethnic tensions across the country.

The latest to add their voices to this call are Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi. Both men made their position known after their meeting on July 4, 2019, in Abeokuta, the Ogun State capital where they condemned the line being towed by the Northern group.

In a statement jointly signed by Prof. Soyinka and Oba Ogunwusi, they warned that Nigeria cannot survive another upheaval of the magnitude of the 1966-1970 Civil War and that every effort must be made to prevent another one.

READ ALSO: Ruga: Coalition Of Northern Groups Gives Govs 30-Day Ultimatum

While acknowledging the right of the Northern group to make their demand as allowed by freedom of expression, they in the exercise of the same right called on all Nigerian nationals to defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands, adding that this birthright remains inviolate, even under colonial occupation.

The statement adds, “We call on the Nigerian people to recognize that the internal colonization project is ever recurrent, that there are backward, primitive, undeveloped minds that have failed, and continue to fail to overcome delusions in this antiquated belief in sectarian domination as the key to social existence, a belief that despises peaceful cohabitation that is based on mutual respect.”

While calling on Nigerians, both on state and community levels, to step up discussions on the future structure of the nation, and take steps to preserve and enhance their distinct cultural identities, Prof. Soyinka and Oba Ogunwusi emphasized the rights of every Nigerian and community or group of human beings as primary and pre-eminent over and above all other parameters of human development or formal associations.

Soyinka, Falana, Others Pay Tribute, Lay Wreath On Abiola’s Grave

 

Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Human Rights lawyer Femi Falana and several others on Sunday, gathered to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the death of Chief Moshood Abiola.

They gathered at his residence in Ikeja, Lagos for a wreath-laying ceremony even as they expressed concerns about the state of the nation.

The late Chief Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, presidential election, died on July 7, 1998, after spending years in detention in the fight for his mandate and for Nigeria’s return to democracy.

Soyinka, as well as some others present at the ceremony, while paying tribute to Abiola lamented that Nigeria has not achieved his vision and Nigerians were still battling poverty and injustice among other things.

The Nobel Laureate, who has repeatedly called for decisive action to combat insecurity in the country, drew attention to the rate of poverty in the country.

“I am afraid. Just looking at the level of poverty scares me. I am afraid for this nation,” he said.

“For the first time, in a very deep, visceral way, I really am afraid for this country.”

Mr Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, recalled Abiola’s vision of the nation and called for unity.

He said, “Abiola stood for justice for all. Abiola’s mandate was a reflection of the popular will of the people. That mandate, that election defied ethnicity, religion or any other primordial consideration.

“Therefore, if we want to recognise June 12, if we want to celebrate Abiola, we must celebrate the unity of our people and not the disunity of our country”.

Ruga: Cattle Cannot Take Priority Over Human Beings – Soyinka

 

Nobel Laurette, Wole Soyinka says the implementation of ranching or any other initiative to solve the herders/farmers crisis should be done with humanity as a priority.

He said this while fielding questions from journalists about the recently proposed Rural Grazing Area (RUGA) initiative, at an event on Tuesday.

According to him, the RUGA initiative is an explosive issue that needs to be handled carefully.

“RUGA is going to be an explosive issue and it had better be handled very carefully.

“I think there’s going to be trouble in this country if this cattle rearing issue is not handled imaginatively and with humanity as the priority.

“There cannot be any kind of society where cattle take priority over human beings,” he said.

Speaking further, he suggested that the ranching system can be adopted, however, it has to be done in an area that will have no negative impact on human lives.

“There’s nothing so strange or mysterious about cattle rearing so why should cattle become a problem just because we like to eat beef. I don’t understand it, there are solutions which are very simple.

“People have talked about ranching but the ranching has to be done in places that are environmentally congenial to that kind of trade and at the same time do not afflict humanity”.

Read Also: Ruga Settlement Same As Cattle Ranching – Garba Shehu

While lamenting that hundreds have been killed in farmer/herder clashes across the country, the Nobel Laureate blamed the situation on poor leadership.

“People are being killed in hundreds till today and it’s only because of the failure of the leadership at the critical time.

“The cattle rearers have been given a sense of impunity, they kill without any compunction, they drive farmers who are contributing to the food solution of the country (they drive them away), burn and eat their crops and then you come with RUGA?” he said.

His comments come 24 hours after the Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity to President Muhammadu Buhari, Garba Shehu, made some clarifications on the controversial plan.

In an interview on Channels TV’s News at 10, he stated that the plan was initiated in order to stop the roaming of cattle which had been met with incidents of clashes between farmers and herdsmen.

According to him, there is no difference between cattle ranching and the Ruga settlement plan and no state government has been coerced to be a part of it.

A Democracy Day Premier 1 By Wole Soyinka

 

This year’s recall of an uplifting day in the year 1993 comes up against a background of its most shameful disavowal: the 2019 elections still under judicial contestation an event that would be more accurately described as an exercise in body count rather than ballot count.

The elections however merely reflected a pattern of savagery and abandonment of human sensibilities that have eaten away the sheerest sense of community in the nation. I have already described it as the final descent into the abyss of human degradation. The recent call no matter how suspect the motivation — for what amounts to a national discourse on future directions was nothing new.

