2 December 2002

Nigeria: Aftermath of Kaduna Riots...Soyinka Wants FG to Take Blame for Death Toll

Lagos — Two weeks after the violent eruptions in Kaduna and Abuja against the Miss World beauty pageant and a THISDAY story on it, which Muslims considered offensive, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has said the Federal Government should take responsibilities for the death of over 200 people and the destruction of properties worth close to a billion naira.

Soyinka who spoke in Lagos weekend at the fifth anniversary and endowment fund launch organised by the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) said if the Federal Government had asserted itself on the need to protect the federal character of the nation and the provisions of its constitution on religion, there would have been no ground for mindless killings of people.

According to him, the Federal Government should be blamed for "refusing to accept responsibility for those who were killed, maimed and property destroyed in broad day light; refusal and accceptance of responsibility for the right of every individual in this pluralistic society."

Soyinka also berated the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Tafa Balogun, and heads of other security agencies for their complacency in allowing what he described as an inciting call for murder (Fatwa) by the deputy governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Mamudu Aliyu Shinkafi, against the writer of the offensive article in THISDAY, Miss Isioma Daniel.

"I have also watched in consternation the call to murder. I am equally surprised that till date there hasn't been a suit either from the Federal Government, Inspector General of Police or the security agencies against the individual who is inciting Nigerians to a murder. Enough is enough," Soyinka warned.

"We have worked hard to put this nation together, but for those who want to seperate it, let them understand that we can no longer go down as second class citizens in this country," he added.

Soyinka noted that while there has arisen wide condemnation of what he described as a "chance glancing utterance of an individual, I have not heard the same intense condemnation for people who have been killed".

According to him, "there has also not been demand for punishment for those plunging this country into the unbelievable path of disintegration. I do not understand what is going on. The sacrifices we made were not to turn this country into a theocratic state".

He condemned what he described as the sanctimonious position of the Islamic leaders in the country in relation to the apology by the management of THISDAY for the offensive publication.

"I am disappointed that the so-called national leaders are offering sanctimonious statements about accepting an apology, culminating in the statement credited to the Islamic organisation which said - we hope that everybody knows a lesson has been learnt- I am disappointed".

He maintained that in consideration of the secularity of the country as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution, "we should not allow the imposition of the theocratic arrogance of others on the totality of this nation. We are in a situation where the tail is wagging the dog".

Soyinka, however, enjoined the Federal Government to " act to stop the impudence at which our people are slaughtered and maimed at the slightest provocation".

Also speaking as a guest lecturer at the occasion, Prof Abdoulaye Bathily, a member of both the Senegalese National Assembly and ECOWAS, enjoined African leaders and politicians to contribute positively towards changing the image of the continent through a concerted fight against such policies that will entrench marginalisation and exclusion in the polity.

Bathily urged African leaders to take into account, the plural characteristics of their respective countries alongside other issues as diversity, notion of national identity from plural point of view and manage them equitably.

He also called for the revisitation of borders inherited from colonial masters, as according to him, " they are never known to be instrument of development. Their divisive nature is self evident".

Bathily also advocated a rejuvenation of the concept of African Solidarity, adding that revisiting the Pan Africanism concept will provide a vehicle for effective change if any meaningful progress or survival is to be achieved in an emergingly competitive world.

He stressed that "integration is the tool to remove distractive, divisive and indolent political and religious ideologies. Africa can only emerge a dynamic actor in the world scene if it competes successfully in development and scientific direction".

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