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Wole Soyinka on BBC Hardtalk: Buhari has failed on Fulani herdsmen

23 April 2019

Nobel Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka appeared on the BBC’s Hardtalk programme yesterday being quizzed by Zeinab Badawi.  Soyinka slammed Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari for his “slow response” in dealing with the terror caused by Fulani herdsmen across many parts of Nigeria.

The author of the classic “The Man Died”, with its killer quote: “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny”, said Buhari has failed on the security threat posed by the herdsmen and the president was repeating the mistakes of his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in not dealing with the Boko Haram menace in a timely and adequate fashion.

Soyinka was silent about why Buhari’s response to the killings of the herdsmen was so inadequate and said little about how the problem could be tackled effectively.  Other commentators have suggested that the president has taken sides with the herdsmen on this issue because he is a Fulani like them.  Our view at is that, unlike Soyinka, who suggested that Buhari was willing but unable to act decisively, the president is more complicit in the killings as a cattle owner and the unwillingness to act has been deliberate.  The former army chief and Buhari’s ex-military colleague, Theophilus Danjuma accused the military in March last year of “colluding” in the mass murder by herdsmen.

Earlier Soyinka described last month’s presidential (s)election in Nigeria as “depressing” and the two main candidates “had history” which made it difficult for them to receive his backing.  Buhari’s main challenger was Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president with a reputation for corruption.

In response to being reminded by Badawi that he backed Buhari in 2015, describing the ex-dictator as a “reformed democrat”, Soyinka said Buhari “won by default” in 2015 because it was difficult to back Jonathan and which meant supporting a continuation of the corruption associated with that regime.  Nigerians were caught “between the devil and the deep blue sea”.

While criticising Jonathan’s ineffective response to Boko Haram, Soyinka placed the blame for failing to nip the problem in the bud at the feet of Olusegun Obasanjo, who was president from 1999 to 2007.  Obasanjo contributed to the emergence of Boko Haram by not preventing the first governor in one of the northern states from establishing a “theocratic state”.  Soyinka said that the president failed to act because he was “compromised” by his ambitions to continue in office beyond the second term limit.

The programme is available for UK viewers via the link below:

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