Soyinka says Nigeria disintegrating, calls for sovereign national conference

Wole Soyinka

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka

By Nehru Odeh

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has said Nigeria is in a mess and disintegrating as he reiterated call for convocation of sovereign national conference to tackle the multiplicity of problems facing the country.

Soyinka spoke at a news conference held at Freedom Park in Lagos with the theme: Covid, Technology and Citizens banishment on Thursday.

“We are in a mess. This country is in a mess. It is disintegrating before our very eyes.This government is floundering,” he said.

He made the assertions against the backdrop of the political crisis and killings in Anambra as well as threats by secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to stop the state’s November 6 gubernatorial election from holding.

“The problem here is that the government does not have a holistic grasp of the problems in Nigeria. If we are looking to this government for solution, then it means we are lost,” Soyinka maintained.

The literary icon lamented that the government has only been proffering piecemeal solutions to problems, which is not healthy enough for the continued existence of this country.

Soyinka then said the only solution to the myriad problems the country is facing at the moment is a Sovereign National Conference in which the various ethnic groups in the country would come together and find pathways to their mutual coexistence.

The Nobel Laureate also expressed his disappointment at the shambolic and embarrassing treatment he got at the hands of officials of the country’s Ministry of Health and External affairs as he was about flying back to Nigeria from Paris, France.

Soyinka said not only was his flight delayed because, according to them, he had to be given permit to travel citing Covid-19 reasons but was made to go through some rigorous processes such as going to the Nigerian Travel Portal permit to seek permit to travel.

But the Nobel laureate said he was at a loss about the connection between the Ministry of External Affairs and Covid -19.

The Nobel laureate said already stressed out by the delay, he was finally allowed to travel by virtue of a special treatment he was given, which he spoke vehemently against.

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“I don’t believe that I or any Nigerian require a special treatment to enter the country, ” he averred.

“When an individual is prevented from entering one’s country due to the lapses of others, then there is a problem.”.

Soyinka said he could have used his status to navigate his way through the strictures imposed by the government officials but he just wanted to experience the rigorous processes that ordinary Nigerians go through.

“This is a plea to the Ministry of Health and that of External Affairs which I believe must have participated in this.’

The Nobel Laureate said though he believes that it is necessary to take precautions, it should not be done at the expense of the rights, freedom and well-being of individuals.

“Once technology breaks down, intelligence should come to the rescue, I am not saying we shouldn’t take precautions,” he said.

Soyinka then used the opportunity to lambast the Federal Government on what he called the banishment of Yoruba secessionist leader, Sunday in Benin Republic.

He wondered why it is more difficult to leave the country than to enter, as he experienced in Paris. He likened what Igboho and many Nigerians are going through at the hands of government officials to ‘feudal banishment.’

“I didn’t think it is more difficult to leave one’s own country than to return until recently,’ he said.

“I am not sure how igboho left the country. But I am sure he did not go through the regular borders. This is a disgrace,” he lamented.

Soyinka then advised government officials to stop treating Nigerians like criminals and illegal immigrants, as they are usually delayed unnecessarily and trapped in limbo. “I think that is wrong,” he said

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