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#OtvOPINIONS: Soyinka’s call to anarchy

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Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, clocked 80
on July 14th 2014. He is, effectively, one of the
surviving fathers of this nation. With his
accomplishments in literature and social activism,
Soyinka is now at that stage of his life when he
should put himself above partisan politics and
parochial sentiments. He should be like fellow
octogenarian, General Yakubu Gowon, encouraging
Nigerians to greater efforts and criticising with a
view to correct, rather than turning himself into
ammunition in the arsenal of any political party.
His latest media outing over the controversial
incident at the National Assembly (some call it
police “invasion”) refers. Prof. Soyinka carefully
chose the venue from which to launch his latest
broadside at President Goodluck Jonathan and the
Nigerian Police now headed by new Inspector
General, Mr. Suleiman Abba: he addressed the
media at the Freedom Square, Lagos, the same
venue where some sponsored individuals staged
five days of “occupy” music festival against the
planned removal of fuel subsidy by the federal
government from January 1, 2012.
Soyinka summed up the National Assembly incident
and delivered a damning verdict that President
Goodluck Jonathan had become “worse” than
biblical King Nebuchadnezzar of ancient Babylon.
Nebuchadnezzar is depicted in the Bible as a dark
figure who annoyed God with his self-pride at his
achievements as the king of the then greatest
empire on earth. To teach him (and us all) a lesson,
God made him to crawl into the forest and live like a
wild animal. An angry Soyinka fumed that the police
occupation of the National Assembly was an
offence against the people for which Abba should
be tried for treason. And since the president
allegedly sanctioned it he deserves worse than the
fate that was visited on Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps
by being driven out of Aso Villa.
On the other hand, he was effusive with his praise
for the lawmakers who climbed the gate of the
National Assembly after failing to physically tear it
down, saying: “the act of scaling the gates and
walls to fulfill their duty must be set down as their
finest hour; they must be applauded, not derided”.
Though I am dismayed at Soyinka’s applause for
the shameful and dishonourable conduct of the
lawmakers who climbed the gate, I am not at
surprised. Soyinka, the founder of the Pyrates
Confraternity, a secret cult, was only preaching what
he has practiced since his youth. One of the
incidents that shot him to media limelight was that
in 1965 –when he was merely 31 year-old – he
invaded the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service
(WNBS) and demanded the cancellation of the
Western Nigeria regional election. He was obviously
a partisan of the Chief Obafemi Awolowo faction of
the Action Group.
While this action which Soyinka took in his youth
could be adjudged as being brave and heroic, it
cannot be compared with the circumstances that led
to the scaling of gates by the All Progressives
Congress (APC) lawmakers. The day before this
incident, the APC had held what they called
“salvation rally” at the Eagle Square, Abuja and later
went on a street protest. They surprised everyone
by going to the headquarters of the Nigerian Police
and barricading it. It was on that day that the
governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi, reiterated
the APC’s threat that they will form a parallel
government if the 2015 elections are rigged. The
Police read the auguries, and in their wisdom or
folly, decided to secure the National Assembly
against the possible security threats.
As far as I am concerned, the police was right to
take steps to secure the National Assembly if
indeed they had security reports warranting such a
step. Police has the right to occupy anywhere in this
country and maintain law and order. It is their
constitutionally bounden duty. I do not agree with
those who say because the National Assembly is
the office of the federal lawmakers the police have
no business being there under any circumstance.
However, I agree with those who say that the Police
have no business interfering in the lawmaking
activities of the legislature. This concept of
“hallowed” chambers is terribly overblown. The
lawmakers do not have immunity from being
subjected to the rule of law when they begin to
behave like common hooligans.
I also blame the police for mishandling the
situation. They should have screened people going
into the arena, making sure that only lawmakers
were allowed in without any form of discrimination.
Perhaps, the way they mishandled the situation
gave the impression that there was a hidden agenda
to keep out APC lawmakers and give the PDP
legislators an unfettered opportunity to impeach
Hon. Waziri Tambuwal as Speaker. I can never
excuse the police or any law-enforcement agency
for carrying out any discriminatory screening of
lawmakers.
I am still wondering why the police would want to
stop Tambuwal and his supporters from joining their
colleagues in the chamber. After all, it was
President Jonathan who wrote both the President of
the Senate, David Mark and the Speaker of the
House, Tambuwal, seeking an emergency session
of the National Assembly to approve his request for
an extension of the state of emergency in the North
East. Why would the president, after making such a
request bordering on national security – a request
seeking the favours of the Speaker and members of
the House – send IGP, Abba, to block the gate
against the very people who would grant the
request? It doesn’t make sense.
Perhaps, the gate-crashing would not have been
necessary if the policemen had conducted
themselves diligently and professionally. I expected
Soyinka, if he sees himself as a statesman, to
condemn the police for their unprofessional conduct
while berating the lawmakers for acts unbecoming
of people called “honourable”. He should have
derided their acts of hooliganism, rather than
applauded it.
Soyinka should know that being a Nobel laureate,
people out there like to hear whatever he has to say
about things happening in his country, Africa and
the world at large. If he continues to make himself
the mouthpiece of a political party’s propaganda
machine, he risks losing the credibility that goes
with being a Nobel Laureate. The very idea of calling
President Jonathan “worse than Nebuchadnezzar”
is totally out of tune with a president who has
allowed the democratic processes to thrive. Soyinka
is dressing President Jonathan in robes that were
sown for former President Olusegun Obasanjo, who
had no respect for democracy, decency and civilised
behaviour.
It is very ominous for Soyinka to drag newsmen to
Freedom Square and say: “the line has been drawn,
the people must decide whether to submit or resist”.
It is actually a call for anarchy at a time the political
temperature is boiling over. It is a refrain of the
APC’s threat to form a parallel government if
election is “rigged” in a country where every
politician who loses election says it was “rigged”.
Such a call is dangerous because it is a two-edged
sword. It can cut both ways. It may not cut only the
target that Soyinka has in mind. When the law
breaks down, Soyinka and his cohorts know the
secret forest routes into exile in Europe and
America. It is the common people, who are being
incited to anarchy, that will stay here and suffer the
consequences.

Written by Ocherome Nnanna, culled from Opinions.Ng

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