Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has criticized President Muhammadu Buhari for his reaction to increasing attacks and killings by herdsmen in several states in the country.
Soyinka in an address to the National Conference on Culture and Tourism on Wednesday said he was shocked by the President’s claim that the attacks would soon be over.
He added that comments made by the President and the government fell short of expectation and did not provide any reassurance for Nigerians.
He said, “When I read a short while ago, the Presidential assurance to this nation that the current homicidal escalation between the cattle prowlers and farming communities would soon be over, I felt mortified.
“He had the solution, he said. Cattle ranches were being set up, and in another 18 months, rustlings, destruction of livelihood and killings from herdsmen would be ‘a thing of the past’. Eighteen months, he assured the nation. I believe his Minister of Agriculture echoed that later, but with a less dispiriting time schema.
“Neither, however, could be considered a message of solace and reassurance for the ordinary Nigerian farmer and the lengthening cast of victims, much less to an intending tourist to the Forest Retreat of Tinana in the Rivers, the Ikogosi Springs or the Moslem architectural heritage of the ancient city of Kano. In any case, the external tourists have less hazardous options.”
The Nobel laureate, who said the signs were already clear and the rampage of impunity was already manifesting a cultic intensity of alarming proportions almost a year ago, noted that the current violence and killings by the herdsmen would among other things hurt tourism in the country.
Despite the warning signs, he said the government failed to react with his attempt to utilise the Open Forum platform of the Centre for Culture and International Understanding, Oshogbo, to launch a national debate on the topic – ‘Sacred cows or sacred rights’ almost a year ago also failing to take place.
The plan had been to invite Buhari to give a keynote address at the event.
The failure to react to the warning signs allowed the situation to degenerate beyond arbitrary violence, according to Soyinka.
He said, “It is not merely arbitrary violence that reigns across the nation but total, undisputed impunity. Impunity evolves and becomes integrated in conduct when crime occurs and no legal, logical and moral response is offered. I have yet to hear this government articulate a firm policy of non-tolerance for the serial massacres have become the nation’s identification stamp.
“I have not heard an order given that any cattle herders caught with sophisticated firearms be instantly disarmed, arrested, placed on trial, and his cattle confiscated.
“The nation is treated to an eighteen-month optimistic plan which, to make matters worse, smacks of abject appeasement and encouragement of violence on innocents.
“Let me repeat, and of course I only ask to be corrected if wrong: I have yet to encounter a terse, rigorous, soldierly and uncompromising language from this leadership, one that threatens a response to this unconscionable blood-letting that would make even Boko Haram repudiate its founding clerics.”
Soyinka, who said herdsmen were perhaps humanity’s earliest known tourists, said they must be thought about the culture of settlement and “learn to seek accommodation with settled hosts wherever encountered”.
“The leadership of any society cannot stand idly and offer solutions that implicitly deem the massacres of innocents mere incidents on the way to that learning school,” he warned.
“For every crime, there is a punishment, for every violation, there must be restitution. The nomads of the world cannot place themselves above the law of settled humanity.”