Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has added his voice to the ongoing calls for the restructuring of the Nigerian federalism.
According to him, the sovereignty of the nation was very much negotiable.
The literary doyen, who disclosed this during a chat with newsmen, said decentralisation of the nation would ensure healthy rivalry among the component units.
The laureate said it was wrong for previous administrations in the country to say that Nigeria’s sovereignty was non-negotiable, opining that the position was antithetical to development.
He said, “I am on the side of those who say we must do everything to avoid disintegration. That language I understand. I don’t understand (ex-President Olusegun) Obasanjo’s language. I don’t understand (President Muhammadu) Buhari’s language and all their predecessors, saying the sovereignty of this nation is non-negotiable. It’s bloody well negotiable and we had better negotiate it. We better negotiate it, not even at meetings, not at conferences, but everyday in our conduct towards one another.
“We had better understand it too that when people are saying ‘let’s restructure’, they have better things to do. It’s not an idle cry; it is a perennial demand. The Pro-National Conference Organisation was about restructuring when this same Obasanjo said it was an act of treason for people to come together to fashion a new constitution. Those were fighting words; that you’re saying, ‘I commit treason because I want to sit with my fellow citizens and negotiate the structures of staying together’ and ask the police to go and break it up and arrest us.
“I remember that policeman, who said if we met, that would be treason. I wasn’t a member of PRONACO at the time. That’s when I joined PRONACO. If you’re saying to me, ‘I am a second-class citizen; I cannot sit down and discuss the articles, the protocols of staying together’ and you’re trying to bully me, I won’t accept.”
He said Nigeria could not continue with a centralisation policy, which encouraged what he described as “monkey dey work, baboon dey chop” mentality.
Soyinka said the over centralisation of government had resulted in resentment among constituent states, adding that the phenomenon was insulting and promoted anti-healthy rivalry among states.
He stated, “We cannot continue to allow a centralisation policy which makes the constituent units of this nation resentful; they say monkey dey work, baboon dey chop. And the idea of centralising revenues, allocation system, whereby you dole out; the thing is insulting and it is what I call anti-healthy rivalry. It is against the incentives to make states viable.”
He said it was high time government established state police to check the rising security challenges in the country, stressing that policing was more effective when localised.
Soyinka added, “I know people get nervous about that expression. If you go to a place like England, you sometimes see two, three, four police (officers) just walking casually unarmed, but they are observing everything.
“Now, if policing is all of that, then I think the police are more efficient if they are based within a smaller constituency than a larger one. Within such constituencies, the policeman virtually knows everybody. A federal, centralised system of police lacks that advantage.
“So, I find it very difficult to accept that people can be nervous about the state police. State police has been abused. Nobody is denying that; it’s historical. Don’t tell us because we know already. But isn’t centralised police also abused? Look at what’s been coming out from the last elections, not just the police, but the military.”
Soyinka said the intrusive nature of Fulani herdsmen was no longer a remote problem for him personally, alleging that some Fulani herdsmen had invaded the privacy of his residence in Abeokuta, Ogun State.
“It is no longer a remote problem for me. It is an actuality,” he said, recalling that the killings carried out by suspected Fulani herdsmen in Enugu some months ago was mismanaged by the government.
“In Enugu, why did it take so long to investigate the killings? It’s like the case of Ese Oruru. What is all this? What is security for? That thing should have been addressed immediately. (In Enugu), they shouldn’t have waited for directives from Buhari or anybody. This is a crime against humanity. There should be no debate about it.
“The military should have been drafted there immediately; the police, first of all, and the military – if necessary. I found out that the victims were arrested; what’s all that about? This menace is underestimated. If they had reached my secure place in Abeokuta, then it is no longer a remote problem.”