Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigerian winner of the Nobel Literature Prize, and a long-time critique of various military dictators and governments has warned President Muhammadu Buhari about his failed handling of the Islamist Fulani Herdsmen attacks.
Soyinka said that previous President Goodluck Jonathan had “refused to accept that marauders had carried off the nation’s daughters,” referring to the abduction of the Chibok girls by Boko Haram. He argued: “We have been here before – now, ‘before’ is back with a vengeance.”
The Nobel Laurette said, “President Muhammed Buhari and his government, including his Inspector-General of Police, in near identical denial, appear to believe that killer herdsmen who strike again and again at will from one corner of the nation to the other, are merely hot-tempered citizens whose scraps occasionally degenerate into “communal clashes”, I believe I have summarized him accurately.”
Chiding the President, Soyinka said, Buhari believes, “the marauders are naughty children who can be admonished, paternalistically, into good neighbourly conduct. Sometimes of course, the killers were also said be non-Nigerians after all. The contradictions are mind-boggling.”
Soyinka noted that the government’s “practical steps” in tackling the killings by trying to bring “about the creation of ‘ranches’, ‘colonies’, whatever the name, including the special cultivation of fodder for animal feed and so on and on” is basically not the issue.”
To President Buhari, Soyinka said, “Permit me to remind you that, early in 2016, an even more hideous massacre was perpetrated by this same Murder Incorporated – that is, a numerical climax to what had been a series across a number of Middle Belt and neighbouring states, with Benue taking the brunt of the butchery. A peace meeting was called, attended by the state government and security agencies of the nation, including the Inspector General of Police. This group attended – according to reports- with AK47s and other weapons of mass intimidation visible under their garments. They were neither disarmed nor turned back.” He added.
Soyinka bereted the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, who in 2016, said he paid “aggrieved” herdsmen to stop the killings in the south of the state.
Soyinka said, “El Rufai, governor of Kaduna State, proudly announced that, on assuming office, he had raised a peace committee and successfully traced the herdsmen to locations outside Nigerian borders. He then made payments to them from state coffers to cure them of their homicidal urge which, according to these herdsmen, were reprisals for some ancient history and the loss of cattle through rustling.”
The Government has not responded to Soyinka’s statement but the mission’s coordinator of Jos provincial mission, church of Nigeria, Venerable Mark Mukan, said to Global Christian News, “when Christians say the same thing Soyinka is saying, we are said to be bigots and biased. It is encouraging to hear a non-Christian and a literacy expert and a political analyst speaks truth to authority. That is the best we can say for now.”
Hassan John is West Africa Editor, GCN and Priest of the Anglican Diocese of Jos