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Stop pursuing Igboho, apologise to him, Soyinka tells FG

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Nigerian writer Wole Soyinka . (Photo by PIUS UTOMI EKPEI / AFP)


• ‘There will be uproar if truth about Nnamdi Kanu’s arrest comes out’

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said it is not criminal or illegal for anyone to express intention to leave any federation. He also condemned as “bizarre” the midnight raid by the Department of State Services (DSS) on the Ibadan residence of Yoruba activist, Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, last Thursday.

Soyinka, who spoke during an interview with BBC News Pidgin yesterday, urged the Federal Government to apologise to Igboho.

“How can you place the will for separation as a criminal act? That kind of language doesn’t exist in the Constitution, it doesn’t exist in law. It does not exist in the catalogue of immoralities because it is not an immoral act or position to say that you want to stop being part of an entity or you want to join an entity,” he said.

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Soyinka subsequently gave examples of people who left a federation or a union to form or join another state including the Bakassi people of Southern Nigeria who seceded to Cameroun.

On Igboho, he said: “More important for me is the position of the government saying that the ‘existence of weapons’ proved that he (Igboho) was planning war against the state. That position, very loaded statement, was simply deliberate to conflict issues. It was to obscure the fact that Igboho and other people, myself included, have been decrying the loss of lives of law-abiding citizens, farmers especially all over the nation.

“Not just civilians, ex-Minister of Defence, Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (retd.), told the people, ‘Don’t trust the military anymore, defend yourself’. Some other voices like ministers and governors have made similar statements.

“Now, Igboho, even if he had those weapons, he is claiming that his mission is to liberate his people from the tyranny of squatters, who now 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 abound over decades of this anomalous kind of situation in which the people did not receive the necessary, mandatory and entitled defence and protection by the security forces. Sometimes, it is the victims who have been jailed, the recent case in Ibarapa for instance, is a personal testimony of those who were arrested and detained by the police simply for going to challenge those who were terrorising and raping their women.

“So, now, you have a situation where the government is saying the ‘existence of these weapons’ means that Igboho is planning an armed insurrection against the state. The whole thing from beginning to the end just stinks: the raid, the motivation has become very implausible.”

Soyinka faulted the Federal Government for also not describing AK-47-wielding herdsmen as terrorists waging a violent insurrection against the Nigerian State.

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“My advice to the government is that they should stop pursuing Igboho as a criminal because you have begun by acting in a criminal fashion against him,” he stated.

“If and when Igboho comes to trial, I guarantee you the government will be very embarrassed. I think they should tell Igboho: ‘We made a mistake, we should not have acted in this way, you are no longer wanted, go back to your home’. In fact, escort him to his home and let him resume his normal life,” the Nobel Laureate added.

Speaking on the arrest and re-arraignment of Nnamdi Kanu, Soyinka warned that there will be a “huge squawk” if the truth about how the Federal Government arrested the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) becomes known. The professor asked the Federal Government to show eagerness in arresting bandits and terrorists.

He said: “It is not for me to tell the President to prepare himself because it’s going to be a huge squawk when the truth about how Kanu was arrested comes out. People are alleging this or that. That is one phase whether Nigeria has acted outside international law.

“The second issue, however, has to do with Kanu’s conduct outside the nation. There’s been a level of hate rhetoric, which has been unfortunate, from Kanu. Hate rhetoric is an issue that can only be judged by the laws of any nation.

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“Was it right ‘to have been kidnapped?’ You can say intercepted as much as you want but I think Kanu was kidnapped. That is wrong internationally and morally. The government cannot wash itself clean on what seems to be a kind of comparative energy in pursuing the destabilised forces in the nation,” he said.

“If we take ourselves back, once when I threw a challenge to Buhari, what I expect from a true leader is to issue an order, give a deadline that any illegal occupant of any villages, farms is given 48 hours to quit after which the mighty forces of the nation will be unleashed on them. It was ignored.

“Years later, he came to say ‘we will respond to these people in the language they understand’. This is what I expected him to have said years ago, at the beginning of the insurgency. Their leadership – Miyetti Allah — should have been arrested years ago, long before IPOB was declared a terrorist organisation.”

Kanu, who is facing an 11-count charge of treason, treasonable felony, terrorism and illegal possession of firearms, among others, jumped bail in 2017 and left the country. He disappeared in 2017 after being released on bail, only to re-emerge in Israel. He was re-arraigned before a Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday and ordered to be remanded in the custody of the DSS, while the case was adjourned till July 26 and July 27.

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