Nigeria may not see another Democracy Day and may not remain as one nation if it fails to operate a decentralised system of government, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, warned.
“Not if it continues this way. Not if it fails to decentralise. Some people use the word reconstruction; some people use the word…, whatever! But if Nigeria fails to decentralise, and I mean to decentralise as fast as possible, manifestly and not as rhetoric, then Nigeria cannot stay together”, he warned, as he respond to question if Nigeria can continue as one?”
“Again, it is not Wole Soyinka saying this. Everybody has said it: ex-heads of state have said it; politicians have said it; analysts have said it; economists have said it, and sometimes we get tired”, he added
Soyinka, who spoke to ARISE NEWS Channel on Monday, urged President Buhari to be more sensitive to the agitations of secessionists rather than bully them.
He also said that Nigerians are no longer intimidated by Buhari’s threat that ‘we will talk to you in the only way you understand.
“And that’s what’s happening to people in the streets. That’s why they are moving, that’s why they are demonstrating; that’s why they are defying even threats from the police and the government – If you demonstrate, we will do this, if you do this, we will deal with you, we will talk to you in language which you understand – it does not wash with anybody any longer. Because if a nation is on a suicide slide, the people who feel that they do not deserve that kind of suicidal plunge have a right to say they are getting off this plane before it nosedives”, he said.
On how to make the system work again, he said: “It relates to what I was saying earlier. It is because he (Buhari) is not listening or he’s listening and he’s not understanding so that we do not have this extreme moment to say, wait a minute, there is nobody out there, we better look after our own security, we better look after our own very existence.”
He accused governors and senators of not doing enough to confront the challenges facing the country. He said while the Senate has not utilised its powers to force the government to act the way it should, the governors appeared to be too timid to act.
Soyinka added that Buhari is not listening to the yearnings of Nigerians, and his administration did not really understand the applications, full responsibilities and commitments involved in a democratic regime.
He said he was alarmed at the understanding of democracy by the top hierarchy of government.
On the suspension of the operations of Twitter in Nigeria, Soyinka said President Buhari’s action aborted the various channels of self-expression open to any kind of polity and abrogated the essence of democracy.
He said: “The politicians are not doing enough, especially the Senate. If you study the constitution very carefully, you will find out that they have certain powers which they haven’t touched. I have discussed this with constitutional lawyers. There are certain areas in which they can act, they can force this government, compel this government to act the way it should.
“And that also applies especially to governors. The governors themselves are too tentative; they are too timid. There are certain areas of the constitution, in which, as I go back to my favourite expression, they can push the envelope, completely, so that we get a sense of governance at all tiers, and have synergy going on. I think people are ready to stand behind the leaders.”
Soyinka said Twitter’s suspension showed that democracy means different things to different people.
He also condemned the language used by Buhari in his interview recently and even in his statements from Aso Rock in relation to those who are clamouring for secession.
According to him, when a group makes such agitations, any sensitive leadership must learn to understand this and respond to the reasons behind those agitations and not start threatening and bullying and trying to intimidate people because they are giving vent to deep-seated grievances.
He added: “For instance, there was a question I listened to President Buhari on this very channel (ARISE) about the position of the various governors on open grazing. At least 50 per cent of the nation has their representatives, saying that within the constitution, within the democratic dispensation that we say we are operating- we are saying on behalf of our people that we do not want open grazing anymore. And then somebody sits in Aso Rock and says to them that well, there is a cattle constitution, I am instructing my attorney-general to dig up some kind of law, colonial law which arbitrated between farmers and herders…so that I can recover on behalf of a certain private business, the whole routes – which means that he is not listening to what people are saying, he’s not listening to what the governors representing them are saying.
“He’s saying I am going to restore the routes by referring to some colonial arrangements. Now, when I listen to a thing like that I really despair. I want to say this, it was a very instructive interview, and no doubt there was nothing new. One was just hoping that this government had transcended that kind of partisan thinking.”