The NIGERIA MOURNS movement, for instance, is only another expression of the same desperation. Input from someone who has exercised control over the nations affairs for a total of close to a dozen years, with shared responsibility for the very predicament in which the nation finds itself, reinforces the general anxieties that have become palpable in every corner of the nation — across class, political partisanship, religion, and ethnicity. I wish to take the notion of a national indaba even further and urge a non-partisan, broad-based government.

The now undeniable social crisis is beyond the capacity of any government built on accustomed partisan loyalties and regimented thought processes, with their debilitating baggage of sectarian interests. I am aware that such a call is unlikely to be heeded, but let it be made anyway, and let it stand to trouble those who discard any opportunity to turn a radical page in a nation’s history.

As if the crisis were not sufficient in itself, we are constantly distracted by crude attempts to distort the role of the past in a nation’s unraveling.

So, let us first address Democracy Day itself, since we know that those same nihilist voices, even before the annunciation, were already primed to degrade it, ridicule what should be a potent signpost for future generations. Such voices even make desperate efforts to annul its very history, no different from the original act of annulling an event that was universally acknowledged as the fairest, the most orderly and peaceful elections ever conducted in Nigerian history, a chastening contrast to this recent of 2019.

June 1993 recorded just some quick reminders an election in which the loser readily conceded defeat, having watched himself outclassed in his own state, his local government, his ward, and probably at his very polling booth.

He was however prevailed upon to change his mind, thus smoothening the path for official military annulment, with dire consequences that continue to plague the nation even till today.

Several of the players directly, and supportive — in that inglorious history remain stubbornly in denial, but let no one attempt to shunt aside or obscure its potential for public re-orientation.

It is now a near quarter of a century since that watershed, and a Restoration, albeit symbolic, has been promulgated Welcome Democracy Day! Is there any value left to it? And is its formal, official recognition doomed to be nothing more than an exercise in superfluity?

For all those who were actively involved, no matter how tangentially, in the events that flowed from the annulment of June 12, 1993 largely of blood and lamentations — the restoration of that date to a slot among the milestones of nation-building will evoke, side by side with a sense of elation, a mood of sobriety and reflection, especially when one recollects how many productive projects were derailed, how many lives destroyed, how many underwent torture and remain traumatized by that experience, how many paid the supreme price.

Many have witnessed death at close quarters, survived, but remain severely damaged. I shall leave others to comment on how little appears to have been learnt from that monstrosity of democratic subversion.

What is undeniable is that the wiles of opportunists, cynics, saboteurs, and beneficiaries from the sacrifices of others, continue to haunt the nation.

Hopefully also, it does haunt them spasmodically, those who thought to bury the message of that date and its faithful evocations.

Amnesia, the much-craved refuge of the battle-weary, the ravaged psyche, or simply weak-minded, is not always to be despised. Where deliberately cultivated, even propagated however, it amounts to further cruelty against the violated.

Forgiveness is a different matter. In most theologies, and even for non-believers, it is ranked among the loftiest attributes of humanity. For those of us who confess our inadequacy in that respect, we can only implore those who violate, contribute to, or profit from the mutilation of the very humanity of others, not to aggravate our mortal weakness by a continuation of their past perfidy in any form.

The orphan cries are still with us, so are the scars and trauma of survivors. Many remain impaired physically and psychologically – for life.

I shall not participate in this years June 12 celebrations from choice. It is part of my training exercises for withdrawing from public space, a resolution that I first half seriously injected into encounters over five years ago. That absence applies, not to the official celebration alone of which I have never been a part anyway – but to the annual ritual by civic groups, a ritual of both tribute and defiance that has been unflaggingly observed till now.

However, regarding the earlier Abuja ceremony that signaled the states reversion to June 12 as the most truthful expression of a peoples democratic will, I did attend, even at the cost of breaking a journey on the way to Brazil. That event, for some of us, represented closure at least substantially.

It was a reunion of sorts, a cauterization of many internal, invisible, and yet suppurating wounds, and private thanksgiving – for some of us – that the only route that appeared left for the recovery of a peoples dignity was abruptly, and providentially closed by the timely demise of a singular human perversion.

The nation was saved the anguish of the unknown. That sense of relief, on its own, is worth celebrating. The anonymous ones who acted on behalf of providence remain unacknowledged, but we still owe them our gratitude.

One unforgettable extract from those dark days was the ease with which a people, accustomed to freedom as a natural bequest of humanity, can be thrown into twentieth-century enslavement, forced to endure a regimen of unprecedented brutality in the exercise of power.

A nation of over a hundred and a half million slid into a condition of not merely apathy and indifference, but servility, unctuousness, sustained by rationalization of there is no other word for it evil! Sheer evil. Fear reigned supreme. Whispers substituted for voice, even in homes.

It is liberation from that miasma of civic subjugation that underpins the symbolism of a Democracy Day, very different in quality from, for instance, the euphoria where it exists of a day of National Independence. Now, why does one find it necessary to state what, in good faith, should be obvious? The answer is painful: that occasion also served as a trigger for raking up embers of divisive history, for tarnishing memories and belittling even the meager harvest of a watershed in history.

Don’t we all know it? Everything in this nation is fodder for controversy, often of the most pointless, mindless, simply adversarial kind such has been this formal restoration of June 12th, 1993 to its rightful place on the podium of Nigerian history.

Let us address some brutal truths. One comment regarding this formalization especially rankles, since its accompanying train of remarks indicated that it was not a mere aberrant individual, but the revelation of group sentiment. It was sent to me through the usual internet link and was, undisguisedly – a mock lament, a condescending swipe at the Yoruba race yes, directly indicted – for being so naive as to have fallen for an obvious vote gathering ploy.

