Nigeria is at war, says Soyinka

Thank you Prof. Soyinka for saying the truth
Whilst other Yoruba Elders are too busy lying through their teeth and deceiving themselves about  Professor Achebe’s book that is going to cause another civil war whereas turning a blind eye to see the activities of Boko Haram and other activities that could cause another civil war. These Yoruba elders are too scared to talk about Boko Haram because they might get killed. However, these foolish elders are ready to be abusing innocent man over his recollection of the Nigeria Biafra civil war. What they’re forgetting is that Boko Haram has been killing thousands of people including Yoruba people, and these elders believed that Boko Haram activities wouldn’t cause a civil war but Achebe’s book - they are not sincere to themselves and to their people.

Professor Wole Soyinka (The Nation)
Professor Wole Soyinka

Written by Ozolua Uhakheme

Nigeria is at war and the war is between light and darkness, Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka said yesterday.

He warned that Nigerians would cease to be humans, if they succumb to the forces of darkness.

The literary icon spoke in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, at the presentation of “Nigerian Literature: A coat of many colours” and the presentation of Port Harcourt as UNESCO World Book Capital 2014.

He appraised the spate of violence across the country and expressed his belief that “Nigeria is at war.”

Soyinka said: “I believe Nigeria is at war, the war is between forces of light and darkness, intellect and retrogressive thinking,forces of hatred against humanism.

“I believe that if we surrender to these forces, we cease to be human.”

According to him, Boko Haram and all movements that wage war against literacy have declared war, not on the nation, but on humanity itself.

“Despite the horror that surrounds us, we continue to be creative.”

He described the choice of Port Harcourt as WBCC 2014 as bitter-sweet, saying it came at a time when Nigeria is reflecting.

Soyinka said the lynching of four students of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) is callous and demonstrates the bestiality of man.

“Worst of all, it took place in a community which watched as silent spectators and passive participants.

“Before that in Mubi, students were called out one after the other and shot to death, not accidental shooting, but out of hatred for potential sources of knowledge and enlightenment.”

He recalled a similar scenario in Mexico City and stressed that creativity must be made to triumph over evil of retrogression.

Soyinka said: “On that note, we have a responsibility to support and sustain efforts of Rainbow Book Clubs and others to promote literacy and humanity.

“It is one statement we can make to tell the world despite the horror.

“It is a message we must continue to preach to our children.

“This recognition by UNESCO is an indication that something good is happening in Nigeria despite the avalanche of negativity.”

The Nobel laureate enjoined his colleagues that the plays, poems, drama and short stories they create are the solutions to Boko Haram crises.

Renowned writer and community leader in Aluu, Elechi Amadi, also condemned the killings of the UNIPORT Four.

He, however, insisted that the incident had nothing to do with the indigenes of Aluu.

“We condemn the spilling of blood but the incident has nothing to do with indigenes of Aluu.

“All the suspects paraded by the police are non-indigenes. People of Aluu have been demonised. We call on security operative to police the environment.”

Governor Rotimi Amaechi, who was represented by Information Commissioner Mrs Ibim Seminitari, said the vision of the festival is to bring back the book for the restoration of values, culture and societal transformation.

Amaechi said: “Literature restores values and represents the world full of opportunities and numerous possibilities.

“I dream because I read. I was raised in a poor neighbourhood of Diobu, in Port Harcourt.

“I was the only child of my parents who went to school and today I am a governor because I read.”

Source: The Nation, 19th October 2012.


Nigeria is at war –Soyinka


NOBEL Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on Thursday said recent developments in Nigeria portrayed it as a country at war.

Soyinka also described the current killings in parts of the country as an ongoing war between the forces of good and evil.

Speaking at the presentation of Port Harcourt as the UNESCO World Book Capital for 2014, he said Nigerians would cease to be human beings if they yield to evil forces.

Soyinka, who condemned the murder of four students of the University of Port Harcourt and the Mubi killings, noted that the forces of evil were out to wipe out any trace of enlightenment and creativity in the country.

The Nobel Laureate urged literary minds in the country not to see themselves as authors, writers and readers, but as part of a creative army against the forces that had come to extinct creativity.

