Scaling of National Assembly gate our lawmakers’ ‘finest hour’ – Soyinka

Prof Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has criticised the Nigerian media for continuously describing as ‘show of shame’ the incident where some members of the House of Representatives scaled the gate of the National Assembly to gain entrance into the complex.

Speaking at a press conference in Lagos, Tuesday, Mr. Soyinka said that the phrase ought to be reserved for Suleiman Abba, the Inspector General of Police.

About 15 members of the Lower House scaled the fence to gain access into the complex, two weeks ago, after they were stopped by police officers.

“Legislators are not elected for their athletic prowess, and such endeavours should not be demanded of them,” said Mr. Soyinka, a professor of Comparative Literature.

“There are even presidents and prime ministers who were elected despite physical handicaps. The brain is where it matters, the vision and commitment to service.”

Mr. Soyinka said that by scaling the National Assembly gate, the legislators were made to perform over and beyond the call of the Olympics.

“I don’t understand why some media have described their action as a show of shame – this is a very careless, easily misapplied designation. The act of scaling gates and walls to fulfill their duty to the people must be set down as their finest hour. They must be applauded, not derided.

“If shame belongs anywhere, it belongs to the Inspector General of Police and his slavish adherence to conspiratorial, illegal, and unconstitutional instructions – to undermine a democratic structure, and one – to make matters worse – convoked in response to an emergency of dire public concern.”

At his last press conference in Abeokuta last week, Mr. Soyinka, 80, announced that he had been diagnosed of cancer in December 2013, adding that the “nuisance” had been disrupting his normal existence.

But on Tuesday, he was his usual jocular self, cracking jokes as he entered the venue of the press event 20 minutes after the scheduled time.

“Tell me what you are doing about the electronic media,” he asked jokingly to the half a dozen journalists seated in the hall.

“This medium of supposed information is becoming dangerous.”

Later, he informed the reporters that he would be handing them written texts of his speech “personally” to avoid an impostor handing them copies of what he never said when they leave the hall.

At the end of the question and answer session, he issued an apology: “Sorry, there is no brown envelope. But I have drinks.”

The writer and poet, however, did not mince words when he spoke about the menace of the Boko Haram terrorist group and its danger to Nigeria’s corporate existence.

“The cliché ‘heating up the polity’ may grate the ear-drums with its banality but I think that we have a right to demand of a leader not to stoke up the furnace in which events have cast its citizens. Every day records a new violation of our humanity,” said Mr. Soyinka.

“The atrocious targeting of the great mosque of Kano has rendered any lingering doubt of impending national imposition an invitation for collective suicide, preferably through piecemeal dismemberment. The theories of cause and effect can wait, or continue – it does not matter – the omniscient in such matters continue to pontificate, some of them blithely forgetting that they indeed contributed to policies that landed us in this brutal cleft.”

Mr. Soyinka also said that President Jonathan’s recent visit to the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, underlined his total alienation from the reality that has engulfed the nation.

“Yes, political campaigns are part and parcel of the bloodline of the democratic process. We know that they never stop,” he said.

“However, that a national leader should go campaigning on the platform of ethnic support at a time when priorities dictate a united national engagement for survival, is a grotesque undertaking that was tragically rebuked in the massacre of worshippers and desecration of the Kano mosques, almost simultaneously with the alienated gathering of selected crowned heads and journeymen at the OAU campus, a macabre echo of Balthazar’s feast.

“Long before Nyanya, long before Chibok, long before the mildest of the now innumerable violations of our basic right to existing as free citizens, the march of a nation towards implosion has dominated the landscape, but an obsession with the pettiness of power has obscured remedial vision and thus, the creative options constantly open to any prescient leadership.”

Mr. Soyinka said that the call for Nigerians to be vigilant is real and urgent, adding that there is a need to clip the wings of the predatory bird.

“Let no one cry anarchy when the people respond to that historic cry of liberation, to which one leader after another – the most recent being the Emirates of Kano and the Ulama leader Yahaya Jingir – have felt moved to urge upon their people.”

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