The conveyed message reminded me of the movement initiated by Charley Boy Our mumu done do! who, together with his fellow protesters, was severely mauled in Abuja by an incited mob. At least Charley Boy refused to go down as nothing more than an internet slob, berating everyone around but swallowing the bile of daily discontent. He embarked on remedial action one that was manifested in the true spirit of June 12th.

There are several observations on that social media posting, plus the predictable, bandwagon comments, often pre-arranged. It is necessary, indeed mandatory, to clean up this template of the past before proceeding.

First, I was not aware that the Yoruba, acting as an ethnic entity, ever made a statement that promised to reward the government with their votes in return for this alleged June 12th bribe. The serious, problematic bribe the Minimum Wage concession, of course, receives the scantiest of attention beyond solidarity calls and insistence on implementation.

Never mind that, North to South, East to West, numerous tiers of government are scrambling to find ways and means of settling an agreement directed from the centre, with no corresponding consultation with states. From the latest reports, even the Centre is taking to the sale of state assets at disadvantaged prices to fulfill a voter catchment commitment.

This is the kind of consequential bribe, one would have thought, that merits critical attention. No matter, let us return to the monumental, non-material bribe. What does it consist of?

A wrong had long festered, no matter how invisible. The restoration was made.

The faithful of June 12 embraced the gesture, pronounced their appreciation at the ceremony, several even with barbed qualifiers. After all, others before had had the opportunity but chose to ignore, even deride the very notion of recognition, even if through symbolic gestures.

If a few in that Abuja assemblage got carried away – and some did, both Yoruba and non-Yoruba alike – heaped fulsome praises on the government, far beyond its deserving in my view, I found it unconscionable to seize the occasion as an opportunity to jeer at and vilify an entire people. I have asked myself over and over again: to what end? Who profits from this?

Next, I found it equally lamentable that anyone should attempt to reduce the June 12 struggle to that of an ethnic project. It is a depressing travesty of the realities, a denial of the existence of a nations collective sense of justice and its tenacity in pursuit of that objective.

No one denies that the immediate family of a victim of robbery feels the pangs of dispossession more keenly than others. The truth, however, remains that the entirety of the compound itself was violated, arrogantly and contemptuously dispossessed.

In this case, its very aspiration to a unified identity was simply ground underfoot, compelling a return to the starting block, and even several milestones behind! Disenfranchisement is the ultimate stigma for any free people.

Again, despite official hostility, corporate blackmail and even victimization of some adherents of that date, a number of state governments but, even more crucially, civil society with members drawn from across the nation – did not await permission of any power or agency of the centre to gather and celebrate that date, and pay homage to the fallen.

The June 12th movement never went into recess, and the current government merely jumped on a bandwagon that was already propelled by the people.

However, there is even more matter for discouragement, so we should not be surprised at the ethnic caviling. After the annulment, I recall that, when we tried to mobilize opposition to that sadistic impostor, fanatic voices of ethnic irredentism informed us bluntly, verbally and in print, that the Yoruba should go and solve their problems themselves, since we had let them down in the lead-up to the Biafran War of Secession, and should seek no collaboration from that side of the Niger.

One recognizes, in today’s renewed voices of ethnic denigration, the same chant of a hate chorus, the fanning of divisive embers. It is gratifying therefore and here we come to some cheering news! – that this tendency has become a source of concern to many of the leaders of that former secessionist state.

It led to recent counter efforts under themes such as HANDS ACROSS THE NIGER, later followed by HANDS ACROSS THE NATION, encounters that have taken place both within the nation and outside her borders. It is crucial that those laudable initiatives continue in the same spirit of civic responsibility and nationally craved closure.

We must, however, sound warning: these high-minded efforts are increasingly vitiated by the fanatic and obnoxious voices of an irrepressible handful. No, we are not speaking here of organized protests and demonstrations to keep Biafra alive for those of my school of thought, these are both legitimate expressions of the democratic will, and cannot be suppressed.

We refer specifically however to abrasive, irrational, and irreverent diatribes of purveyors of unrelenting discord. Their innate proclivities are readily facilitated by that grossly polluted space the so-called social network.

Some have gone beyond recall, like the proverbial mongrel which no longer heeds the call of the hunter. They have become so blindsided that, almost under demonic possession, they heedlessly alienate sources of empathy and act against their own interests. This was prevalent in its most unfiltered density during, and after the 2019 elections.

Let the following be stated and re-stated as a personal, unwavering, socio-political conviction: The vision of a common homeland, rooted in the commonality of ideas, values, culture, history, and purpose, is as natural as breathing.

However, the dream of such a state of collective desire is not realized by careers of deception and distortion of reality and history, any more than is the craving for a turn at the very pinnacle of governance within a polity which, for good or ill, still embraces all.

On the contrary, both dreams fade, continue to recede, and may eventually remain unfulfilled in the lifetime of the purveyors of divisive filth. That would be poetic justice.

I am no believer in the juggling of scorecards in order to earn the accolades of equitable dealing find fault on A by all means, but be sure to balance with faults from B, deserved or not. However, the following retrogressive slump in the democratic quest is, fortunately, and blatantly, in the public domain and demands its place in the Index of repudiations.