He said, “I believe quite frankly this country is at war; the war is between the forces of darkness and the forces of light, the forces of intellect, the forces of rationality and the forces of atavism, retrograde thinking, the forces of hatred against humanism.

“I believe that if we surrender to these banal forces in our society, we cease to be human beings because we succumb completely to fear and it is the same message we must take to those in this nation, who believe that books are wrong.

“I don’t care whether they call themselves the final defenders of the pure road and the ultimate salvation or call themselves Boko Haram.

“Boko Haram and all organisations, all movements that wage war against books, against literacy, against education and enlightenment in any form have declared war, not on the state, but on humanity itself and in spite of such setbacks, in spite of such horrors, we have the responsibility to support and to sustain efforts such as being made by the Rainbow Club and allied societies and organisations.”

He stated that the recognition of Port Harcourt as UNESCO’s World Book Capital was an indication that something was going right in the country.

Soyinka added, “One plea that I want to make to my fellow writers, authors everywhere is that we are not just engaged in the business of writing books; we are part of a large army of creative people.

Earlier, the Rivers State Governor, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, said his administration had been investing in the education of the people of the state.

Represented by the Commissioner for Information and Communications, Mrs. Ibim Semenitari, the governor explained that such investment was aimed at growing a literate citizenry that would be able to take the state to the next level of development.
Source: Punch, 19th October 2012.


Prof Wole Soyinka Speaks on Biafra Genocide, Boko Haram

Written by Admi,
Published on Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Biafran Children 10

"....These were people who’d been abused, who’d undergone genocide, and who felt completely rejected by the rest of the community, and therefore decided to break away and form a nation of its own". - Prof Wole Soyinka

Prof Wole Soyinka (Photo - Daniel Mordzinski)

Wole Soyinka: 'If religion was taken away I'd be happy'

The Nobel prize-winner Wole Soyinka spoke this week at the Hay Festival in Mexico. In an extract from his talk, he tells Peter Godwin that now’s the time to tackle militants in Nigeria.

Wole Soyinka: We must stop pussyfooting around Islamic militants Photo: Daniel Mordzinski

Wole Soyinka: We must stop pussyfooting around Islamic militants

Peter Godwin Professor: Soyinka, you’re not an ivory-tower kind of writer. You are not a stranger to danger, and in fact you’ve been imprisoned on at least two occasions, once in solitary confinement. Can you tell me what that was like?

Wole Soyinka: Writing in certain environments carries with it an occupational risk. When I was imprisoned, without trial, it was as a result of a position I took as a citizen. Of course I used my weapon, which was writing, to express my disapproval of the [Biafran] civil war into which we were about to enter. These were people who’d been abused, who’d undergone genocide, and who felt completely rejected by the rest of the community, and therefore decided to break away and form a nation of its own. Unfortunately, the nature of my imprisonment meant that I couldn’t practise my trade because I was in solitary confinement for 22 months out of the 27, and I was deprived of writing material. So I had to somehow break through the barriers, smuggle in toilet paper, cigarette paper, scribble a few poems, pass messages outside. I was able to undertake exercises to make sure that I emerged from prison intact mentally.

PG There have been high hopes for some African leaders after they were elected – Meles in Ethiopia, or Museveni in Uganda, or Kagame in Rwanda – but who then went to to show a more authoritarian bent. Are you an Afro-optimist or an Afro-pessimist?

WS I’m an Afro-realist. I take what comes, and I do my best to affect what is unacceptable in society. I’ve remarked how similar in many ways Mexico is to Nigeria, and to a number of places: we have the same condition of unstructured, unpredictable violence, both from the state and from what I call the quasi-state. Whether the quasi-state is formed, as its basis, of theocratic tendencies, or secular ideological rigidity, you always have forces, even outside the state, competing for the domination of people. That’s what’s happening on the African continent today. That’s what’s been happening in the Arab states and what led eventually to the Arab Spring. Gradually people come to the recognition after decades of supine submission that they are not whole as human beings.

PG Your parents were Christians, Anglicans, I understand. How has your own religious belief evolved?

