NOBEL Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has asked the Federal Government to take decisive action against the Boko Haram sect. He warned that if the government fails to act now, the situation might degenerate and lead to Nigerians fleeing the affected areas for the neighbouring countries.
At an interactive session with the theme: “An evening with Wole Soyinka” at the Theatre Royal, Stratford on Tuesday night, Soyinka spoke on the inspirations for his works, his relationship with the late Afrobeat king, Fela Anikulapo Kuti and the next generation of writers to watch out for among others.
When asked about his views on religious fundamentalism, killings and bombings in some parts of Nigeria, Soyinka was at his militant, philosophical and articulate best in asking the government to go tough on the vices.
On dialogue with Boko Haram, he said: “They’re telling you over and over again that we want to Islamise you, and not just Islamise you but that their version of the religion is the real one. This one, the form of extreme is the very one.”
He wondered how the government would be soft and going out of its way to meet them.
The literary icon also condemned the society for not prosecuting those milking the nation dry. “They’re saying we must cut off the wrists of those who steal goats, when everyday white-coated robbers are milking the nation of millions of dollars and getting away with it. So, what kind of religion is this – that turns a blind eye to pen robbers and kills those who don’t practise their version of Islam. Even with that, Soyinka said it’s still possible to dialogue with people with different religious views and the pen robbers. “However, when religion intolerance leads to killings, then you must cast the first stone. I can talk about it – different religious views – in principle, but when you say the only form of dialogue you understand is to kill me, I’m sorry, then my own mission is to kill you first.”
Continuing, Soyinka said he is not against Islam, but against extremism of any kind. “When you say certain things, people say, oh, he hates Islam, but the majority of those who’re being killed in Nigeria are ‘others,’ because they’re considered sell-outs, they’re considered not to be of the pure, the extreme form of Islam.”
Soyinka noted that in the past, he warned of an imminent religious crisis when Christians were doing the killing in some parts Nigeria. “In my British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) lectures, I warned of this happening. Before Christians will kill with impunity in some of these areas, the leaders in those areas will not speak and the perpetrators were never punished.
“School children were being killed at the slightest provocation, somebody is accused of swallowing the Quran and the next thing you know, there’s a riot. Innocent people were slaughtered like goats. I warned then that the time would come when those who will say ‘I’m holier than thou’ and therefore have the moral authority to kill.”
Soyinka claimed that some politicians were happy with Boko Haram and promoted them for their selfish and narrow political ends, but now “these sponsors are afraid because the instruments they have unleashed have turned around and killing their former backers.
“They’re saying – to them (sponsors) – wait a minute, you told us go in that direction for that’s where the unbelievers are, but when we‘ve taken a look, yes, they’re unbelievers, but let’s first clean up those who’re not true believers. So all of us are now at risk and there’s an alliance both spoken and unspoken between people of all faith who recognise the fact that ultimately, there’s always a party of life and the party of death and you have to choose who to support.”