As Nigeria celebrates independence, Soyinka warns: “Violent change might take place”

October 1, 2011 

From News Report by The Guardian

NOBEL laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka yesterday warned of a possible explosion of people’s anger and power in the country if nothing is done to immediately institute a national dialogue where free citizens can genuinely chart the way forward for the nation.

“The signs are all around us, ” he warned in a lengthy lecture yesterday with the theme “Governance in the 21st century Nigeria” at the 2011 national management conference of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) in Abuja.

Drawing intermittent applause from the audience, the guest lecturer’s submission was akin to his famous paper “When is a Nation?” delivered in 1993 during the June 12 debacle. His well-articulated thought-provoking lecture dwelt on what to do with Nigeria’s great potency, the proper link and distinct nature of power and authority, the need to take religion away from governance and how with a conscious people’s intervention, Nigeria can yet be saved from being absorbed into the “stateless.”

Admitting that the signs of crises like those of Somalia, Tunisia, Libya and an internationally linked terrorism abound in the country, he said: “Nigeria must do away with the construction of religion in its narrow, bigoted and intolerant form. This is the reason why we have a cancerous disease and aspirin is being prescribed and then elevating nepotism, religiosity and ethnicity in governance. ”

He said that the option of dialogue would still be preferable to violence , which was already knocking on the door and could erupt into the people’s revolt already being witnessed in north Africa and parts of the Arab world.

Soyinka drew parallels between the Maitatsine uprising that falsely tried to sanitise Islam and the existing Boko Haram which he said had clear links with the dreaded Alqaeda and had training camps in countries such as Mauritania in the upper northwest of Nigeria. “We have to remind those who were too young during these unfortunate uprisings of these historical upheavals for our own comparative analyses,” he added.


“People have become impatient with the slow pace of restoration in Nigeria… A national dialogue would bring back the desired order. Let the first few days or weeks of the dialogue be rancorous. Let us pause and address the psychology of self-abasement. The Nigerian people must dialogue now. Or do you really expect elected legislators to act against their existence?

“Which is why I am saying that religion must be taken out of governance. We must reject for instance, the recent proposition to adopt the 10 Commandments as the guiding constitution in Zambia. Why must we theocraticise instead of rescuing our youth from murderous indoctrination. Religion for me remains another sprawling ground for perception. What should be taken from it are the morals and values,” he added.

Amid thunderous applauses the Nobel laureate stressed that the theme of the conference was timely owing to the fact that governance had taken a new course globally and it was left for Nigeria to chart a course for itself now and proactively too.

He declared: “If we fail to act now, some forces will take control of the affairs of the nation for selfish reasons as Nigeria as a nation has a lot in terms of natural resources to be coveted.”

The laureate said he was convinced beyond a doubt that yesterday’s theme was so timely also because the uprising being experienced in all aspects of the nation’s life was a testimony to the fact that “if nothing is done soon, violent change might take place.”

According to Soyinka, the presidential system of government has failed Nigeria as the people in leadership “are more alien to the needs of the people now than in pre-colonial time… the status quo creates opportunity for public offers to rule without knowing or feeling the needs of the led.”



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