Nigeria: Soyinka Faults Presidential Pardon for Dariye, Nyame

20 April 2022

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has faulted the recent state pardon granted to former Governors Joshua Dariye and Jolly Nyame by President Muhammadu Buhari, saying the president's action is one egg squashed against Nigerian faces that they shall not forget or wipe off in a hurry.

Acting on the advice of the Council of State, President Buhari last week granted pardon to Dariye and Nyame who were serving various prison terms, invoking the Prerogative of Mercy.

Soyinka, in a statement titled: "A Putrid Presidential Easter Egg," which he issued yesterday, said he shared in the bombshell dropped on Easter against the president by Rev. Matthew Kukah.

The literary icon said he was impelled however not to miss an opportunity to add his own Easter drop to the overflowing vessel of pietistic sentiments, if only to reassure Christians and also Muslims in turn - that even "we, non-believers, do partake of that same ethical communion to which most humanity aspire.

"Also, your Easter sermon opens up yet again those sluices of juridical hypocrisy to which we dare not cease to draw attention. Such, in the immediate, remains the plight of two young men - Mubarak Bala and the musician Yahaya Sharif - one serving a sentence of 25 years, the other actually sentenced to death for alleged blasphemy.

"That word "blasphemy" comes into its authentic mode, in my view, whenever anyone violates a solemn oath of office. Its penitentiality becomes even redoubled when such violators are pampered with the prerogative of mercy.

"Permit me to call special attention to the following from your (Kukah) sermon: "Religious leaders... must face the reality that here in Nigeria and elsewhere around the world, millions of people are leaving Christianity and Islam. While we are busy building walls of division with the blocks of prejudice, our members are becoming atheists, but we prefer to pretend that we do not see this. We cannot pretend not to hear the footsteps of our faithful marching away into atheism and secularism. No threats can stop this, but dialogue can open our hearts."

Soyinka said he was persuaded that the recent largesse from the nation's president had already won a few hearts and minds to the ranks, if not of outright atheism, then at least to a healthy skeptical regard of piety spouting leadership that saw nothing wrong in attempts to extinguish the life of a young man for an honest declaration of conviction, while veterans of broken pledges were let loose to further infect a world they had betrayed.

"No pardon has been extended in the direction of endangered, youthful integrity. Of course, it is easy to track the trajectory of events. Nettled by increasingly scabrous comments, such as those of his predecessor in office, Olusegun Obasanjo, who declared that this incumbent has run out of ideas, that he has nothing left to offer the nation, Muhammad Buhari decided to embark on the Easter train and donate an Easter egg of truly presidential proportions to his subjects," he added.

Soyinka stressed that coming from a leader who had placed all his eggs in one basket, labeled anti-corruption, "This is one egg squashed against Nigerian faces that they shall not forget - or wipe off - in a hurry. It evokes the legend of Pandora's box whose contents are alleged to constitute all the ills that plague the world.

"Putrid to the core, allied to power provocations in numerous variations, such as catapulting a notorious player in the martyrdom of a serving minister of Justice to the hub of governance wheel, these define the nature of bequests that have brought the nation to this moment of near dissolution. Precedents are no consolation, no excuses.

"One states the obvious in remarking that precedents either undermine or reinforce principles, and aspiring offenders, especially in the political domain, are encouraged or inhibited by the ease or difficulty of access to the fount of mercy.

"Officeholders, we presume, are constrained by the existence of that dangling Sword of Damocles - simply knowing that one day, the cloak of immunity will turn threadbare, and the awaited day of reckoning finds them answerable. Clearly, not any longer.

"You will forgive, though disagree with me, I know, for clambering onto the Easter wagon myself, to echo the words of the One whose passage through the world the Easter season commemorates: "It is finished!"

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