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Buhari and Soyinka

The President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and Prof. Wole Soyinka

Playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has described the statement of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) to civilian dissidents as wrongly targeted and tragically untimely.

The Nobel laureate stated that Buhari’s language in utterance and what was known as ‘body language’ was of a different temper at the time innocent citizens and farm destruction including mass displacement were the order of the day in Benue State. He spoke on Friday in a statement titled, “To shock and awe.’’

Buhari on June 1 vowed to shock those who he alleged of promoting insurrection, claiming that for those of them who were on the fields during the nation’s 1967 to 1970 civil war, he would treat the dissidents in the language they understand. He was referring to the secessionists in the South-East and South-South where offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission had been torched and police stations burnt.

The elder statesman however said, “Buhari’s recent deployment of this language is thus wrongly targeted, and tragically untimely. Even while he was threatening dissidents, an agenda of both secessionism and alien occupation was taking place not too distant from Aso Rock. ISWAP was taking over the already excised territories of Shekau’s Boko Haram, appointing new warlords of the occupational forces, sectioning Nigeria into vassal states and unfurling their replacement flags of domination. Soon, logically, ISWAP’s letters of diplomatic accreditation will be presented in Aso Rock?’’

He stated that such a statement was heard last during the heyday of Donald Rumsfeld under George Bush.


“Rumsfeld’s namesake- a sobering coincidence – also spat the same gung-ho rhetoric. That Donald once ordered his uniformed forces to “go out there” and “dominate the environment”, following civilian protests at extra-judicial killings of blacks by state police. Soon enough, leaving nothing to chance, that Donald II seized on the first opportunity to personally mobilise a mob to ‘dominate’ Capitol Hill, his own seat of government that was clearly slipping from his control,’’ he added.

He noted that he held no brief for those who resorted to burning down police stations, killing cops and torching INEC offices.


Soyinka said, “I hold no brief for those who resort to burning down police stations, slaughter their occupants simply for the crime of earning a measly monthly pittance, torch electoral offices, assassinate politicians in calculated effort to set sections of the country against others in the promotion of their own political goals. These are largely nihilists, psychopaths and/or criminal lords, soul mates of Boko Haram, ISWAP, Da’esh and company, not to be confused with genuine liberators. All over the world, throughout history, elections are denounced, boycotted, and generally delegitimised without recourse to wanton butchery.’’

He, however, added that when a Head of State threatens to “shock” civilian dissidents, to “deal with them in the language they understand”, and in a context that conveniently brackets opposition to governance with any bloodthirsting enemies of state, there was a need to call attention to the precedent language of such a national leader under even more provocative, nation disintegrative circumstances.


The playwright said, “What a pity, and what a tragic setting, to discover that this language was accessible all the time to President Buhari, where and when it truly mattered, when it would have been not only appropriate, but deserved and mandatory!’’

According to Soyinka, when Benue State was first massively brought under siege, with the massacre of innocent citizens, the destruction of farms, mass displacement followed byalien occupation, Buhari’s language – both as utterance and as what is known as “body language” – was of a totally different temper.

Soyinka noted, “It was diffident, conciliatory, even apologetic.  After much internal pressure, he eventually visited the scene of slaughter. His language? Learn to live peacefully with your neighbours. The expected language, rationally and legitimately applied to the aggressors, was exactly what we now hear –“I shall shock you. I shall deal with you in the language you understand.” That language was missing at the moment that mattered most. It remained “missing in action” for years until a belated “Shoot at sight” outburst. Too late, and of course, inappropriately phrased. The precedent had been set, the genie let out of the bottle, consolidating a culture of impunity that predictably spread its bloody stain all over the nation.’’

The essayist further said that attempted bullying was not a language of discourse, nor the facile ploy of tarring all birds with the same feather, noting that the civil society already had a superabundance of the military shock treatment.


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