First, it was a minister, soon followed by the deputy of the incumbent himself, then other voices at various times all advocating support for the government on the basis of ensuring our turn at the next electoral roulette!

That primitive appeal remains one of the most dispiriting of the twists and turns in numerous calculations of that same 2019 electoral exercise, a dismal complement of the self-positioning of the earlier mentioned secession fundamentalists.

If anything, the latter now had even greater justification to jettison all other parameters of political choice in favour of their own even more uncompromising, ethnic positioning.

I am Yoruba, and therefore felt sufficiently compromised as to intervene with some leaders demanding, do you know what this portends? Is this wise? Progressive?

It was gratifying to encounter other Yoruba voices I especially recall one from Dr. Wale Adeniran in forceful repudiation of such narrow chauvinism. And it resulted in personal disillusionment that sent me seeking solace from our man for all occasions, William Shakespeare in that cry of: A Plague on both your Houses!

There were other negative controlling manifestations, related to that very narrow social perspective, albeit sprung from a different malaise.

The principal himself, formerly elected largely on the platform of corruption eradication, reinforced by the coy mantra of I belong to all and belong to none, presided over a growing degradation of advertised intent, a serial dereliction of the obvious imperative of any reformist agenda which should read: first, internal cleansing!

One after another, scandals of escalating proportions from within the charmed circle of power, an apparent tolerance even in face of in flagrante delecti captures on video! Clearly, this candidate had also done his arithmetic and could hardly afford to lose any treasure trove of numbers. The logo of the ruling party during those 2019 elections appeared to have been the three brass monkeys: Hear no evil, See no evil. Speak no evil.

Before any chortling of self- vindication is provoked among the I told you so brigade, let me quickly pause here, prodded by the strident opportunism of the corruption train and restate my position as follows: this does not invalidate the pass mark in this specific department that I conceded the government on a television programme the anti-corruption fight.

A pass mark is not the same as an A+, B or even C+, so that grudging grade stands, as shall be effortlessly demonstrated in ensuing parts of this primer.

Some of us take a holistic, and comparative approach to the protean operations of corruption, not sensationalist Rambo melodramas served up to titillate the public palate. We add, subtract, qualify, adjust, and only then propose a grade.

We shall venture later into that national bugbear, and in some detail, utilizing just one or two but representative voices of blanket dismissal that often read like commissioned pieces.

We know what is at stake. Even as this is being written, guardian sleepers of the Abacha and other hidden loot are being rumbled.

They await moments of slackening in vigilance to pounce on temporarily abandoned properties known only to them. Only this week, yet another sumptuous cache was unearthed in the Jersey islands. And there are many more awaiting exposure. No, we cannot afford to lower the nation’s guard, nor belittle the institutions that work towards eventual, across-the-board sanitation of society.

To sum up the contribution of the incumbent candidate and his handlers to the last electoral architecture, it was indeed numerology that triumphed over ethical rigour. We insist however that even political pragmatism has its own moral demands. Any other position leaves wide open the sluices of cynicism, pent-up frustrations, disillusionment, reducing democracy to the numerical count as the sole electoral victor.

Will the projected June 11 Summit on Corruption compel the government itself to tackle its own record in this respect? I have received an invitation but will not be attending. I, however, recommend deep introspective attention to the second item on the suggested themes NEXUS BETWEEN ELECTORAL SPENDING AND PUBLIC CORRUPTION.

And so, on looking back, our view encounters only the debris of a wobbly scaffolding of the 2019 democratic exercise that predictably crashed, a rickety podium of cynical improvisations on four temporal legs roughly identified as: (i) payback time (ii) our turn next time (iii) laissez-faire time, and (iv) the all-purpose stomach infrastructure dinner bell.

The unprecedented epidemic of the collapse of buildings all over the country has since struck me as a morbid analogy for the collapse of humane structures, burying so much hope of advance on 1993, a full quarter of a century later, in their rubble. One became quite fearful that the nation was trapped in the material actualization of an even more comprehensive advance on Shakespeares curse: A Plague on All your houses!

If only nothing more than the current political houses took a final tumble! Alas, the collapse is far more extensive than such mere contraption. We need only look around, or revert to those alarms that we echoed at the beginning. One may squirm at the verbal formulation but, truthfully, NIGERIA MOURNS! And so, towards the exorcising of that curse, the prescription of a government across partisan interests is not misplaced and is not entirely starry-eyed.

A day dedicated to democracy as a compelling morality of social existence – is merely frivolous unless directed at the recognition of the telling, prevailing features of the last exercise, which throw in question the free, hopefully, educated exertion of human choice.

It brings us back to numerous considerations of what constitutes, as the democratic base of any human grouping, their rights and limitations, both of which are involved in the guarantee of healthy societal survival. It must raise, pre-eminently, the very issue of the protocols of association relation of the parts to one another, and the parts to the whole.

Such protocols are of a fundamental, negotiable category for a basic reason they deal with humanity, not abstractions or material resources. Above nations, we cannot help but place humanity, otherwise, we are mere idol worshippers – the idols of patriotic jingoism and pietistic abstractions (e.g. sovereign integrity and allied rhetoric).

Democracy Day deserves truthful confrontation with the socio-political conditions that we have brought into being to plague ourselves and thus, compels our acceptance of responsibility for whatever, and wherever roles are traceable to one and all in that process. It is not wrong to make political calculations, not for nothing is it claimed that politics is a game of numbers one of those partial truths, but let it stand for now.

