Soyinka attacks Jonathan over Boko Haram, says President shielding sect’s sponsors for politics

Ex-Governor Ali Modu Sheriff and President Jonathan at a meeting with the President of Chad

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has launched what appears his fiercest criticism yet of President Goodluck Jonathan, accusing Mr. Jonathan of shielding the sponsors of Boko Haram — whose identities are known to the president– for political reasons.

In a detailed statement Saturday, Mr. Soyinka said President Jonathan has demonstrated how, in an apparent desperation for re-election, he would be prepared to defend the worst of criminals, even those assisting Boko Haram.

Mr. Soyinka said the launch of the controversial #BringBackGoodluck2015 political slogan surpassed Boko Haram leader, Abubakar Shekau’s cruelty that has claimed more than 13,000 lives in a bloody five-year campaign.

The slogan was adapted by supporters of Mr. Jonathan, and tweeted by his aide, Doyin Okupe, mimicking the hugely popular #BringBackOurGirls hashtag which was created to help rescue over 200 Chibok schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram.

“Shekau’s dance macabre was surpassed by the unfurling of a political campaign banner that defiled an entry point into Nigeria’s capital of Abuja. That banner read:  #BringBackJonathan2015,” Mr Soyinka said.

“Spurred by electoral desperation, a bunch of self-seeking morons and sycophants chose to plumb the abyss of self-degradation and drag the nation down to their level. It took us to a hitherto unprecedented low in ethical degeneration.”

Mr. Soyinka, a known critic of the government, said while the president has since disowned the banners, that did little to reverse the damage they caused.

“The very possibility of such a desecration took the Nigerian nation several notches down in human regard,” he said.

Mr. Soyinka’s fury summed a week outstanding in Nigeria for two controversial events, both engineered largely by the presidency.

The first was the use of the #BringBackGoodluck2015 slogan, and the second, a photograph showing Mr. Jonathan in a security meeting with Chadian President Idris Deby, with Modu Sheriff, a former Borno State governor accused of sponsoring Boko Haram, in attendance.

Mr. Sheriff was named by an Australian negotiator, Stephen Davis, who negotiated with Boko Haram for a while to seek the release of the Chibok girls. The Australian also accused a former army chief, Azubuike Ihejirika, of backing the extremist sect.

The presidency has denied any wrongdoing in the two incidents, amid an outpouring of rage by Nigerians.

But Mr. Soyinka said while Mr. Jonathan’s office issued a rebuttal for the BringBackGoodluck2015 banners, the presidency cleared any doubt of its complicity in shielding sponsors of Boko Haram by allowing Mr. Sheriff to be part of his trip to Chad.

“As if to confirm all the surmises, an ex-governor, Sheriff, notorious throughout the nation – including within security circles as affirmed in their formal dossiers – as prime suspect in the sponsorship league of the scourge named Boko Haram, was presented to the world as a presidential traveling companion. And the speculation became: was the culture of impunity finally receiving endorsement as a governance yardstick? 

“Again, Goodluck Jonathan, swung into a plausible explanation: it was Mr. Sheriff who, as friend of the host President Idris Deby, had travelled ahead to Chad to receive Jonathan as part of President Deby’s welcome entourage.  What, however does this say of any president? How came it that a suspected affiliate of a deadly criminal gang, publicly under such ominous cloud, had the confidence to smuggle himself into the welcoming committee of another nation, and even appear in audience, to all appearance a co-host with the president of that nation?” he asked.

Mr. Soyinka lambasted the president for associating with some of the country’s most controversial figures, in an apparent desperation to retain power.

“Goodluck Jonathan has brought back into limelight more political reprobates – thus attested in criminal courts of law and/or police investigations – than any other Head of State since the nation’s independence”.

He criticised the government for dismissing the allegations made by Mr. Davis, the Australian negotiator, who also accused an unnamed senior official of the Central Bank of Nigeria as being behind Boko Haram’s expansive financing network.

In a statement that provided as much revelations as its rebuke of the president, Mr. Soyinka said he has independently confirmed the identity of the CBN official implicated, and that he was informed Mr. Jonathan had been given the name of the official involved.

He said if the president was uncertain of the official’s name, he was prepared to share same with Mr. Jonathan when the president is ready to “abandon his accommodating policy towards the implicated, even the criminalized, an attitude that owes so much to re-election desperation” and “when he moves from a passive “letting the law to take its course” to galvanizing the law to take its course”.

Mr. Soyinka said having worked with the Australian to end the Niger Delta insurgency under the Yar’adua administration, he was confident his revelations cannot be waived off.

“I know Stephen Davis, I worked in the background with him during efforts to resolve the insurrection in the Delta region under President Shehu Yar’Adua. I have not been involved in his recent labours for a number of reasons. The most basic is that my threshold for confronting evil across a table is not as high as his – thanks, perhaps, to his priestly calling,” he said.

“I am therefore compelled to warn that anything that Stephen Davis claims to have uncovered cannot be dismissed out of hand.  It cannot be wished away by foul-mouthed abuse and cheap attempts to impugn his integrity – that is an absolute waste of time and effort.”

He called for the immediate prosecution of Mr. Sheriff saying the evidences against the former governor are overwhelming. He offered his support for senior lawyer, Femi Falana, who has threatened legal action to compel the government to charge Mr. Sheriff for his alleged role in the Boko Haram insurgency.

“The evidence in possession of Security Agencies – plus a number of diplomats in Nigeria – is overwhelming, and all that is left is to let the man face criminal persecution. It is certain he will also take many others down with him,” he said of Mr. Sheriff.

He also called for an international investigation of Mr. Ihejirika’s role in the insurgency.

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