Wole Soyinka asks President Buhari to reveal health status

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has called on
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, 74, to reveal the
condition of his health after spending nearly two months
in Britain on medical leave.

Soyinka, who spoke in an interview with AFP at Paris
Book Fair weekend, also said indigenous people had a
right to assert themselves as a distinct people, even
within a political and geographical zone anywhere in the
world. “He’s ill, there’s no question, and I wish for
heaven’s sake that people in public positions would just
be honest. “Illness is part of our existence.

Buhari owes it to the nation and I don’t know why he and
his advisors are being so coy about it,” Soyinka said.

Soyinka, who also noted that US President, Donald
Trump, exploited “latent xenophobia” to reach the White
House, said a people had a right to agitate for self-
autonomy within a geographical expression.

He was obviously reacting to the agitation for declaration
of independent state of Biafra in the South East of
Nigeria. He said: “It’s not the real estate for me that
defines a nation or a people, no, it’s a history, a culture.

What is a crime within an artificial entity like Nigeria?
You have states being created which are not viable.”
Biafra unsuccessfully fought for independence in a
brutal three-year civil war — during which Soyinka was
imprisoned for nearly two years over allegations of
espionage. Separatist sentiment has grown since the
leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi
Kanu, was arrested in October 2015, sparking bloody
clashes with security forces.

The military denied an allegation by Amnesty
International in November that security agents killed
some 150 Biafra protesters in the past year. Soyinka
said: “I cannot accept the notion that people have a right
to kill other people because they want to assert their
identity… It it doesn’t cost anything to recognise it.”
Ironically, IPOB threw its support behind Trump’s
presidential campaign in the belief he would recognise
their independence movement. Soon after Britons voted
to leave the European Union in a referendum last July,
the group pushed for its own version of “Brexit” from
Nigeria that it dubbed “Biafrexit”. He said President
Donald Trump, exploited “latent xenophobia” to reach the
White House, decrying the erection of walls, especially in
people’s minds, anywhere in the world.

He said: “He played to a latent xenophobic streak which
exists in all societies including mine,” said Soyinka, who
renounced his US green card upon Trump’s victory in
November over the Republican’s anti-immigrant rhetoric.
When I see that kind of conduct… to gain power, I’m
completely revolted.”

Soyinka, who was awarded the Nobel prize for literature
in 1986, said further: “To me a horrible moment was to
watch hundreds of thousands of people actually
applauding when (Trump) uttered these sentiments”
during the election campaign. “I’m against the erection
of walls, especially in people’s minds,” the white-haired
professor added. I’ve never made any bones about it,
whether it’s happening in Nigeria” or elsewhere.”

Soyinka recalled when in 1983, faced with a steep drop
in oil prices, the Nigerian government, “to cover up all its
problems, decided to expel aliens”.

Some two million undocumented immigrants — mainly
from nearby Ghana — were given a few weeks to leave
the west African country, whose economy is driven by
vast oil resources.

“There were hordes of refugees in ramshackle lorries
going back to their home countries. Ever since, the
chequered jute bag used by travellers throughout west
Africa has been known as the “Ghana Must Go bag,”
Soyinka said.

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