However, when those calculations go wrong, it is cowardly to seek scapegoats and fabricate non-existent histories. D-Day should not pass shrouded under the sentiment. At the same time, it should not be celebrated with groundless recriminations.

It calls on hard-core values, yet remains open to mature and logical adjustments, de-ploying the rigorous blade of truth to cut through overgrown, self-proliferating brambles of deception, especially at the hands of past rulers. If the present demons of nation being are confronted, with brutal frankness where necessary, there is a chance that we may assist even this aspiring generation to sweep past the past and target a far more salutary celebration in the coming year, that much-touted magic number 20/20.

Says the good book but, I am certain, echoed in numerous scriptures of Faith – Render unto Caesar what is Caesarss etc. etc. We have rendered un-to D-Day its dues, its pietism, and imperious mandates, and in as measured accents as can be mustered by any pained member of a polity under a state of siege.

All that is left is to tackle, through a few illustrative samples, the hooded mercenaries who remain committed to the triumph of every imaginable shade of the anti-democratic agenda. They operate like the chameleon, adaptable to colour and texture of their immediate and appropriated environments.

Forget the parable of never serving more than one master they serve several, all interchangeable as readily as their wearing apparel. To them we are the mummu, they the lordly predators of the political jungle.

In the interest of historic truths and self-preservation, it becomes a duty to seize every opportunity, fortunately, most of their own providing – to dissect their proclamations, subject them to public scrutiny and take the trouble to probe deeply into their hidden briefs.

A hopeful Democracy Day to the electorate of June 12, 1993, and their political descendants, on whom the burden of the future unavoidably falls.

Wole SOYINKA

The full text of this contribution and its follow-up are scheduled for publication in mid-July in the INTERVENTIONS series by BookCraft, under the sub-series, THE REPUBLIC OF LIARS.

Impunity Will Prevail If Legal Community Continues To Betray Its Calling – Soyinka

Impunity Will Prevail If Legal Community Continues To Betray Its Calling – Soyinka
File photo: Professor Wole Soyinka addressing reporters in February 2018.

 

Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka on Tuesday raised concern about how impunity has allegedly taken over the country.

In a statement entitled ‘Trivialise Corruption, Neutralise Justice!”, he took a swipe at some members of the legal community and blamed politicians for the rate of impunity.

“The reign of impunity will prevail as long as the legal community continues to betray its calling, its oath of office, even its rites of professional collegiality and its responsibility to the rest of us,” Professor Soyinka said.

He added, “It is disappointing that even under a government that promised to dust up the files of political murders and end that reign of homicidal impunity, the Association has not thought fit to demand from the Buhari government its findings.”

According to the Nobel Laureate, impunity covers all crimes including material corruption and any social or governance institution which fails to stem the tide of criminality flings open the channels of impunity.

READ ALSOAppeal Court Adjourns Hearing On Onnoghen’s Suit Challenging His Suspension

He accused President Muhammadu Buhari of applying what he described as “hands-off approach” to the menace of killings by herdsmen in parts of the country.

Professor Soyinka further criticised some members of the judiciary for their roles in recent events in the country, particularly the trial of Justice Walter Onnoghen.

He also cautioned Nigerians to be on red alert as such happenings have become synonymous with election periods in the country.

The Nobel Laureate, however, lauded a group of lawyers he referred to as the reformist council who have taken it upon themselves to clear the alleged rot in the judiciary.

Read the full statement below,

TRIVIALISE CORRUPTION, NEUTRALISE JUSTICE!

It is heartening news that some 20 CONCERNED LAWYERS have come together to undertake the mission of cleaning up the Aegean stables that seem to pass today for the Nigerian Judiciary. Some of us do need an institution to which we can look up, of which we should even live in awe. Some find that in religious institutions, others in traditional fixtures, some even in family and so on. All agree that the Order of Justice is a pre-eminent candidate for collective regard and even self-regulation. No matter, we all know that, without Justice, society unravels at the seams, and its citizens resort to self-help.

I feel especially exercised by recent happenings within that Body currently from a dominant perspective: it has become increasingly fashionable to sneer at any anti-corruption preoccupation. No, no one actually ever goes so far as to condone corruption. Perish the thought! Gradually, however, the nation’s psyche is being both subtly and brazenly returned to accept not simply corruption as the norm of social relationships, but its heightened product, impunity, as a national emblem. The justification? The machinery that was launched against corruption with such fanfare, it is claimed, has run aground. Selectivity has been cited as proof. Insincerity, non-seriousness, cynical distraction, are routine assessments of the current governmental campaign.

Even the heady draught of ‘stomach infrastructure’ – ‘na anti-corruption we go chop?’ is now applauded, accompanied by guffaws wherever decanted. Not surprising then, that it was only a matter of time before the flagbearer of one of the ‘parties to beat’ came out openly to dismiss the punitive option, delivering the promise of Amnesty as one of the corner-stones of his plans for the nation. It was a well-calculated gambit. That candidate, an astute politician with his nose to the ground, found that ground primed, ready and conducive. Soon, this will be topped by some rivalling knight in shining armour from rivalling parties who promise prosecution and prison sentence for anyone who bad-mouths corruption – of course, always with a  caveat –  until all the ills that infest society have been completely eradicated – guinea-worm, river blindness, soil erosion, oil pollution, rape, kidnapping incest etc. etc. not forgetting the transformation of the entire national infrastructure and the full elimination of the last vestiges of Boko Haram, killer herdsmen, Lassa bearing rodents and potholes on the road.

