Soyinka to Buhari: Respond to militants’ outreach, end N/Delta crisis

From left, Board member, Wole Soyinka Foundation, Professor of Gender Studies, Folabo Ajayi-Soyinka; chairman, Apple and Pears Limited, Dr Habib Jaafar; founder, Wole Soyinka Foundation and Director of Programmes, Professor Wole Soyinka and Mrs Folake Soyinka, at a press conference to announce the Wole Soyinka Foundation Lebanese-Nigerian partnership “The SAIL PROJECT STUDY ABOARD IN LEBANON”, held at Freedom Park, Lagos Island, on Thursday. Photo: Sylvester Okoruwa.

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, on Thursday, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to respond positively to the outreach by the militants, in order to put an end to the hostilities in the Niger Delta region.

He made the appeal in Lagos during a programme organised by the Wole Soyinka Foundation, in collaboration with the Notre Dame University, Lebanon, which had enlisted five students from different universities in the country to benefit from cultural exchanges and international collaboration between Nigeria and Lebanon.

The exchange programme was facilitated by Dr Habib Jafar, a Lebanese Nigerian-based businessman.

Soyinka, who would not hide his displeasure at the recent education policy that excluded History as a subject from the school curriculum in Nigeria, lambasted those who took the decision.

He said: “I don’t know why they removed History from the school curriculum. That has left me with the option of asking what is wrong with some people’s heads. History is life. Yet, these people are involved in governance and go to places.”

He said the Wole Soyinka Foundation collaborated with the Lebanese institution to address a specific issue and to contribute in small way to the body of knowledge in Nigeria.

Baring his mind on the Niger Delta crisis, the Nobel laureate was sad that in recent times, he had been misrepresented in the media and pleaded with the media practitioners in the country to make accuracy their watchword.

“I was involved in the action to resolve the Niger Delta issues based on pleas from some elders, who approached me to intervene. We have been on this for years. What I demand from the media at this point in time is accuracy of report. There can be no second guessing. If that is not done, it would affect confidence and would lead to lack of confidence.

“I take exception to the statement claiming that I am part of an international organisation mediating in the Niger Delta crisis. That group is not existing. The report went on to say that the group had already contacted President Muhammudu Buhari. Such group doesn’t exist.

“There is no international group that I know of or I am part of that is mediating in the crisis. Can two entities meet without one of them existing? From the discussions I have heard with the aggrieved militants, they felt that the government of President Buhari has not responded positively to their outreach.”

Soyinka then went on to plead with Mr President that: “I want to now make an appeal to President Buhari to respond positively to their outreach and let us see where it would end. Buhari should respond positively to the peaceful overtures from the militants, so that we can have an end to the insurgency in the Nigeria Delta region.

“The militants have been complaining that the president is not responding to their agitations. Since the days of former President Goodluck Jonathan, I had been approached to serve as interventionist, to see how the problems of the Niger Delta could be resolved. I have been doing that on my own, but not as a member of any international agency or group.

“I want to state emphatically that I am not speaking for any international group and I am not yet a member of any international body mediating in the Niger Delta crisis at the moment.  May be one international group will be formed on that, I don’t know. This is purely a plea from Wole Soyinka, not United Nations, eminent persons or United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO),” he said.