Expecting Nigeria to work without restructuring country is sign of madness – Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Saturday, reinstated that restructuring the country whether in terms of dialogue, evolving the constitution among others is only way to better Nigeria.

“For me, for instance, I emphasised decentralisation, reconfiguration…We all know what we have now is not working, it’s obvious and we can’t continue along the same line and say that it will work, it is sign of madness.

Soyinka stated that there was a consensus among Nigerians that the country must be restructured urgently, saying anybody still asking what restructuring means despite the numerous explanations already provided should be ignored because such persons had chosen to be ignorant deliberately.

The elder statesman spoke at the 2021 Obafemi Awolowo Lecture titled, ‘Whither Nigeria?’ organised by the Obafemi Awolowo Foundation.

The event, which was held virtually, had in attendance dignitaries, including a former Secretary-General of Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku; the Emir of Sokoto, Saad Abubakar; Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi; former Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II; and former Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, Obadiah Mailafia, among others.

Awolowo, who died in 1987, would have been 112 years old on Saturday.

Soyinka words, “There is a consensus that this country whether in terms of governance, economic relations, security, educational policy, cultural policy, etc, requires restructuring. Even the word ‘restructuring’ has been restructured in many directions, in cogent expression which will mean the same thing for everybody.

“For me, for instance, I emphasised decentralisation, reconfiguration…We all know what we have now is not working, it’s obvious and we can’t continue along the same line and say that it will work, it is sign of madness.

“I want to make a plea to all governors, stop being so timid. Push this federal envelope as far as it can go, even while we undertake the technical aspect of restructuring whether in terms of dialogue, evolving the constitution or whatever, something has to go on, after all, we’ve had so many of these confabs.

“My plea is to governors to start with: You are charged with the immediate responsibility of the welfare of your own people in whatever term and if you study the constitution carefully, I have done this with lawyers, and it seems that a lot can be done at this moment.

“You need a season of greater autonomy for your own states and that is what I mean by pushing the federal envelope as far as it can go even with this impossible document that we have to cease what power, what authority you can derive from the constitution.

“Consult with your lawyers, I have consulted with mine and they also expressed the view that the governors are too timid, there is too much centralised mentality embedded in their minds and they are afraid to come out of their cocoons.

“Please remember that your primary responsibility is not the centre but the people, the state. So, take in your hands any form of authority that you can even from this constitution as it stands while we are working on a more honest, a more people-oriented constitution.”

Human lives cheap in Nigeria -Anyaoku

Explaining how things have deteriorated in the country, Chief Anyaoku, who was the special guest at the lecture, with Professor Soyinka as chairman, lamented the precarious state of the nation which he said was unsustainable. He observed that not a day passed without reports of worsening security evident in violent criminal acts such as kidnapping and abduction of schoolboys and girls, stating that terrorists are current euphemistically described as bandits.

According to him, human lives in the country have become so cheap now. He said that given his wealth of experience as the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, which comprised more than 50 countries, the types of problems confronting Nigeria could not be solved under the current system of government the country modelled after that of the United States of America.

He suggested the India model of federalism as opposed to American system because of certain peculiarities. India, he said, is a country of diverse population, while Nigeria’s national attribute is much more common with that of the Asian country.

To save the country from catastrophe, Anyaoku called on the Federal Government and the National Assembly to urgently organise an all-inclusive national dialogue where the participants would also use reports of past conferences to fashion a truly people’s constitution for the country.

Advocating oneness of Nigeria, Anyaoku maintained that each of the constituent units was bound to gain because of the size and resources of the country.

Part of his speech read: “I intend in what must be brief remarks by a special guest on the theme of the lecture to make four main points. My first point is that there is no section or ethnic group in Nigeria that does not stand to benefit from belonging to one country of the size and resources of present-day Nigeria. Therefore, it is, and should be in the common interest of all its ethnically and religiously diverse component parts to sustain, nourish and progress our one country.

“My second point is that the current state of affairs in Nigeria is not sustainable if the country is to avoid becoming a failed and broken state. There are undeniable facts about the current situation in Nigeria. In addition to the country’s economic under-performance with its evident consequence of growing poverty among the population, there is worsening insecurity of life and property which is now spreading from the North to all parts of the country.

“Not a single day passes without reports of many people having been killed and kidnapped, including many young students from their schools – the latest incidents include the kidnapping of 617 boys and girls from their schools in Kagara and Jangebe and in the last three days of 60 women and children in Zamfara

“There are also incessant reports of people being killed in their farms and their homes being destroyed by terrorists now euphemistically described as bandits, and reports of women and young girls being raped.

“Indeed human life in Nigeria has become so cheap that the society is now being progressively inured to regarding loss of human life as being of little consequence.