Must one reiterate the obvious? It seems we must. A basic awareness of the link between corruption and all the above-named preoccupations is fast disappearing.  Such as hospitals that were never built, or never provisioned. Unthinkable is the proposition that a military commander who diverts funds meant for the elimination of Boko Haram to his family is even more despicable than Boko Haram which does the actual killing of innocents. And what of high-profile murders that had their roots in the open adoption of corruption as a lifestyle, and the increasing sophistication of cover-up operations?

No connection between the rising tide of unemployment and the corrupt wastage of resources meant for industrialisation and job generation? For the stubborn skeptics, and/ or those who understandably mistrust the testimony of former government associates, such as Okonjo-Iweala’s FIGHTING CORRUPTION IS DANGEROUS, perhaps they will at least credit the personal testimony of a battle-scarred Nigerian businessman as expressed in a passage from his recent autobiography. That work, artlessly and refreshingly frank, written by a businessman, Newton Jibunoh makes the following revelation in the chapter titled, CORRUPTION, aka GIFTING IN CONTRACTS:

“I would go to Mr Farrington (Jibunoh’s boss) on so many occasions and say, this is the situation, this is the truth (i.e., it’s ‘gift’ or lose).  Farrington would refer it to London and London would say, no way. I tell you, if you go into how Dumez left Nigeria, how Boutgyes left Nigeria, how Guffanti left Nigeria, how Taylor Woodrow Nigeria, it came from this issue. They all packed up. Taylor Woodrow used to be beside us at Costain. They packed up.”

So, ‘na anti-corruption we go chop?’ is not entirely rhetorical Some do chop and distend on corruption. Others, however, starve from job losses and die of it!

Yes, it is election time, and issues that are normally generalised take on enhanced desperation. A recent image sticks to the mind, and for it, we must be thankful to that very desperation that is born of elections. Those who are familiar with the culture of organised crime – as perfected, structurally and sociologically by the Italian Mafia, will have caught that image. Perhaps it struck me forcefully because earlier, the nation has been treated to alarms of a Sanni Abacha coming back to rule the nation. It is the image of a Mafia lieutenant paying due homage to the Capo di Capi Tutti. At Freedom Park, only this last day of January, I bade the nation beware of the convocation of the Conclave of the Corrupt.

The warning was prompted by that most evocative image. Many have only seen such scenarios in cinema – the Don Corleone narratives. I have however seen it in gruesome activation. I witnessed it first-hand in the ‘before and after’ of the civilian revolution that was – coincidentally – led by two lawyers. They fought, and restored the rule of law in Sicily under seemingly impossible conditions.  One of them lost his life in the process, the other lived to tell the tale of the rescue and transformation of a society whose mayor he also became. Sicily, that erstwhile island of fear has now become a beacon of liberal culture and social enlightenment.

By contrast, here, to put it charitably, our lawyers appear to be confused about what their role should be when confronted by the spectre of impropriety within their own Guild – note, I do not even say ‘corruption’. Impropriety will do for now. Is it really that hard to pursue the letter of the law and provisions of the constitution, simultaneously with the pursuit of an ethical imperative and thus, guide this nation in the morality of balanced perspectives? Is it really impossible to interweave both? The latter – the ethical imperative has gone missing in the overall collective voice of the NBA over the affair of the Chief Justice of Nigeria. The scantiest lip-service has been done to that social plinth, and I find this most distressful.

Impunity covers all crimes, not just material corruption. And any social or governance institution which, through act or negligence, fails to stem the tide of criminality within its charge, flings open the sluices of impunity. This has been the case of President Buhari in his lacklustre, indeed hands-off approach to the menace of the killer herdsmen – at least at the beginning, before swathes of Nigeria were reduced to slaughter fields, thriving farms erased off the food supply chain of the nation. (They are back, by the way, reported to have recently set fire to farms in Oyo State!) Leadership lapse was further compounded by admission by the governor of Kaduna State that he had been paying ‘blood money’ to the killers responsible for that human and sustenance campaign of depletion!

Impunity stalks the land, indeed it is virtually lording it all social interstices. Let no one take my word for it – simply turn the pages of the media any day. Impunity’s ravages churn the mind. Somehow, this nation – and here again we turn to our learned friends – this nation generally failed to recognise, much less learn from the murder and enabling implications of the unsolved murder of Bola Ige, the nation’s Attorney-General and Minister of Justice. The Bar Association accepted the casual disposition of its erstwhile captain and has – understandably perhaps? – moved on. For some of us, however, the files are not closed. Others also appear to be determined to keep them open, though of course, remain blissfully unaware that their boastful, impenitent conduct in other departments constantly re-ignite the time clouded embers. I believe that the present crisis in judicial ranks offers yet another opportunity to bring up that tragedy starkly and rub the nation’s face in its horror. Only thus do we make all understand why it remains intolerable that any attempt be made at trivialising the nature of corruption. especially in order to score dismissive political points. The work of the Reformist Twenty – now firmly established in our minds as a pledge – is clearly cut out for them, and must not be shirked.

