Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to summon courage and declare killer herdsmen as terrorists. This is as he said that victims of clashes between farmers and herdsmen as well as Boko Haram insurgency, do not need Buhari’s sympathy, but a presidential order that initiates justice.
Speaking yesterday, while delivering the keynote paper at a dialogue organised by Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism in Lagos, the renowned playwright said rather than visiting states affected by the herdsmen crisis, President Buhari should bring perpetrators of the killings to book.
He said: “I get impatient when I hear things like Buhari has failed to go and sympathise with the people of Benue, Nassarawa, Dapchi or wherever. Who needs sympathy? Is it sympathy that will reorder their broken lives? Is sympathy the issue? We are speaking here of one commodity that is fundamentally human deserving, justice.
“There should be an internal measure to avoid a repeat. We are speaking here of a president that will respond with massive action and not showing up at the arena of human desecration to shed any unjust tears, but give orders that the bloodthirsty terrorists are brought to book.” Soyinka noted further that: “We are speaking about justice; sympathy is an ordinary commodity accessible to all of us.
We are speaking, however, of a people’s need for security and where the structure of that failed, bring in perpetrators to book and placing deterrent measures against a repeat. “We are speaking of governance will and responsibilities, the readiness to respond with massive punitive action when the fundamental security of the people is violated. We are speaking here of a president showing up at the arena of human desecration not shed any unjust tears, but to read the riot act and give orders right on the scene of violation. “We are speaking of courage to declare such monsters terrorists and enemies of humanity against the arrogant blood-thirsty renegades of society who wallow in the blood of others, having been assured, some way or the other, of a cloak of impunity.
“We are speaking of the courage to decree (declare) such monsters terrorists, enemies of humanity with the same dispatch as the declaration of far less violent, far less destabilising movement or the disruptive and supranaturalist, and sometimes nasty, in their attestation and activities. We are speaking, in fact, for a culture of even-handedness.”
Berating the Minister of Defence, Brig-Gen. Mansur Dan-Ali, over his comments on communities that blocked grazing routes, and expect herdsmen not to react, Soyinka said the minister should have by now, been sacked.
He said: “Our Minister of Defence shot himself in the mouth with some unacceptable language and commentary concerning the rampages of the Fulani herdsmen.” Paraphrasing the minister’s comment after the herdsmen attacks in Benue State, he said: “What did you expect them to do? What do you expect people to do if you block their routes?”
But, Soyinka said: “This is addressing victims of Fulani herdsmen, this is addressing issues of rape, assault, massacres, of a takeover of farmlands, the takeover of villages all over Benue, Taraba, and others. Land grabbers are trying to take over lands that do not belong to them and you obstruct them, what do you expect them to do? It is very strange to say outside to the world that that Minister of Defence is still in Buhari’s cabinet.
This is not about sentiment.” While stating that Nigeria is not the first country to experience a natural disaster, hence no need to use that as an excuse to take guns to destabilise other peace-loving people in their communities, Soyinka said: “We have to look in the mirror occasionally and compare ourselves to what is happening to other people.” Soyinka also called on Nigerians to wake up and stand against capital punishment being suggested in the proposed Hate Speech Bill in the National Assembly.