Soyinka to Buhari: Engage Niger Delta militants, respond “positively” to their demands

Photo: Bayo Omoboriowo
Photo: Bayo Omoboriowo

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Thursday said he had been contacted to intervene in the Niger Delta crisis, and appealed to the government to “respond positively”.

Mr. Soyinka, who did not clarify his role, lashed out at the Nigerian media, accusing them of “extreme invention” and “distortion of facts”.

At a press conference in Lagos, Mr. Soyinka said he would no longer be speaking to the local media over issues concerning Nigeria’s efforts to end militancy in the Niger Delta.

News reports had quoted Mr. Soyinka as saying that the services of international mediators would be sought to mediate between the Nigerian government and militants to resolve the Niger Delta crisis.

Mr. Soyinka had met with President Muhammadu Buhari on August 11, and when approached by journalists afterwards, he said they had discussed “national and international matters, general matters, that’s all”.

He, however, promised to schedule a press conference later to give further details about the meeting.

But on Thursday, Mr. Soyinka said he would rather discuss a Lebanese-Nigerian partnership involving his Wole Soyinka Foundation.

“I know that when I was – to use the press expression – ambushed at the Villa the other day, I did say that I would answer questions about my visit to the Villa at a press conference that I‘d already planned, which was this one as a matter of fact,” Mr. Soyinka began in a room filled with reporters of major Nigerian news outlets.

“But I always fulfill my word, and so I’m going to speak very briefly about that visitation. And what I have to say about it is that today is not the day for talking about that visitation.

“And the real reason is this, let me tell you media, the real reason is that I had a meeting in London in the House of Lords. The meeting was not about the main subject that took me to Aso Rock which is the problem with, among other things, the problem we have in the Delta.

“But I used that opportunity to meet a certain number of international figures, parliamentarians, royal heads, etcetera, to pass on a message internationally to prospective interveners to what’s happening in the Delta at the request of some of the militant groups here.”

Mr. Soyinka said that meeting in London was reported in the media and “was badly distorted”.

“Let me make a plea, it’s bad enough distorting whatever happens, events, statements on certain subjects, bad enough. But on an issue like the insurgency in Nigeria, the Delta in particular, we are on very very delicate grounds and the media has a huge role to play in that,” he said.

“And the immediate role people like me must demand of the media is accuracy. There can be no invention in this kind of situation. There can be no adumbration, there can be no extrapolation, not even second guessing. You have got to be accurate. Otherwise, there’s a loss of confidence and therefore a lack of solution. People must be confident that what they say to you is what you translate and transmit to those to whom you are sent.”

It was not the first time Mr. Soyinka would criticise the Nigerian press.

Last May, during events marking Mr. Buhari’s one year in office, Mr. Soyinka described a media report quoting him as declaring his support for the president as a “disgusting forgery”.

On Thursday, he said media reports that he was part of an international group mediating between the Nigerian government and the Niger Delta militants was an “extreme invention”.

“You cannot publish a statement to me saying I’m a part of an international group when the international group is not even in existence, there’s no international intervention group which has been formed,” he said.

“I think to go further and attribute to me a statement that the international group has already contacted Buhari, what kind of extreme invention is that? How can a group who does not exist meet with the Head of State? And how could I, who just happened to be meeting with the Head of State, say that the two entities have met when one of them does not exist?

“So please I implore you, media, in fact, I’ve taken a decision not to speak about the Delta situation publicly; just to carry on any assignment which I feel I can carry out on behalf of a resolution.

“I will not be talking to the press any longer, because I cannot spend my time correcting falsehood. I’m not responsible for the falsehood, and that burden should not be placed on my head.”

‘Respond positively’ to militants

Mr. Soyinka, however, appealed to the Nigerian government to hold positive negotiations with the Niger Delta militants in order to solve the crisis in the region

“I wish to make an appeal publicly to the government, and please report me accurately, to respond positively to the outrage from the militant groups,” he said.

“That is the request which has been made by some of the groups who got me into this interventionist role in the first place. At the moment they feel that the government of President Buhari is not seriously responding to their own outrage. And I wish to make a personal appeal to the government to respond positively and let us see where it ends us.

“But I’m not part of any international group, I was approached personally and I’ve been responding personally to some of these groups just as I did when President Jonathan was in power and MEND was the umbrella group of the insurgents.

“So I make that appeal once more to the government, please respond to the efforts of these militant groups to arrive at a holistic and comprehensive solution.

“Please don’t attribute to me things I never said.”

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  • Lorgne

    Prof Soyinka’s worry is the worry of Oby Ezekwesili on PMB’s presidency and OBJ’s worry on helping Nigeria with PMB. Both statements were proved wrong. In fact, The Tribune apologised to her while Daily Trust did same today. On OBJ, he had to publicly deny the media report. This is wickedness on Nigeria by the MEDIA.

    • Rommel

      Criminals are still mourning the loss of Jonathan

      • Otile

        Criminals are covering up the abysmal failure of Buhari.

        • Rommel

          Very funny kua kua kua !!!!!!!!!!

          • Otile

            You can laugh kua kua kua like a hyena all you like, that’s your problem.

  • JasV

    Egbon, I completely disagree with you on the issue of accuracy. What is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. You or we cannot cherry pick as to which subject or news must have accuracy and which one not. Accuracy, transparency, honesty is a culture as far as I am concerned. You either have it or you don’t.
    The good side of the coin is that utmost secrecy demanded of on-going negotiations is succeeding, so leave them (the press) guessing, leave them being miles away from home.

