Prof. Wole Soyinka has beckoned on the Federal Government to urgently look into the matter of the videos going viral online which shows some IPOB members being maltreated by the Nigerian Army.
Prof. Wole Soyinka made this statement during a Christopher Okigbo conference which was tagged ‘legacy of Christopher Okigbo 50-years death’. The event was celebrated to mark the golden jubilee anniversary of the death of Okigbo. The conference took place at Ibadan, Oyo state.
There is a video clip going viral showing allegedly the dehumanisation of Biafran supporters in the East. It shows some civilians being made to run a gantlet of whips and then being made to crawl, being lined up in a pond of mud… I do not say this video is genuine. It could be IPOB propaganda, it is possible but I am saying to the military that you can’t afford to stay silent when that kind of documented allegation is making the round of the world.
The image of the military very often is the image of the nation. I want the military and the government to examine this video and the source and let the nation know whether the soldiers that participated in it have been identified and have been punished or prove to the nation that this is pure propaganda video. Such thing has been done before. It happened in Baga in the North, and that is the mission as my message on behalf of Christopher Okigbo to the military and to the government. We want an answer.
I am looking at history repeating itself. We are celebrating Christopher who was a poetic embodiment of that movement at that particular time and who put his life on the line for a conviction that sent him out. When we were still thinking of meeting him here for a literary conference, meeting him there for a conference, Chris was already committed. And when the moment came, it was not enough that he smuggled in arms, he went in, joined the others and took up arms for his conviction. I am looking at this young people on the street behind the banner, organising, once again, reaching that stage when they also are preparing to put their lives on the line.
And it is not enough to talk Python Dance or Crocodile Smile, these borrowings from other people’s language and to say we are ready for you anytime and while the other side says oh yes, we are waiting like Trump and the rocket man in North Korea, the unbalance of terror and so on, and this is what we are now echoing on a mini scale in this country. A mini scale but with enormous consequences for all of us and it seems as if we are about to repeat history but at its worst. Maybe it is about time again that we writers, colleagues of Christopher make a concerted move to avert this disaster which politicians have the habit of getting us into.
Soyinka went further to say:
Each time I hear python dance, crocodile smile and what goes along it that we are not mobilising against anybody or group and that it is kidnappers we are after, I ask are you talking to children? What is this language? This morning, I picked up newspapers and in them, the Air force said they are joining in the dance. So they fly up there to look for kidnappers?
He continued by saying:
This is not what a 50-year advance in human intelligence and historic experience should be. There has to be a way out of the repeat of the cyclic stupidity which overtakes human beings and communities periodically time and time again.
Prof. Wole Soyinka also said that he wants to meet with the Chief of Army Staff, COAS, Lt. Gen. Tukur Yusufu Buratai, and discuss with him and ask him some certain questions concerning the security of the Nation. And also for the fact that in a country Nigeria, which is being ruled by democracy, the military are now taking over the land like they are what he termed ‘Masters of the land’.
Soyinka also said:
They humiliate and dehumanise civilian population. What you are confronted with when you open pages of newspapers everyday is the military is either beating up policemen or beating up the civilians or making them crawl. This type of unacceptable habit, this sense of military superiority is beginning to creep back into this nation and it is fueling even what you might call separatist movements.
Prof Wole Soyinka, also stated that he was yet to have the opportunity to personally congratulate the Chief of Army Staff for their bravery in maintaining peace in the Nation, but he will also like to tell him to hold his boys and make them understand that they are not masters of the land.
It is that kind of mentality which leads to people to say alright we don’t want to be part of that polity. If you think that we are dominated and we are under policy and ideology of submission, we are going to show you differently.
Soyinka also said
This anniversary (Okigbo anniversary) is taking place at a critical moment for the nation as a corporate body, as many of us, as individual, for millions who are not here with us today but, confronting a choice: a choice which is come about as a result of much mis-governance in this nation, as a result of leadership alienation, marginalisation of millions not just in the East alone. I am talking across regions. I am talking across classes, lack of opportunity and so on. And it is this contradiction within society which lead to what is confronting the nation at this moment”.
Wole Soyinka also stated that Nigeria which is slowly overcoming the problem of Boko Haram, is now being confronted with the Fulani Herdsmen menace who felt they own the nation Nigeria.
They feel that they own every square inch of the nation, anywhere, anytime and that if it is not ceded to them, they must take it by force. They feel that they must humiliate, and dehumanise other people in other areas of the nation be it Benue, Anambra, Ogun States. The menace is everywhere. And when people see that they cannot look to the responsible structure of governance, to look after their security and their livelihood, in other world when they feel marginalised, on a seemingly structured ways, then they move toward their own structuring, which can lead to violence.