Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has condemned the stopping of some governors of the All Progressives Congress, APC, from attending a campaign rally in Ekiti State describing it as an act of war.
At a press conference in Lagos, Saturday, Mr. Soyinka urged the affected governors to seek redress in court, noting that it was a violation of their human rights.
Some APC governors who were attending Governor Kayode Fayemi’s final electioneering campaign in Ado-Ekiti, last Thursday, were prevented from getting to their destination by army soldiers.
“I think it is important that we don’t lose sight of preparations before an election simply because we want the event to be over and done with.
“When Vice President Sambo said in Ekiti that this election was going to be war, I actually rebuked some of the opposition who said that the Vice President had come to announce the outbreak of a war. I said come on; this is what is known as a figure of speech. Even his predecessor within the party used a similar expression, ‘do or die,’ I took the same position, that we must allow what is known as poetic licence in which people use metaphors that should not be taken literarily. So I have never really bothered about the expressions like fight to finish, do or die, it’s war to the end,” Mr. Soyinka said.
“The prevention of some governors and their supporters from going for their own campaign was nothing short of an act of war. So maybe I should learn to be less metaphoric in my approach to language and learn to take politicians’ word a bit more serious,” he added.
Mr. Soyinka said that practices such as waving of party flags and sweeping the stage after your opponent had finished a rally are part of the language of democracy.
“But to prevent governors from attending a campaign for the success of their own party is for me not just unconstitutional, it’s criminal, and such people should be charged to court. It’s not different from rigging during the election, from women suddenly becoming pregnant with ballot papers, with stealing and even daylight robbery of ballot boxes. What is the difference? Electioneering is part and parcel of the democratic process,” Mr. Soyinka said.
The Nobel laureate also condemned the Nigerian military for allowing the army to be used as “election thugs.”
“Let me ask you a question: Suppose Governors Amaechi, Oshiomhole, Nyako, and the other APC governors are being in a motorcade that had been waylaid by thugs with guns, machetes, cudgels, or even acid.
“So when the army begin to act like thugs on account of election, I see no difference between the waylaying of those governors by paid thugs on a lonely road if they were going by road, I see no difference between that and the military waylaying governors, preventing their helicopters from landing. I see no difference whatsoever between that kind of conduct and just ordinary paid thugs. So I’m asking the military, when did you take on the job of electioneering thugs?”
‘Punish the culprits’
Mr. Soyinka called for an immediate end to the violation of citizens’ rights by law enforcement agents, adding that those involved in the Ekiti incident be punished to serve as deterrent to others.
“This is the kind of conduct which this police commissioner Mbu considered a proper conduct for a law officer in Rivers State. When we spoke, in this very hall that day, people were saying what business does Wole Soyinka, Falana have in Rivers state?
“What we were saying is that if we allow this kind of conduct to be accepted once, there will be escalation. It happened, and in a more dangerous dimension in the same Rivers State,” Mr. Soyinka continued.
“We have a responsibility in any part of Nigeria when the right of a citizen is violated. It doesn’t matter whether the person is a motor mechanic, market woman, or a governor, a legislator, we have a responsibility to cry out, and to tell Nigerians that if you don’t speak now it’s going to come to your door, and it’s going to be far worse with fatal consequences.
“It’s about time we abandon the language of orders from the top. We want specifics. Who gave orders like that? Is it the Chief of Army Staff? Is it a general somewhere? Is it the military police? Enough is enough. Amaechi has a name, Oshiomhole has a name, Nyako has a name, Fayemi has a name, why is it that those who prevent them exercising their citizen’s rights do not appear to have a name.
“The military is being paid from the public purse. The military has no business taking sides in a political election,” said Mr. Soyinka.
Mr. Soyinka demanded the National Assembly to institute a commission of enquiry to unravel what happened in Ekiti State.
“We want to know who gave orders, we want these people to be called to give evidence,” said Mr. Soyinka.
“I think that all these governors should sue for the violation of their human rights. Let us make an example once and for all. We cannot continue this spiral of misconduct which makes us a laughing stock all over the world.
“We will not be satisfied with a face saving commission of enquiry. If that is what happens, then we will set up citizens’ court. We did it during the fight against Abacha. We’ve done it for Bashir of the Sudan, which we got witnesses, victims, journalists to come and testify about the violation of human rights there. We asked for international help.
“If such a trial is broken up here, then we will hold it next door. We will hold it anywhere, all the worse for the Nigerian government. They created the shame if we are forced to hold such court outside, with United Nations help if necessary, with international bodies, we’ll place the government of this county on trial.
“This must be the very last time that such an incident happens, it bodes ill for future elections. It makes a sham of all we had fought for. It’s a wastage of our very existence. I still cannot believe that this thing happened.”
Mr. Soyinka reiterated his call to Nigerians to support the efforts of the military in their fight against the Boko Haram insurgency.
“But if the military conduct themselves in this way, then we have to consider them allies of Boko Haram. Because Boko Haram could have attacked to stop the governors going to campaign. Boko Haram does not believe in democracy. Boko Haram despises democracy.
“What happened in Ekiti was a violation of the constitution and those who are responsible should be exposed and where necessary punished,”