Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Friday urged President Muhammadu Buhari to emulate some of the leadership qualities of one of his predecessors, Olusegun Obasanjo, in tackling the herdsmen menace across the country.
While fielding questions during an open forum he tagged ‘Terms of Enslavement I: Holy Cows, Green Gods, and Law of Karma,’ Mr. Soyinka said Nigerians have been overloaded with problems arising due to leadership deficit.
“When I talk about the absence of leadership effect, let me give you an instance, when we started the Road Safety (also known as the Federal Road Safety Commission) movement and we began to clash with the military,” said Mr. Soyinka.
“The military at the time were the greatest killers on the road; they killed one another, they killed themselves, they killed civilians, and if you argue with them on the road you were given the ‘mud’ treatment or leap-frogging. And we took them up.”
Mr. Soyinka said the first stream of recruits into the FRSC were those who believed in the philosophy and the purpose of the organization.
“They were taught not to fear any soldier, and they fought the soldiers very often. I have trophies which were seized from soldiers in my house till today,” he said.
“And Obasanjo was the Head of State when Road Safety began on a national scale. We met one day and he said, ‘Hmmm, Wole, I hear you are fighting my men on the road, if they kill you, don’t come and complain o.’
“But he also did something, you know he’s not my favourite person but I always like to give credit where credit is due; Obasanjo also sent notices around to the military and said, ‘We set up, we encouraged, and we are backing this Road safety group…. From now, you fight any Road Safety on the street, when they are done with you, whatever the result is, you then come back and you eat military punishment.
“And the assault on Road safety – you know there was the volunteer as well as the uniformed – the assault virtually died on the road. Before that, it was a culture of assaults, they so despised the Road Safety…. anybody touching them, stopping them, disciplining them on the road is an anathema. Obasanjo stopped the assault. Make sure you print that so he can read it and see that I don’t hate him altogether. So that is what is lacking here.
“We have an ex-military leader, all he has to do, at least the first step even before convening any national summit… Pass the word round that any soldier seen molseting a civilian or any herdsman who attacks any civilian will be disciplined in such a way that he will wish he were a farmer.”
Return of the herdsmen
Last year, Mr. Soyinka blasted the president over his inability to rein in the violent killings of herdsmen across the country, following his discovery that some unknown people had “sliced a brand-new ‘Appian way’” through his Abeokuta home
On Friday, he re-read the address he presented to journalists in April 2016 where he raised the alarm about the activities of the herdsmen and, according to him, the government promised to tackle it in six months.
Mr. Soyinka said one year later, his home had been invaded again.
“Why have I decided that it is time to return to the material of that (last year) address? Simply because my home has been invaded yet again,” he said.
“I’ve reported to the police and I’ve reported to the Alake of Abeokuta. They came, this time, right to my doorstep. In other words, they didn’t just carve a motorable way across the property, they actually came through another path to my doorstep. We’re living in dangerous times. Other things have happened by the way which I haven’t made public.
“They make me convinced that this is a deliberate act of provocation. I’m not much given to the conspiracy theory, but the incidents which have taken place in that sanctuary over the past three months, very alarming, very life-threatening, the records are with the police, I’m not about to dramatize the situation. What matters is that my home is being invaded as are the farms of my neighbours some of whom have taken to erecting barriers, things we’ve never seen in that area in the past.”
Mr. Soyinka said there had been clashes between the farmers in his community and herdsmen but the police had always intervened.
“Let’s not exaggerate, but at the same time let us not be sanguine about intrusions like these,” he continued.
“These people who have no respect for human life and who use human beings, including some of our Chibok girls as suicide bombers, why shouldn’t they decide to use cattle as suicide bombers? It’s not an exaggerated way of thinking. It’s a cumulation of many things which we’ve been undergoing in this country, not just around my area.
“They are camping all over the place, not as peaceful neighbours but as conquerors. It seems to me that there is a movement to enslave the citizens of this nation wherever they happen to be to show that they are masters of the land.
“One has a right to assume that any cow which comes to one’s doorstep is a potential suicide bomber and to take preemptive action to ensure that our homes are not turned into Maiduguri. The leadership of this nation is taking this menace far too lightly. It’s a year ago since I read that speech, when the president promised that cattle assault will soon be a thing of the past.”
“Maybe we should have a day of beef boycott to compel the government to take a holistic national action.”