Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi, Ojaja II, have charged Nigerians across state demarcations to defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands in response to the ultimatum by a Northern group for President Muhammadu Buhari to set up RUGA settlements across the country despite national outcry.
The duo, who made the call through a communiqué following a meeting on July 4 in Abeokuta, Ogun State, which was made available to New Telegraph, yesterday, also raised the alarm over what they described as the drift of the Nigerian nation into a dysfunctional state.
Noting that the present development was not new, nor has it lacked warnings, the duo said: “Numerous times, voices have been raised, and resistance mounted against the evolution of internal heirs to external colonialism, be this manifested by a military elite or by religious or economic groupings, which flaunt their scant recognition of or respect for human dignity, civic rights and sanctity of human life. The state has cultivated the art of looking the other way – until forced to confront reality.
“We reaffirm our commitment to the rights of every individual, every community, every collectivity of human beings as primary, and preeminent over and above all other parameters of human development or formal associations.
“In this regard, the recent ultimatum delivered by a sectarian order to the president of this nation to set up the so-called RUGA cattle settlements across the entire nation within a stipulated time, despite national outcry, should be acknowledged as entitlement under the bounty of freedom of expression.
“In return, we exercise ours, and call upon Nigerian nationals across state demarcations to defend the sanctity of their ancestral lands. This birthright has never been annulled, not even under colonial occupation.”
Warning that the country cannot survive another civil war, they said all efforts must be made to anticipate and douse socio-political flare-ups that advance the chances of a recurrence of such a conflict.
The communiqué read in part: “The colonial contraption known as Nigeria cannot survive another upheaval in the nature of the Civil War of Biafran secession. All efforts must therefore be made to anticipate and douse socio-political flare-ups that advance the chances of a recurrence of such a conflict, no matter how reduced in scale, its devastating effects on Nigerian humanity, and erosion of the prospects of continuance as a cohesive entity.
“Among such issues of urgent import are the ongoing insurrectional movements that derive from religious fanaticism and intolerance, exemplified by Boko Haram and allied tendencies as well as aspects of commercial enterprise, in which some groups consider themselves especially privileged, singular, and above laws and entitlements that are binding on other vectors of commercial and industrial undertaking. We have in mind destructive forms of social transactions that characterise groups such as nomadic cattle herdsmen, and their umbrella groupings in the nature of Myetti Allah.
“We confess ourselves increasingly distressed and appalled, that the hitherto harmonious cohabitation, even routine collaboration, among the productive arms of society that Nigerians have taken for granted even from pre-colonial times, have deteriorated to unprecedented levels of barbarity, contempt for human lives and a defiant trampling on the civic entitlements of other productive vectors such as farmers, the providers of both food and cash crops. This abhorrent, yet consistent pattern of sectarian and homicidal arrogance is obviously not merely counter-productive but inhuman, criminal and divisive.”
Soyinka and the monarch also raised the alarm over the internal colonization of the nation, saying: “We call on the Nigerian people to recognize that the internal colonization project is ever recurrent, that there are backward, primitive, undeveloped minds that have failed, and continue to fail to overcome delusions in this antiquated belief in sectarian domination as the key to social existence, a belief that despises peaceful cohabitation that is based on mutual respect, a spirit of egalitarian apportionment, and recognition of the dignified existence of others, including their antecedent modes of material production of the means of existence.”
Also yesterday, Soyinka and some human rights activists, at an event to mark the 21 years remembrance of the late winner of the June 12, 1993 presidential election, Chief MKO Abiola, in Lagos, called on the Buhari administration to obey the rule of law as the President cannot pick and choose what laws he obeys.
Among those who spoke alongside Soyinka at the event organised by Women Arise for Change Initiative at the graveside of Abiola at his residence in Ikeja, Lagos State, include Femi Falana (SAN); chairman of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), Rear Admiral Ndubuisi Kanu (rtd) and President of Women Arise for Change Initiative, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin.
Soyinka, who condemned attacks by herdsmen in different parts of the country, said: “MKO means so many things to so many people, but there is one thing nobody will take away. I think on this, we unite that he belongs in that galaxy of stellar leaders, who at the critical moment said no. Nelson Mandela was one of them. Leah Sharibu is another one; another young exemplar. When MKO Abiola was given conditional release, he said no. This is a precious lesson of MKO Abiola.
“You have heard about security, obeying the law, which is one thing that equalizes all of us. This government, this President must be told that he cannot pick and choose what laws he obeys. Otherwise, he is setting an example for all of us. There is no exemption or something special about being given the honour and the responsibility of running a nation.
“On the other hand, the responsibility is heavier; you must set an example and so we are calling on this government; this President, once again, yet again, obey the dictate of the law or you are setting in motion, an unworkable process of total anarchy.
“It is this kind of refusal to obey the law that makes a sector of the populace thinks that they are above the law. And the way they expressed this sense of immunity is through impunity. Having some part of the population saying that all men are created equal, but some are more equal than others. This is unacceptable thing of social belonging.”
Falana, who disclosed that not less than 150 people were currently being detained by the Nigeria Navy, said there can’t be democracy, when people are languishing and suffering in detentions.
He condemned the continued detention of the leader of Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Ibrahim El-Zakzaky, by the Department of State Services (DSS), saying El-Zakzaky may die in prison if he was not attended to urgently.
The human rights lawyer also disclosed that a team of lawyers are being set up to ensure that the circumstances surrounding the death of MKO Abiola as recommended by the Oputa Panel is reopened at the international level, so that justice would be done at the end of the day.