Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has reacted to the invasion of Sunday Igboho’s house by the DSS saying that the Federal Government should apologise to Igboho.
Soyinka said this in a recent interview with the BBC. He was asked in the interview aired on Monday to react to the invasion of Sunday Igboho’s house in Ibadan last Thursday.
Soyinka described the actions of Sunday Igboho, whose real name is Sunday Adeyemo, for which he has been declared wanted by the DSS, as noncriminal.
He said, “There is a sentence in papers which said the government has moved against secessionists and other criminals. Now that’s a very loaded and wrongful expression. Would be secessionists, secessionists and other criminals!
“How can you place the will or wish for separation as a criminal act? That kind of language does not exist in the constitution, doesn’t exist in law. It should not exist in the catalogue of moralities because it is not an immoral act or position to say that you want to stop belonging to an entity or if you want to join another entity.
“People take a very simplistic approach to so-called secession – sometimes it means I want to leave this group and join another group.
And we have had examples before and after independence. The Ghana-Guinea union for instance; and even till our independence – the separation by fiat of Bakassi awarded to another nation. It was not just goats and cattle that existed there. There were human beings. They were not asked where they wanted to belong but with a stroke of the pen for certain political reasons, consolidated by succeeding governments, the Bakassi people were ceded to Cameroon.
“And before that, we had the plebiscite in the Cameroon region in which a section decided to go with Cameroon, another section to stay with Nigeria. So why on earth in the name of justice should anyone classify those who wish to secede or rejoin another nation as criminals. That’s wrong and that is playing the devil’s game; it’s playing the government claim.
“Why do I have this position? Look at the raid – this very bizarre raid, midnight raid on a law-abiding citizen which the government now says netted a number of illegal weapons AK-47s, ammunition. We are now in a situation where of course Igboho is saying that these weapons were not there. They were planted. Now that’s one aspect. We can deal with that later on.
“But more important for me is the position of the government, saying that the existence of these weapons in Igboho’s place proved that he was planning war against the state. Now that very loaded statement was simply to deliberately conflate issues. It was to obscure the fact that Igboho and other people, myself included, have been decrying the depredations on the lives of law-abiding citizens, farmers especially, throughout the whole nation.
Danjuma called on the people, saying don’t trust the military anymore. Defend yourselves whichever way you can. And some other voices like governors have made exactly the same statement.
“Now Igboho, even if he had those weapons, is claiming that his mission is to liberate his people from the tyranny of squatters who now have become violent overlords. And he has a good cause in that sense. Testimonies of farmers who have been brutalised, dehumanised by these squatters who have acknowledged and identified themselves as Fulani and decades and decades of this anomalous situation in which the people did not necessary, mandatory and entitled defence and protection by the security forces in which sometimes it is the victims who have been jailed.”
Speaking further Soyinka said, “Right now we are in the kind of situation which we have warned against. We called on the government to accept its responsibilities and when eventually our citizens said enough, we’re going to protect ourselves, you said they are arming against the state ― a language which you never used to describe or to accuse those who have been proven to be the aggressors in this case, so where are we?”
Asked on what he would advise Sunday Igboho, who has been told to turn himself in, Professor Soyinka said his advice was rather for the government.
“My advice is not so much to Igboho, but to the government – that they should stop pursuing this person as a criminal. Because you (the government) have begun by acting in a criminal fashion against him (Igboho). Because if and when Igboho comes to trial, I guarantee you it’s the government that will be very very embarrassed. So it is not even in the interest of the government. I think they should just tell Igboho: we made a mistake; we should not have acted this way; you are no longer wanted. Please go back to your home. In fact, escort him to his home quietly and let him resume his normal life.”