Soyinka speaks, blasts Nigeria Police for planning to stop anti-government protest

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The Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has criticised the Nigerian police for planning to stop an anti-government protest scheduled for Monday.

The protest was called by hip-hop artiste, Innocent Tuface Idibia, to highlight the failure of the current government to tackle several issues facing Nigerians.

After a police threat that it could not guarantee the safety of the protesters and warning to Tuface to cancel the protest, the musician acceded. He announced on Saturday night that he had cancelled the protest for security reasons. Other organisers like the Enough is Enough, however, say they will proceed with the protest.

In his reaction, Mr. Soyinka said, “An unnecessary but important reminder: the battle for the right of lawful assembly of citizens in any cause, conducted peacefully, has been fought and won several times over.”

Read the Nobel Laureate’s full statement below:

AGAIN AT RISK – THE RIGHTS OF LAWFUL ASSEMBLAGE.

Yesterday (Saturday Feb 4), the media offered the nation a space of relief when it carried the expected news of a mutual accommodation reached by the organizers of the demonstration planned for tomorrow Monday February 6th. The theme in summary: public discontent with the state of the nation and its governance. From the beginning, the organizers had cited quite an extensive list of such areas of concern and demands for urgent attention.

To my personal consternation, today’s (Sunday) the same media countered that announcement with a stiff repudiation from the apex of the Police command – the office of the Inspector-General. It is such a huge disappointment, and a disservice to the cause of democracy, tolerance of dissent, and principle of inclusive governance.

An unnecessary but important reminder: the battle for the right of lawful assembly of citizens in any cause, conducted peacefully, has been fought and won several times over. It is time that this contest is gracefully conceded. It must be consolidated by its routineness as a choice of action at the front of any people’s democratic participation. This battle has been won legally, constitutionally, and even morally. It enjoys near global acceptance as one of the means of actualizing the protocols of a people’s Fundamental Human Rights.

It comes therefore as a deep embarrassment, and a national shame that this latest attempt at denial of these protocols rears its head at a time when one of the largest gatherings of humanity is taking place in one of the former totalitarian states of Eastern Europe – Romania. Its size has been assessed as the largest in former Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall. It was triggered by the state attempt to water down the criminal code against Corruption, and has brought out hundreds of thousands of people into the streets and stadia, day after day, until the much awaited announcement of the withdrawal of the obnoxious decree. This should resonate within the current Nigerian governance that has made the anti-corruption crusade its mantra.

The Police attempt to reverse the hands of the democratic clock is even more appalling at a time when open demonstrations are taking place all over the world against the policies of a recently elected president of the United States, whose democratic formula this nation allegedly serves as Nigeria’s adopted model. Across numerous states of that federated nation, ongoing at this very moment, is the public expression of rejection of a president’s policy that has also pitted the Executive against the judiciary. We have heard of no preventive action by the police, nor arrests of demonstrators.

Again and again, efforts, both under military and civilian orders have been made to stifle the rights to freedom of expression by Nigerian governments – Buhari, Babangida, Obasanjo, Abacha, Jonathan….and now again, Buhari? These efforts have been, and will always be resisted. It is a moral issue, as old as settled humanity. It has been settled in other parts of the world. Nigeria cannot be an exception, not as long as her citizens refuse to accept the designation of second, even third-rate citizens.

I have sent a message to the Inspector-General of Police, through the Commissioner of Police, Lagos State, urging both to respect and safeguard the constitutional rights of the people. I hope that, even at this eleventh hour, legality and the democratic imperative will prevail. Finally, I shall be less than honest if I do not add the following, mostly directed as warning to the very polity on whose behalf the democratic war is joined, again and again:

Minus a minuscule but highly voluble minority, mostly of pitiably retarded polluters of the common zones of public interventions, I do not know of any citizens of civilized community who do not subscribe to the fundamental Right of the Freedom of Expression in any form, as long as it is peaceful, and non-injurious to humanity. I would hate to conclude that the security agencies, or the government they serve, at this stage of national development and recent history, would choose to align themselves with such an unteachable minority.


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  • abodes_124

    Prof. Those who used to worship you are ready to embrace you again. You are beginning to sound like your old self before that accursed birthday party by Amaechi where they must have put something into your food or drink

    • aisha ani

      Too funny.

  • Rick Eson

    Mr Wole Soyinka Nigeria is not UK or America. it takes years before they get to the stage they are now. Nigeria is plague with huge security problems especially Book whose members has dispersed all over Nigeria.
    The match is against the FG. FG is not the problem. The problem is the corruption and looting that currently paralyse our Nation and impacting on citizen’s. Let get the priority right here. Corruption and looting is number one problem if the nation. FG doing all they can to address these( despite the corrupt fight back bandwagon). Police attempt to stop the match is because it is against the government. it is because of the security implication as 2face rightly finally identified.
    This is not the time for such match. Citizen’s life could be at stake and business could be impacted if the match was to hijack by criminal. Also the potential of book evil activities now that there members are all scattered across Nigeria. We must not rush in making criticism without looking at all parameters.

  • Netanyahu

    The dance step is changing even though the music has not changed. The same music has been playing on a monotone since 2011, but we pretended hearing a different beat in 2014. That was the hypocrisy. It’s like the chicken is coming home to roost. With bubu stretchered in a hidden London hospital, the scheming of 2010 has begun. Welcome Wole. It shall be well. What an old man saw while sitting, a child may not see it even on the last rung of a ladder. Ka Chineke mezie okwu.

  • Thank you Prof.

  • Excisionist

    Their own things always develop K-leg. Were there not all kinds of protest during Jonathan’s government?

    But why are people surprised? The terrorist who is occupying the position of Interior Minister (Danbazau to be exact) the only thing that does not require police permit are Islamic terrorism and devastation by Fulani terrorists (herdsmen). This man in fact supplies arms to them and even provided military helicopters to cover them during the devastation of AGATU in Benue state. He is one of the most blood-thirsty of Nigeria’s terrorists in power.

    When the dust clears, there should be no mercy on this terrorist and his family

  • LionHeart

    Prof. Wole Soyinka, what we are practising in Nigeria is democracy in disguise. We are far from democracy and it is appalling.
    How can democracy exist when Nigerians elected a retired dictator? You can’t give what you don’t have. You can’t have the likes of Buhari, OBJ and IBB in power and expect to see democracy. Once a soldier, always a soldier, the military mentality never dies.

  • Amir

    What a. Country? Nobody calls for demonstrations against looting of public treasury and corruption. We see impoverished citizens trooping to celebrate an ex-convict Ibori who stole them silly. Are we too daft to understand that looting and corruption causes hardship?

  • Decimator

    Dear Prof. Soyinka, the Tyranny you worked assiduously hard to entrench, calling it a converted democrat ,has long been reigning in the Nigerian Enclave .Since you are now pretending not to be aware of that all along, welcome from your slumber, fasten your seat belt and enjoy it to the your maximum satisfaction. OK

  • Ben Legbara Ikari

    Although the police and government should get a portion of the blame, the musician who thought activism and protest were the same as singing or “come chop” as they say, should be blamed most. He didn’t do his home work at all not to say, doing it well. If not police will not promise protection and support then turn around to raise security concerns and he, the musician, which nickname 2face suggest he’s two faces that made possible his failure to live up to fans and public expectation, hence can’t be trusted with his words. All over the world groups have protests and counter-protests, which are mostly peaceful. As I write protests and counter-protests to wit anti-Trump and for-Trump groups are planning and preparing to hit the streets, which largely had anti-Trump’s rallies since inauguration in protest of the dishonest and arrogant yet ignorant hackers’-aided “illegitimate” president’s hate-based policies, banning Muslims and other immigrants and refugees even though his father was a European immigrant-legal or illegal, and gross disrespect for women and anyone, including judges who disagree with him among other reasons. His supporters have joined in the past few days to defend their ruler, who acts childishly and dictatorially thinking he’s running his questionable businesses. Meanwhile, it’s, of course, not out of place to see or hear protest groups with opposing views and interests speak ill to one another. In some cases fighting occur when considering the ideologies they propagate and what opposition to the so-called norm means. Therefore, if 2face wasn’t new to the scene and had done well his homework which include proper planning and consultation, mere police flip-flap will not make him change his mind using security as excuse. In Nigeria for the most part, insecurity pervade every region, state or corners so such excuse can’t be tenable. All the police did was try to dissuade him given the fact that his fans, if they listen to him due to how committed they’re to him and vice versa, will pour into the streets in their thousands and the scene may possibly grab international attention that will point to the presence of serious crisis in the country. Such little game sent him home while others who may have made little noise while 2face made the loudest yet empty, continue the protest and same police reportedly helping to ensure safety, which isn’t 100 percent guaranteed anywhere in the world, America and United Kingdom not excluded, during a protest or rally and other public and private events. Well, true activism and protest, rallies aren’t cheap nor are they “come chop.” They’re serious business that needs unwavering attention and commitment with honesty, all of which creates personal and public confidence and lend organizers credibility. Finally, one thing that is obvious, though 2face may have meant well, is that except Ken Saro-Wiwa and few others, most of those, including politicians who have some money in their pockets in Africa, especially Nigeria don’t protest against the system or government. Rather, they keep quiet and play along for things to become worst as they are today so long as they and their families and close friends are doing fine and happy. In America, though not everyone, and the system cum security apparatus are different, many celebrities and lawmakers join-in and even lead protest marches. Irrespective of public confidence lost alongside credibility issue, maybe 2face would learn a serious lesson that may help his come back and not fall for the police and the cheap fear game played on him and fans. He and others who may think of such protest will think deep, critically, speak slowly and act with boldness and courage, and must not announce if not confident such protest or any other event, thing of public interest shall be pulled to start and conclude not minding games, intimidation, threats and other circumstances. Part of thinking and acting smart against eleventh hour cancellation is to plan quietly and not announce activities or events with bold face (small talks could be lumping) if plans shall not proceed.