Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has cautioned Nigerians to be careful with the former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former military President, retired General Ibrahim Babangida who have been pretending to be “messiahs” over their posturing on national issues.
Soyinka, who spoke at the posthumous 80th birthday of late Gani Fawehim (SAN), insisted that Nigeria is in danger when politicians like Obasanjo, who “supervised the sacking of democratic governments” in Oyo and Anambra states pretend to be messiahs.
“All I want to say in connection with the title of today is just one word: vigilance. There is no question whatsoever that democracy is in danger.
“And so I find it ironic that those who’ve proved themselves the enemies of democracy who’ve really taken, they’ve really committed acts, not just negligence, but actually inaugurated certain policies which contributed to our being at this point again are once again coming out and positioning themselves as saviours, as messiahs, as the sole possible rescue mission that this nation can even dream of, a nation of nearly 200 million people.”
Under Obasanjo’s presidency, Dr. Chris Ngige was abducted by armed policemen and forced to sign a resignation letter at gunpoint in July 2003, and in January 2006, his administration.
“I find it very strange, and I find it even stranger because at the beginning of this movement towards ‘rescue mission’, there were one or two organisations that came out under different names and they had people in them whom I considered worth following, worth encouraging, worth encouraging others to study closely and even consider following.
“The next thing I knew, these movements were being hijacked by the very people who laid the foundation, an ironic word by the way, for the collapse of the democratic edifice.”
Soyinka said he turned one of the groups down when it approached him. He said: “The next thing we know, they are forming coalitions and I was invited by one of the rescue missions to address them and I telephoned them and I asked the question, ‘wait a minute, which one are you? Are you the original people I saw or is there a faction or is there now a fatherly umbrella under which everybody is moving?’
“And I told them; don’t even come near me, if you’ve signed up on one of those who are the enemies of democracy in this nation.
“Those who inaugurated so-called constitutional amendment programmes, total charades, to assist them to continue to run, which has been scuttled by the direction known as tenure elongation, third term, etcetera for which the entire national treasury was almost bankrupted.”
“And suddenly, here they are they are forming coalitions all over the place, once again, confusing people. Who are the genuine leaders, who are those that we can trust? The answer to that is very simple: look at their track records. That’s all”.
Soyinka advised Nigerians not to allow themselves “to plunge into a zone of amnesia, in which you conveniently forget unpleasant realities. “We’ve had presidents in this nation, some of whom inaugurated a never-ending democratic process, which landed us eventually under the most brutal dictators that this nation has ever known.”
Under Babangida, who was in office between 1985 and 1993, his transition programme was the longest ever in the country’s history. On several occasion, he promised to hand over to a democratically elected government but failed to do so.
In June 1993, he annulled the presidential election won by the late Bashorun MKO Abiola. He was forced to “step aside” in August 1993.
Babangida handed over to the Ernest Shonekan-led Interim National Government (ING), which was sacked by the late Gen. Sani Abacha, who tried to perpetuate himself in office before his sudden death.
Soyinka was not done: “We had others also who actually supervised sacking of ‘democratic government’; I’m speaking of Anambra, I’m speaking of Oyo State. A governor was kidnapped under their watch with their complicity; in another instance, thugs actually entered the House of Assembly, sacked the legislators and installed their own candidates; under the same watch.
“And they call themselves the God-designated watchmen over the fortunes of this nation? And suddenly, here they are and I see Nigerians flocking to them and asking them once again to lead.
“Mind you, they’ve said very clearly if it becomes a political party count me out o, but paths are already being beaten to their doors, control by subrogation.”