Wole Soyinka: “Between Amnesia and Amnesty”

“The Delta crisis is not the Middle-East dilemma, and does not require the high-powered serial rituals of negotiations that still characterize the Middle East, or indeed the Yugoslavia scenario. The matter is straightforward”. With these words, Noble laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, doubted the sincerity of the government on the amnesty offer in a statement entitled “Between Amnesia and Amnesty”.

In a statement issued yesterday, Professor Soyinka said: “I should reveal at this point that the Nobel initiative (a global body of Nobel laureates seeking solution to the Niger Delta crisis) did not end with a transmitted report. David Philips, Secretary to the Commission, sought and obtained an audience with President Yar’Adua in New York during his visit to the United States for the 2008 THISDAY event – Nigeria Meets the World. 

He came away from that meeting with uncomplimentary observations on the lack of informed seriousness on Yar’ Adua’s part over this ticking time-bomb. Phillips concluded that he expected nothing of value to emerge from his meeting with the Nigerian Head of State; any more than could be expected from the Commission’s report itself. 

“He has been abundantly proved right. The Delta crisis is not the Middle-East dilemma, and does not require the high-powered serial rituals of negotiations that still characterize the Middle East, or indeed the Yugoslavia scenario in a not so distant past.  The matter is straightforward. As MEND statements have periodically emphasized, the Delta crisis is the mere purulent tip of the Nigerian boil, now prodded into a violent eruption in a particular region.

Over and over again, it has been stressed that nothing but a holistic approach to internal re-structuring will serve the nation.  Not only is this historically inevitable, such an approach provides a context within which the aggrieved oil-producing areas can feel a genuine relatedness to the national question. The stubborn retention of the status quo, and its manifest rejection by component parts, is at the heart of the Delta crisis,” Soyinka said. 

“President Yar’Adua’s lackadaisical approach towards these contentious issues has become increasingly clarified as not one of governance indifference or lack of understanding, but of complicity through inaction.  It is studied and purposed, the complement of the frenetic inaction of his predecessor. The only difference is that the Ota farmer (former President Olusegun Obasanjo) fabricated a lot of deceitful motions – what I have termed frenetic inaction – to provide a cover for ensuring the status quo, while his successor cannot be bothered with such pointless exertion. His preference is the posture of a somnolent spider that has learnt to outwait and outwit noisome flies,” he said.

Soyinka added: “Finally, should such an Amnesty be broad enough to embrace even the criminal opportunists of the struggle?  Absolutely not. That would be as much as to say that Amnesty also embraces those accused, or proven guilty of war crimes, such as the officers who took part in the cold-blooded shooting of two brothers – among similar, less publicised crimes – against the innocent citizens of the Delta region.  Indiscriminate bombings and saturation bombardment of villages ‘suspected’ to harbour sought militants must be investigated and the guilty charged. 

Orders began somewhere. Those orders were given, and those orders were carried out.  Who gave the orders? Has Umaru Yar’Adua yet launched a commission to enquire into the extra-judicial, cold-blooded murders of the two Gbaramatu brothers? I hope not.

“There is no need for a commission. Names, locale, time and witnesses – including video records – are sufficient to have initiated an internal enquiry that should now move to the public sphere as criminal proceeding. Will Yar’Adua seize this chance to dissociate himself from the peacetime massacres that became commonplace under his predecessor, and commit the nation to a humane morality even in time of war? That question hangs for now but, like the question of detainees, constitutes a strand in the fabric of Amnesty that will either enfold the militants or catapult them deeper into the violent zone of alienation.”