Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has urged Nigeria’s federal government to apologise to Yoruba activist, Chief Sunday Adeyemo (Igboho), as it is not criminal or illegal for anyone to express intention to leave any federation.
He also condemned what he described as the “bizarre” midnight raid by the Department of State Services (DSS) on the Ibadan residence of the activist.
Soyinka, who spoke during an interview with BBC News Pidgin on Monday, urged the government to stop pursuing the self-determination agitator.
He said: “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 gave examples of people who left a federation or a union to form or join another state, including the Bakassi people of Southern Nigeria seceded to Cameroon.
The DSS had raided Igboho’s Ibadan home last Thursday and arrested his associates. It also told journalists that it recovered weapons from his residence.
Soyinka said: “More important for me is the position of the government, saying that the ‘existence of these weapons’ proved that he (Igboho) was planning war against the state. That position, a very loaded statement, was simply deliberate to conflate 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.”
Soyinka stated that a former Minister of Defence, Lt. Gen. Theophilus Danjuma (rtd), had told the people not to trust the military anymore but to trust themselves.
He said: “Some other voices like 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, 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, in which sometimes, it is the victims who’ve 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.
He advised the federal government to stop pursuing Igboho as a criminal and also accused the government of acting in a criminal fashion against him.
“If and when Igboho comes to trial, I guarantee you the government will be very embarrassed,” he warned.
Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja