Eminent writers, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and JP Clark, on Monday urged the convening of a national conference to reconsider the Nigerian state – a call that reflects an increasing public frustration over terrorist attacks, and spreading strife against government’s removal of petrol subsidy.
It came as the labour unions commenced a national strike in protest of the scrapping of subsidy, barely 12 hours after the House of Representatives passed a historic resolution urging the federal government to reverse the policy.
In a statement, the world-acclaimed writers, called on the Jonathan administration to “rethink” the decision. Separately, in another statement, Mr. Achebe, joined by 39 other writers including columnist, Okey Ndibe, unequivocally asked the government to revert the price of petrol to N65 a litre, and condemned its violent crackdown on peaceful protesters.
“The first single security notch on the gun is always the signal for a countdown towards two, then three, moving to four figure statistics in the struggle for human dignity. Syria is our current cautionary instance. We know how Libya ended,” the first statement said.
The positions sounded a grim note of caution for a country witnessing a rapidly deteriorating mood occasioned by escalating attacks by the extremist Boko Haram sect, on civilians since Christmas day, and government’s new year day petrol price raise.
Deadly attacks by the group – which has killed hundreds – and the potential of reprisals put the nation’s corporate existence under threat, and raises the risk of an all out conflict, thereby requiring an urgent national debate on the way forward for Nigeria, Achebe, Soyinka and Clark said.
“Calls have been made in the past – sometimes in response to a crisis within the nation, other times as an objective necessity even in the most tranquil of times – for the convening of a National conference to debate just how the nation should proceed in reinforcing civic and political life, and decide, in full freedom, the terms of her integrated existence. The government is urged to stop shying away from this project, pretending that those who happen to have been elected into the nation’s legislatures are best qualified to undertake the exercise, largely through piecemeal tinkering,” they said.
They however warned against reprisals, and called on President Jonathan and other leaders to act decisively and ensure the protection of those they “claim to lead.”
“Our duty is to denounce the killers among us, to deny them, right from source, the sump of blood that is their nourishment, the chaos that is their ambition, and the hatred that has poisoned their collective psyche. Our mission is to prove ourselves superior to them in understanding, to leap ahead of their perverse scheming and preserve our own humanity even as they jettison theirs ‚ if ever they even were aware of its existence,” they added.