HeadlineSoyinka Calls For Decentralisation Of Nigeria, Says National Conferences Mere Distractions

Soyinka Calls For Decentralisation Of Nigeria, Says National Conferences Mere Distractions


March 01, (THEWILL) – Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has called for the reconfiguration and decentralisation of the country, saying they are necessary steps towards national progress.

Speaking on Thursday, at the 50th-anniversary lecture of the Punch newspaper, Soyinka said it was time the country stopped organising national conferences, which had proved to be mere distractions.

Delivering the lecture titled ‘Recovering the Narrative’, Soyinka advocated decentralisation as a means to bring governance closer to the people. He said politicians understand the significance of restructuring but change their stance once in power.


Substituting restructuring for reconfiguration and decentralisation, the literary icon, said, “What do you mean by restructuring? Well, I don’t even like the word restructuring. I prefer expressions like reconfiguration and decentralisation. Everybody can grasp that: decentralisation. And those who lead, recognise the necessity of it. They recognise the importance, almost the inevitability of it until they get into power, yes, that’s the difference.

“It’s about time, I think, that leaders stop taking this nation for a ride, you know, we must decentralise. Security, you know, has become a burden to bear. From all corners of the nation, that is the crime.

“As a veteran of food security working in conferences from Uganda to India, from Paris to Sochi, I insist that, for a nation to be food self-sufficient and sustainably, decentralisation is the key, not collectivisation.”

The Nobel laureate, who addressed concerns about the fear of collapse or breakup, suggesting an open discussion about the situation, said nations could be dissolved if they ensure the survival and dignity of humanity.

“We live in what is known as the nation beginning as a vast football field and ending up as a ping pong table. If that is going to restore dignity to citizens; if that is going to guarantee three square meals a day, then so be it. One of my favourite expressions with people is ‘Let nations die, that humanity may live.’

“It is high time we stopped the cyclic distraction of re-inventing the wheel. The spokes are in place and the rims are intact. Only the will, not the wheel, is missing in action. The press, needless to say, has a crucial role to play in this! However, be it noted that the press is only one of the enabling estates – all arms of governance, most pertinently, at the state level, have a propulsive, even commanding role to play in the effort.

“As I complained during my address to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) at the Gani Fawehinmi memorial event, this January, if the ground is laid but not followed to a conclusion, it means we have yielded those grounds to jungle repossession. Every struggling ethical spring is then overtaken by poisonous weeds, and the teeth of the strongest ploughs are repeatedly broken.”

Soyinka also expressed concern over recent military coups in some African countries, describing it as unpleasant. While coming hard against proponents of military intervention in Africa, he said that not only is coup d’état a big lie, it’s also unprincipled, opportunistic and very often simply dehumanising.

However, he said coup d’états are fueled and encouraged by the unfinished business of nation being and the accompanying ailments of governance that have become the lot of countries in Africa. Such ailments, according to Soyinka, had provoked a craving for the shortcut – military intervention.

“On one hand, the immediate, mundane task of governance – health, housing, economy, infrastructure, environment, unemployment, much of which ailments have provoked a craving for the shortcut – military intervention and – firmly on the other hand, the unfinished business of the nation being.

“Remedies are thus left to individual desperation. We find this expressed in the form of what is now known as the “Japa” syndrome – seeking not just food and shelter, but also marginal identities elsewhere, even if this ends in lining the Sahara sands with their skeletons or, more highly publicised, the seabed of the Mediterranean. They feel nothing for origin, feel no further sense of belonging, and seek nothing further at its hands.

“This is not an excuse though – Please don’t misunderstand me. Military intervention is a big lie. It’s unprincipled, It’s opportunistic. And very often simply dehumanising. Nobody wants it. Even ex-soldiers who fortunately have had a taste of the other side have come out. I think we all heard them saying, ‘I don’t want to return to military rule.’ But if along the West African coast, conducts such as I have just narrated continue, who can blame the crowd for coming out and carrying soldiers once again shoulder high and saying ‘Welcome, Redeem us.’

“I think it’s time we learnt to stop the cycle of violence, especially through invoking the forces of violence which only subjugates us either directly or in association with alien forces”, Soyinka maintained.

Concerning Dele Giwa, he said: “The court, per Justice Inyang Ekwo, has asked the Attorney General of the Federation to bring Giwa’s killers to justice because the killing violates the right to life under the Nigerian Constitution and the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights.

“What remains cogent for Dele Giwa, exists just as clamorously for Deborah Samuel. We need to have that killing re-visited, then until we obtain absolute judicial closure.

“From imprisonment, under whatever local contraption, but always in defiance of constitutional provisions, to open, brutal murders by thrill-seekers parading themselves as defenders of one faith or another – the name of Deborah Samuel is one that this nation must never be permitted to forget.”

Soyinka also recalled his relationship with PUNCH Newspaper: “I was thrown into a somewhat unique, personal, yet vicarious and intriguing relationship with PUNCH from its very beginning. I was part of the environment of its birth, and have watched its rise from the public regard of what we might call a sigh of resignation – that sigh of, ‘oh, another one in an already overcrowded field – to the status of a sturdy must-read journal, and observed its transformation through experimentation in every production department – from basic aesthetic appearance to shifts in political leaning and ideological flirtations. I have every reason to recall that last sparing in particular, and the reason is not far to seek.

“The PUNCH came to life at a critical phase of this nation’s history. Unquestionably the brainchild of one individual, its driving force both financially and creatively, that individual, the late Chief Olu Aboderin, was socio-politically impassioned, and he drew into his orbit similarly engaged minds, influential and combative. I can only speak as a peripheral observer and occasional interloper, most in the adversarial mode, so I plead guilty here to the possible upturned assessment of individual hands in the making of that institution. However, this was my assessment in those days, and I believe it tallied with the perception of most of the public.

“Regarding the timing, however, there can be little dispute – The PUNCH burst on the media scene with a finely tuned sense of history in the making. It emerged as if on cue as if timed to enable or reinforce a new political order that was poised over the nation, following our baptism in the font of military coups – the installation of the regime of Major-General Aguiyi-Ironsi. This was soon followed by the counter-coup that transferred power to General Yakubu Gowon. The dance macabre of musical chairs would consolidate the relegation of civil society to the margins of political relevance and deepen the fault lines of ethnic divisions, such as we are currently undergoing. At the time, however, hopes were not totally absent for the re-building of a new society on the rubble of the past, that watershed of existence for which the press invariably plays a frontal role.

“The PUNCH was not implicated in the catastrophic errors of the past, so it entered the fray with the credentials of a new eye on that past, and the potentials of a new order. There was yet another unique aspect to the profile of this newcomer to the list. Yes, indeed, it was a new conduit for national aspirations. Was it, however, a new voice? Here follows my personal take on its emergence, one that was the product of a close but also vicarious relationship. That seemingly contradicting connection evolved through the agency of a movement of which most of us here probably have never heard or may have forgotten. It was however a powerful pressure group at that critical phase of the nation’s history. It was known as the Committee of Ten and consisted of a group of young to middle-aged and middle-class intellectuals and professionals, of which Chief Aboderin was the acknowledged head.

“Permit me to end with one of my extreme convictions – I call it extreme but it is nonetheless a product of history – including contemporary actualities – if you don’t believe me, just cast your gaze in the direction of Ukraine, of Gaza or the Horn of Africa. That conviction has weathered time and localities, and declares, quite simply:…..“Let nations die, that humanity may live!”

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