You can’t honour Abiola and be praising Abacha, Soyinka tells Buhari

Wole Soyinka Ariving the venue
Wole Soyinka Ariving the venue

Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, has criticised President Muhammadu Buhari for his continued commendation of late military dictator, Sani Abacha.

He said Mr Buhari cannot praise Mr Abacha in one breath, then honour the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential polls, Moshood Abiola in another.

A few weeks ago, Mr Buhari said no matter what anyone thought of Mr Abacha, he (Abacha) ran one of the most effective governments in Nigeria’s history. He also took time to flay another ex-president, Olusegun Obasanjo for reportedly mismanaging billions of funds deployed into the power sector while he held sway.

Mr Abacha was Nigeria’s 10th military head of state. He served as the de facto president of Nigeria from November 17, 1993 till June 8, 1998.

Mr Abacha’s government was marred by rampant corruption and human rights abuses, especially the hanging of activist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, one of several executions of Ogoni activists who opposed to the exploitation of resources in their enclaves.

Mr Abiola and Mr Obasanjo were jailed for treason. Mr Soyinka was charged in absentia with treason.

Mr Abiola was later imprisoned by the Abacha junta as he struggled to actualise his mandate. He died in prison in 1998.

Mr Buhari on Tuesday morning, conferred Mr Abiola with the nation’s highest honour, the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, (GCFR) – a honour exclusively conferred only on presidents and former presidents.

The event took place at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

While Mr Abiola was given a posthumous award GCFR, his then running mate, Babagana Kingibe, was awarded the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON).

Also, late human rights activist and lawyer who championed the June 12 cause, Gani Fawehinmi, was awarded the GCON.

Successive governments have brushed aside calls for Mr Abiola to be honoured and for the Federal Fovernment to recognise June 12 as democracy day, actions Mr Buhari has now taken.

Speaking at the event, Mr Soyinka asked the president to stop “creating confusion” in the minds of Nigerians.

“It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breath and then admire his tormentor in another breath,” he said.

“Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who if he were alive today would be before the International Court of Crimes against humanity. The one who broke the laws of Nigeria, International laws, pauperized this nation, it is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded such an individual.

“We had a private conversation some time ago and l remember one of the things which l mentioned to you was this …l said you are fighting corruption.. how cometh that a notorious dictator, corrupt ruler, is honored by one of the most important avenues in the capital of Abuja, whereas, individuals like the martyrs of the struggle, philanthropists have not been honored. The answer you gave to me was not too satisfactory.”

He further proposed a hall-of-shame for past Nigerian leaders who were infamous for their brutality ”to sound as a warning note to would-be bad leaders”.

Mr Soyinka, however, stated that he was “knocked out of his throat” (pleasantly surprised) by the apology rendered by Mr Buhari for the June 12 atrocities.


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