By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka; human rights lawyer, Femi Falana; Femi Aborishade and Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin on Thursday alerted the nation that the candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari and that of former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar is not what the nation need now, but an alternative that will take Nigeria to the desired haven.
They spoke at a programme organised by Citizen’s Forum, with the subject: “Civic Choice in a time of Judicial ‘Penkelemes,” held at the Freedom Park, Lagos Island, Lagos on Thursday.
Speaking, Soyinka said he would personally not vote for the two candidates for a number of reasons personal to him.
“I, Wole Soyinka will not be voting for either of the two so called contesting parties, I find both of them worthy of absolute rejection for a number of reasons which I will not go into here. I am not interested in comparative assessment, it is just too late for that.
“My position is that it is time for a totally new direction and obviously, I am not the only one, there are so many opposition parties wanting to take over the reigns of governance. As I am speaking, there is a coalition having its meeting at the airport hotel from which they hope to produce a consensus candidate and there is another group in Abuja also.
“At the end of today, they will send us their consensus candidates and things have been going on quietly in the background to try and change the direction of this nation in a very positive way and to make the public understand that they do not have to be enslaved permanently to the old discredited order,” he said.
Soyinka said he did not believe in what is called negative vote, which he said meant throwing “your vote in paper basket, I believe instead in a creative vote, not a protest or negative vote. Creative vote means the will to at least sow a seed through your vote that will germinate eventually. The pace of germination is beyond the control of everyone but it is never too early to make a beginning . It happened in other societies.”
The Nobel laureate said a Third Force coalition would have emerged a long time ago, but that professional hijackers hijacked it, but noted that all that mattered now was that an alternative emerged eventually “and we in the Citizens Forum will back that alternative; we will back the flag-bearer of that alternative and we hope that alternative will correspond to individuals we have identified as the best candidates.”
Soyinka charged Nigerians not to be intimidated by the enormity of any task, as there would always be a beginning, saying that the issue was not “whether you will succeed or not in presenting an alternative in the current situation, that is not the issue; the important thing is to at least plant a seed, let them notice and you never know the tempo and ease with which that seed will germinate.
“All over the world, surprises and astonishing upsets have been known. They don’t have two heads on their shoulders outside, we are the same kind of humanity where these ‘miracles’ are taking place. Don’t be intimidated by crowd or rallies, don’t be deceived, if we call attention to the past in answering the presence, it is only because we are saying, don’t let those ones mislead you once again, examine their motives; believe me, the next step you take, they are stabbing you in the back, imprisoning you and enslaving you all over again.
“This is the only reason why we must always call attention to the past. I know the expression, ‘the message and not the messenger;’ that is one of this cliche expressions, you must examine that expression very carefully, it is deceit all over, you must listen to the message and interrogate the messenger.”
On the judiciary, Soyinka lamented that successive governments had attempted to hijack the judiciary to the detriment of the society, saying that it was an aberration for any government to attempt to take over the judiciary in a democratic setting.
“All of us agree that anarchy is the worst condition for any society, it comes when you put the constitution aside or when you trivialise and you degrade the law and the temple of justice. One of my very worst public appearances has been in the court for the simple reason that I am so overawed, I have such respect for the court that I ever allowed people to get away with things because I am afraid of offending the bench.
“When I see the representatives of justice or when I see a minister of justice being killed like a chicken and nothing is done under a democratic situation; I don’t see the nation being turned upside down until the perpetrators of the absurd are found and when regimes come in and they announced that they will get to the bottom of the unsolved political murders, this is not a political murder by the way, it is a corruption murder because of some of the facts of that case and till now, regime after after regime and nothing comes of it, I say, what is there left for me to respect and that for me is the beginning of anomalies,” he said.
Speaking, Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana decried the impunity in the land, while backing Soyinka’s call for an alternative.
He said the suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, without following due process could not be tolerated in a democratic society.
Falana also accused the Nigeria Bar Association, NBA and the National Judicial Council, NJC, of pretending as if their was no problem with the allegations leveled against the suspended CJN, Walter Onnoghen.
He said it was appalling that the NBA would be mobilising and defending Onnoghen and given the impression that the person being tried was a freedom fighter.
Also speaking, human rights activist, Dr. Femi Aborishade said the removal of Onnoghen was not a fight against corruption, but to instill fear in the judiciary so that the APC would have its way whenever it wanted the judiciary to do its bidding.
He said fight corruption must entailed that due process was followed, adding that Nigerians needed another alternative outside Buhari and Atiku.
Speaking, Dr. Joe Okei-Odumakin said due process was not followed in the suspension of Onnoghen, saying that Nigerians must not keep quiet when the laws of the land were being violated.