For those whose memories have faded on that crime: Bola Ige was murdered in his bedroom by professional assassins, his police minders having abandoned him to his own devices. Before his final posting as Minister of Justice, he was Minister of Power – and what a frustrating tenure that was for him, frustrating and humiliating. As I have remarked elsewhere numerous times, his was a ministry in which I took keen personal interest. He kept me posted on the ups and downs – the betrayals, conspiracies and actual bouts of sabotage. When he left Abuja to set up camp in Lagos in order to slice through to the centre of sabotage, we remained in constant touch, either in person, or through his Special Assistant, Dr Olu Agunloye. Bola Ige had been named to a prestigious legal position in the United Nations and was then on his way to take up the posting. His past in the Ministry of Power pursued him, however. It had pursued him into the ‘face-saving’ ministry of Justice. That transfer however only placed been in an even more powerful position to bring to justice those who had held this nation to ransom for years and retarded her development through systemic corruption of gargantuan dimensions in his former ministry. He had to be eliminated.

That was tragic enough. However, what happened next is what remains to haunt this nation,  at least those portions of it that still attempt to cling to even the barest shreds of social conscience. Talk of history repeating itself! A shaming round of judicial penkelemes, near identical to present proceedings, ensued.  Even before the trial proper, judges sat, fulminated, cooed, withdrew, were re-assigned, recused themselves, sat tight, defied pressure, succumbed etc.etc. on the issue of bail to some of the accused. Virtually all complained of external interference. One of them, Justice Abass, kept a diary in which he accused – among other culprits members of the Bar – that is, members of the Nigerian Bar Association – of improper importuning on behalf of some of the accused. One of them was set down as actually bringing messages from highly placed “least expected” quarters. The judge was moved to soliloquise, in his diary: What is their interest? What is at stake that officers sworn to uphold the law should attempt to exert improper influence on me, and in such a brazen manner. The importuning included material inducements.

Justice Abass put up a struggle but eventually threw in the sponge. The pressure, the harassment, proved too much. Before that, however, he made copies of his diary and distributed the pages for safe-keeping. Three or four of these pages came into my possession – I made this public knowledge at the time. I asserted that, at the very least, in attempting to solve that murder mystery, the diary was one place to begin. Who were these highly placed people who had such a prohibitive stake in Bola Ige’s murder trial as well as the situation of the suspects that they suborned sworn officers of the law. The crime, incidentally, was littered with clues – this was just another wedge through which it became mandatory to penetrate through to the sordid crime and identify the conspirators. The case had developed unsavoury but exceedingly useful ramifications. Who were these forces so bent on subverting the processes of justice in the investigation of the murder of the highest Law Officer of the land? We screamed in vain. The NBA did not take up the challenge. That Association had a primary responsibility of ferreting out the tools of subversion in their midst. Justice Abass set down dates, place, hour and witnesses – in writing. He used a code of initials for participants.

This narrative remains incomplete without reference to another form of intervention. Along the way, during our own ‘busybody’ forays, we invaded the American Consulate. Why? Simply because we had learnt that the American government had offered help, that they had assigned some experts to assist the Nigerian police in unearthing the mystery of the murder, but that the police had rejected help. We headed for the embassy to insist that they should ignore the Nigerian police. Bola Ige was already an international civil servant of the United Nations anyway, and was entitled, even more so in extra-judicial death, to considerations of international intervention. The Consul-General received us cordially. She confirmed our information, that the Nigerian government had refused the offer of assistance. I asked permission to use her phone and we called the president, who was none other than Olusegun Obasanjo. Was it true, I asked, that his government had rejected external assistance? 

Details of the exchange are not relevant to this narrative, though they are readily available if of interest to anyone. What matters is that there was serious talk of introducing lie-detectors to be used on the accused, its effectiveness or whatever or acceptability. We were put on Hold while Obasanjo called the Inspector-General of Police, and put him on the speaker-phone. All that is of interest, but is not really crucial to the subject of this intervention. There will be further elaborations in due course.

I have brought it up principally to exclaim: History Strikes Again! Also to decry yet again the unbelievably short memory span of that breed known as Nigerians. Amnesia is often a contrived tactic of escapism, which, to put it bluntly, is another word for moral cowardice. I have brought it up principally to remind the judiciary, and associate orders such as the Bar Association, that the war between impunity and Justice is an incessant one. Corruption is not a trait to be trivialised for political opportunism or locker-room guffaws. Corruption murdered the Nation’s Minister of Justice and Attorney-General, and Justice was rendered helpless in the defence of its own Prime Advocate.

The reign of impunity will prevail as long as the legal community continues to betray its calling, its oath of office, even its rites of professional collegiality and its responsibility to the rest of us. It is disappointing that even under a government that promised to dust up the files of political murders and end that reign of homicidal impunity, the Association has not thought fit to demand from the Buhari government its findings. There is more than ample material to warrant a Judicial Commission, and that demand has come up again and again. It will continue for as long as there remains a shred of conscience somewhere in this nation, especially when provoked into resurgence by the antics of those who murdered Justice to enthrone corruption and bask in the miasma of Impunity.

As always, election time brings out the worst of animalism in political participants. Justice was betrayed on that edition, repudiated, hung up to dry, and the door left wide open for commissioned killers. Bola Ige, Senior Advocate of Nigeria, died in the line of duty. Justice Salami at least survived the rites of passage – I felt honoured to have been invited by him to deliver the lecture for his valedictory occasion. The government at the time of Ige’s killers know the truth. That government protected – I repeat – protected, and rewarded his killers.