  • Abidilagungun

    WS, no. The media has a job to report and contextualize their information for the benefit of their audience, if they misquote you then you sue them. I have discovered that when otherwise upright people are morally challenged, they resort to philosophy and sophistry on matters of tangential importance. Rather than attribute the disaffection these militants, WS should say it as it is, that PMB is yet to get a handle on the country’s problems

  • bjay

    Some media in Nigeria is a disaster and disgraceful to ethics of professionalism.

  • agbobu

    NO RESPONSIBLE DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT NEGOTIATES WITH CRIMINALS, TERRORISTS OR CULTISTS. TO DO SO WITH NOT SEND THE WRONG MESSAGE TAHT CRIMINALTY PAYS A VERY HUGE DIVIDENT AND IT WILL ALSO MAKE CRIMINALITY A WAY OF LIFR, AN ETHOS AND AN ACCEPTABLE NORM. CRIMINALS AND ALL CRIMINALITIES MUST BE OBLITERATED WITH MILITARY INCISION AND PRECISION, WITHIN THE LAWS OF THE LAND.

    • Apostel

      100 % correct, next time Nigeria kidnappers demand pension from the Government.

      • vagabonds in power

        Same as late Ojukwu was paid his pension by Yara Adua after pushing more than 3 million Ibos to their death abi

        • Apostel

          that means you support pension for kidnappers!
          On the day that God put you in the shit, he did a good job

          • vagabonds in power

            There is a world of a difference between kidnapper and hostage takers–Militants are more into hostage taking–not kidnapping like the Ibos–the oil wells belong to the SS–not the FULANIS

    • separation is the answer

      Ibo manu—-Joe Igbokwe—aka Agbobu– Buhari is busy negotiating with his Fulani Boko Haram fighters———yet an Ibo man is saying Bingo has no right to talk to the slaves in the Niger delta oil bearing communities —–abi-? No wonder the Fulnis are cutting the thraot of Ibo women in the North–as if they are goats–The first assignment that Buhari undertook as president was to borrow-$2.1b for the upkeep of his Fulani tribesmen who killed over 100,000 Native Nigerians—–in the Fulani North—–from the world bank——–He Bingo Buhari also released more over 2,000 boko haram Fulani fighters—————————but have refused to have the Okah brothers leave their cells–because of their ijaw tribal marks-

  • Commentsfile..!!!

    Lol….. those waiting for a bombshell briefing
    now have one!! Niger Delta Problem; no matter
    how you twist it or from whose mouth it comes
    from, is just another word for “DISTRACION”.
    why have this region excommunicated themselves
    from a normal life style due to militant mentality ?
    In Nigeria politics they are being avoided.
    No leader (s), even an ex President from the region
    has no political value. the only Governor who
    was blindly helping is now fighting to get a better
    room at kuje in two yrs time.
    where will your children grow up, in that
    Battle Field called Niger Delta?

    • IZON Redeemer

      Separation is the answer—–The children of Jonathan did not grow up in London like that of Bingo Buhari—Neither did that of Isaac Boro–who was not even allowed to contest elections into the Senate of the University-of Nsukka-when his people the Ijaws were bonded to the apron strings of the eastern regional government———Zik never offered any of them Ijaws–scholarship to study abroad–as Awo did to the Yoruba Nation–with his revenue from cocoa–while he also left the Arigbo Ijaws- in Ondo—ati Ilaje Ijaws from Lagos—–out of his scholarship schemes-Yet it was the voice of an Ijaw man late Chief Dappa Biriye that led to the creation of LAGOS state by Gowon-Not that of Awo——-who never wanted a state be created in Lagos—in the first place–4 d Yorubas—-Zik on his part—Never thought of erecting educational institutions for them Ijaws among other ethnic groups in the South south————–Besides the former President of Nigeria-Gej who hails from the Niger delta zone holds an Internationally recognized and respected status—around the globe————–his meek looks not withstanding—His voice carries the power of the down trodden masses from the oil bearing communities in the South south————–So go bury yr weak old regional thoughts against the Ijaw Nation in the camp of the Fulanis where it belongs-for now—Freedom is our goal—–animals

  • Tunde

    Media! What we have is brown envelope media! Way to go sir! Put them in their place!

  • Sir Demo

    What exactly do Prof expect the govt to do with those that attack and kill soldiers, and other security officials? The NDCC, ND Ministry, the 13% derivation is there? What is PMB doing now in other areas that he s not doing for the ND? By the way, he is speaking in his individual capacity just like me too anyway. This short cut of arrogating power to oneself has no place in democracy. Let those with the votes diascharge their oath of office. And professors profess in classrooms.

    This is how cultism started and is now a monster on campuses.

  • GbemigaO

    Please do not talk to us again. We are tired of listening or reading from you. If you hoard information, it will be distorted. What else are you expecting.

  • Jaspa Matanga

    Oga Wole Soyinka Mrs Hippopotamus is waiting for you in Okrika.

  • favourtalk

    Buhari is already responding well, if not well, it would have been total war on them and many of them been used by politicians for personal gain would have been dealt with

  • John Abayomi

    Prof this press release is full of too much ramblings and dancing around a simple question, me think say all this diversionary tactics isn’t necessary, we go sit-down-look this your new found love for the Niger Delta Militants, me think say him no go end well but lets see how it will end