WS I consider myself very fortunate. I was raised in a Christian environment in Abeokuta, but another side of me was very much enmeshed in African values. I gravitated towards what I saw was a cohesive system of a certain relationship of human beings to environment, a respect for humanity in general. I came through a traditional system, where children not only had rights, but had responsibility. In the European world today, especially in America, it seems to be forbidden for children to have responsibilities…

I gravitated towards a deeper knowledge of the orisha, which represents the Yoruba pantheon, very similar in many ways to the Greek pantheon. You have reprobate deities, beneficent deities. I found that more honest than a kind of unicellular deity of either Christianity or Islam.

I don’t know if you’ve been following the news, but just a few days ago some of these Islamic fundamentalists butchered close to 50 students of a technical college. I cannot imagine the religion I was brought up in having such complete contempt for human lives. And yet these are supposed to be the world religions. So that’s why I consider myself rather fortunate that I’ve been able to see what other religions had to offer.

PG How should Nigeria deal with the Boko Haram, the Islamic militants in the north of the country?

WS All religions accept that there is something called criminality. And criminality cannot be excused by religious fervour. Let me repeat something I first said at the meeting organised by Unesco a few weeks ago, which was prompted by the recent film insulting the religion of Islam and depicting the Prophet Mohammed in a very crass way.

The first thing to say is that we do not welcome any attempt to ravage religious sensibilities. That can be taken for granted. But you cannot hold the world to ransom simply because some idiot chose to insult a religion in some far off place which most of the world has never even heard of. This for me is a kind of fundamentalist tyranny that should be totally unacceptable. So a group calls itself the Boko Haram, literally: “Book is taboo”, the book is anathema, the book is a product of Western civilisation, therefore it must be rejected.

You go from the rejection of books to the rejection of institutions which utilise the book, and that means virtually all institutions. You attack universities, you kill professors, then you butcher students, you close down primary schools, you try and create a religious Maginot Line through which nothing should penetrate. That’s not religion; that’s lunacy. My Christian family lived just next door to Muslims. We celebrated Ramadan with Muslims; they celebrated Christmas with Christians. This is how I grew up. And now this virus is spreading all around the world, leading to the massacre of 50 students. This is not taking arms against the state, this is taking up arms against humanity.

PG Is freedom of expression something you see as a universal right rather than as some Western construct?

WS There are many cultures on the African continent where days are set aside, days of irreverence where you can say anything you want about an all-powerful monarch or chief. It’s a safety valve. It’s a recognition of freedom of expression, which perhaps has not been exercised, and bottled up grievances; this is the day when you express your grievances in society. So there is no society, really, which does not boast some form or measure of freedom of expression. Now, it’s true that freedom of expression carries with it an immense responsibility. Well that is why laws of libel exist – that when you carry things too far, you can be hauled up before the community, and judged to see whether you are right to call somebody a thief, or a hypocrite, and damage his reputation. But unless you establish that principle of freedom of expression, we might all just go around with a padlock on our lips.

Audience member I read somewhere my freedom ends where your freedom begins. In Europe there have been cartoonists who have mocked the Prophet. Should they limit their freedom of speech?

WS Religion is also freedom of expression. People want to express themselves spiritually. And they also exercise the right to try and persuade others into their own system of belief. Those nations that say it’s a crime to preach your religion are making a terrible mistake. All they’re doing is driving underground other forms of spiritual intuitions and practices.

If religion was to be taken away from the world completely, including the one I grew up with, I’d be one of the happiest people in the world. My only fear is that maybe something more terrible would be invented to replace it, so we’d better just get along with what there is right now and keep it under control.

The unrest which is taking place as a result of Boko Haram, in my view, has attained critical mass. When a movement reaches that state of total contempt even for universal norms, it is sending a message to the rest of the world, and to the rest of that nation, that this is a war to the end. The president of Nigeria is making a mistake in not telling the nation that it should place itself on a war footing. There’s too much pussyfooting, there’s too much false intellectualisation of what is going on, such as this is the result of corruption, this is the result of poverty, this is the result of marginalisation. Yes, of course, all these negativities have to do with what is happening right now. But when the people themselves come out and say we will not even talk to the president unless he converts to Islam, they are already stating their terms of conflict.

*This is an edited transcript of Wole Soyinka’s event at Hay Xalapa.

By Peter Godwin -

*This is an edited transcript of Wole Soyinka’s event at Hay Xalapa.

By Peter Godwin -