Those who wish to dispute this had better first immerse themselves in the circumstances of that murder, and the unconstitutional, indeed illegal trajectory of the principal accused, one that not only facilitated his unconstitutional participation in the ensuing election but catapulted him straight to the occupancy of the seat that had been kept warm for him during his trial and absence. On release, he was ushered straight into the slot of Chairman of the Appropriation Committee of the House of Representatives. That was not all. The head of that government, General Olusegun Obasanjo, proceeded to burnish Ige’s memory with characteristic zeal. With that victim in no position to defend himself, that inveterate letter-writer sent a reference letter to Ige’s new abode – just in case there are ministries of power over yonder:

“We put Bola Ige there to rectify the power situation. It turned out that he did not know his left hand from his right”

Bola Ige’s murder took place at election time. Once again, we are confronted with another election. Killings and kidnappings have escalated. Once again – coincidence be damned! – the judiciary is in disarray. A political association  – which I once described as a den of killers – is regrouping, wishes to direct the fortunes of this nation yet again. This nation needs no reminding that, yes indeed, the rule of law must prevail, and constitutionality must not be trivialised. Neithe, however, must criminality, or else, history merely repeats itself in increasingly dismal accents. Justice becomes neutralised.

Citizen Forum welcomes the Reformist Council of Twenty. On the political forum, we urge: Let the ghosts of the past be laid to rest. Let a new breed emerge.

Wole SOYINKA

Convener, CITIZEN FORUM

Osinbajo, Soyinka Warn Nigerians About Dangers Of Fake News

 

Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, and Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka have raised concerns regarding fake news and its devastating effects at this time in our history. 

Prof Osinbajo said fake news is capable of discrediting public information and causing fatal damage and violence in the country.

Delivering a keynote address at the BBC conference on fake news in Abuja, Prof. Osinbajo warned that, if fake news is not checked, we might come to a point when nothing will be believable.

He said the issue of fake news becomes more troubling owing to the ability to manipulate news items through technology.

Aside from the damage done to the credibility and integrity of Public information,  Osinbajo said the capacity of fake news to cause alarm and fear and even fatal violence, has been demonstrated again and again.

READ ALSO: Buhari’s Government Is Corrupt, Says Saraki

“One of the great worries for us should be what harm is done to public information. I think that the time may come where if nothing is done, nothing will be believed or be believable because as technology improves its capacity to manipulate, after a while there would be perfect videos using artificial intelligence and all of the other tools of digital technology,” the Vice President said.

Speaking also at the event, Prof Wole Soyinka warned about the adverse effects of fake news, noting that it is capable of causing a 3rd world war.

The Nobel Laureate alongside other panelists at the event unanimously agreed that fake news needs to be criminalized as a way of curbing the menace.

He said, “People do not understand what is like to have things attributed to you which you know nothing about.

“Apart from the fact that I have been killed on social media several times. These last years I had telephone calls asking me where are you and I said I am in a hall. And I said I know why you are calling because you thought I was dead.

“Imagine waking up one day and finding a statement attributed to you and in a kind of language which you never used. For example, during former President Good luck Jonathan, there were statements that I said why did Jonathan marry an illiterate woman. I never made comments like that whatsoever”.

“And I made a statement that if people are not careful world war 3 may quickly be started by fake news and that fake news probably will be generated by a Nigerian. We have a system where fake news can multiply in a second. Many of the fake news carriers use it for Business.

“I have someone whom we have tracked down in Poland, using a fake Facebook page of my name and my picture. And I give him a deadline to pull down the page. He lives in the United States of America but lives in Poland. He is a member of an organization called some AIESEC which actually encourages young businessmen and women.

“The first thing is to accept the fact that fake news is real and people should stop rushing to the fake sites. Individuals who have no voice before have been empowered suddenly. Every individual is now a journalist, editor promoter and most of all a publisher. There is competition to be the first to comment. So the ‘419’ individuals sleep in cafes doing all sorts of things. Fake news should be treated as a crime. When you pin down one of such criminals it should be a case of INTERPOL because they move all over the place. They should be advertised as criminals and get the police to arrest them.

“I had complained about this to a former inspector general of police that this has to do with personal security, community security. I had expected him to reply but there was no response. Not even acknowledgment.

“This should be a collective responsibility. Above all, we should treat it like a crime”.

John Momoh Bags Lifetime Award For Journalistic Excellence

 

The Chairman and CEO of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, and the Executive Secretary of the Nigeria Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI), Waziri Adio, as well as 12 journalists, have emerged recipients of the 2018 Wole Soyinka Award for Investigative Reporting.

The event held on Sunday in Lagos.

John Momoh Bags Lifetime Award For Investigative Journalism
Chairman/CEO of Channels Media Group, Mr John Momoh, receives the Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence presented by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) in Lagos on December 9, 2018.

 

Mr Momoh, who is also the Chairman of the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON), received the Lifetime Award for Journalistic Excellence for his contribution to the development of the Nigerian media.

The Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) holds the event annually on December 9, the World Anti-Corruption Day and the eve of the Human Rights Day.

Its importance is to call attention to the significance of the media, especially in the area of investigative reporting.

The centre also took to its Twitter handle to share highpoints of the event.