By Segun Adeyemi
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka on Monday said it was sickening for anyone to canvass for a second term for President Muhammadu Buhari at the moment.
Speaking to journalists at the Freedom Park in Lagos, Mr Soyinka said those who claim that what Nigeria needed was just a restructuring of the minds were not stating the obvious.
He had earlier addressed a press conference to unveil the participants of an exchange programme organised by the Wole Soyinka Foundation in partnership with Cedars Institute, Notre Dame University in Lebanon.
“Why are we talking about a second term for heavens sake, I don’t understand this. We have hardly gone half-way or barely gone half-way and people are already talking about positions. I refuse to be part of that discussion,” he said.
“People should not allow themselves to be put off by those who have tried to cheapen the expression. As I said when I visited the Women Arise (event) the other day, it doesn’t matter what name you call it, we all know that Nigeria was deconstructed and that what we live in right now as a nation is not along a structure that expresses the true will that we love in Nigeria.
“So, when people use words like restructuring, reconfiguring, you can call it reconfiguration. You can call it return to the status quo. You can call it reformulating the protocol of association. You can use those long words, but you can use a single word like restructuring, it doesn’t matter, everybody knows what we are talking about.
“Number two, there are those who try to divert direct attention away from the main issues by mounting platitudes, clichés like it is the mind that needs restructuring, you know who I am talking to.
“This is a constant process – the restructuring of the mind is both an individual exercise as well as a theological exercise. People go to church and mosque to have their minds restructured, they go to school, they go to extra-mural classes to have their minds restructured.
“So, restructuring of the mind is not the issue, nobody is saying the exercise of restructuring them should not be undertaken, anybody who indulges in self-examination is already engaging in mind restructuring.
“I find it very dishonest and cheap, time wasting, trivialising the issues when I hear the expression that it is the mind which needs to be restructured; who is arguing it, who is denying that, it is not a substitute, why are they bringing it up?
“We are talking about the protocol of association of the constituting parts of a nation, we are talking about decentralisation, that is another word.
“This country is over-centralised and that has been the bane of development, even on issues like security for decades. So individuals should not now try and sidetrack the issue and say concentrate on that rather than this.
“Are you saying that you cannot reconstruct the mind and reconstruct the nation at the same time? My take on it and my advice to the citizenry is that they should not allow themselves to be sidetracked.
“Call it whatever name, what we are saying is that this nation is long overdue for reconfiguration. That is the expression I choose to use now.”
On Buhari’s claim that the country’s unity was not negotiable, Mr Soyinka said: “I have heard this expression so often. Again, that is another ploy to sidetrack the issue.
“Nobody is talking about disuniting Nigeria, we know there are movements for secession, but let Buhari and others go and address this separately.
“This should not be mixed with the demand of a nation for reconfiguration, people should stop answering demands for secession by pretending to answer the demands for reconfiguration.
“Secession should be a different thing. To try and suggest that the moment you say restructure, you are calling for disintegration, is for me intellectually dishonest, that is not the issue at all.
“The issue of outright secession is totally different, even if it is only one state that is left, that state has a right to say, listen you people, let us restructure this state; the protocols which have gone into the making of this state are no longer valid or have been distorted along the way or have been abandoned and we want to go back to the original set of protocols that created what we call this national entity.
“In other words, there are choices all over the place, you can say you want to re-invent the wheel completely or you can say you want to go back to the original protocol of association, whichever way,” he noted.
When asked whether he was satisfied with the performance of the Buhari administration he said: “It is a large questions, there are areas, yawning gaps; just take security for instance, the average citizen feels less secure now than it did a few years ago, that is evident.
“When people talk about state police, there are reasons for that; when they talk about bringing policing right down to the community level, they know what they are talking about. This is part and parcel of reconfiguring or reconstruction.
“The economy, there is a big question on it right now; fortunately everybody admits that we went through a very bad patch. Right now, it’s a question of have we come out of it or not; if in fact there is no question about it, the past few years have been years of internal economic disasters for the average citizen, but it is a question of who laid the seed?
“When and where and how were the seeds laid for the agony this nation has gone through in the last few years?” He asked.
Soyinka also condemned individuals who created social media accounts under his name, calling them “identity thieves” and “forgers”.
He also dissociated himself and the Wole Soyinka Foundation from every Facebook and Twitter account posing as him or his foundation.
“They created a Wole Soyinka blogspot, or whatever. There is also a Wole Soyinka Twitter handle. Please, press, I am begging you to note that I don’t do Facebook, I don’t do Twitter and I don’t do blogs,” he said.
He urged the media to denounce all accounts impersonating him and the foundation.
“I implore you in the name of whatever it is you believe in to help squash them like bed bugs. They are very believable in that they get the right pictures.
“They went as far as getting the authentic publications and activities and they string them all over the place.
“Please note that they are fake. There is only one Wole Soyinka Foundation,” he said.
He also sought support for the exchange programme with the Lebanese university and urged corporate organisations, government bodies and individuals to support the foundation by sponsoring young Nigerians for the exchange programme held annually in Lebanon.
The first edition of the study travel programme sponsored five students selected across Nigerian universities to broaden their worldview and further their education.
Soyinka said ten young Nigerian writers had been selected for the second edition of the exchange programme, adding that they would depart for Lebanon today.