Professor Wole Soyinka : Why Nigeria needs a national government now

Professor Wole Soyinka has called for a non-partisan, broad-based national government to confront the social crisis facing the country.

Although Soyinka did not detail the crisis he wants the broad based government to battle, he made enough undisguised reference to it when he cited a recent public agreement with former president Olusegun Obasanjo on the menace of banditry, Kidnapping, Herdsmen crisis and Boko Haram. Soyinka however quickly added that Obasanjo created part of the problems having governed Nigeria for almost a dozen of years.

“Input from someone who has exercised control over the nation’s affairs for a total of close to a dozen years, with shared responsibility for the very predicament in which the nation finds itself, reinforces the general anxieties that have become palpable in every corner of the nation — across class, political partisanship, religion and ethnicity. I wish to take the notion of a national ‘indaba’ even further, and urge a non-partisan, broad-based government,” he said.

Soyinka made the call for a national government in a statement that he entitled, Democracy Day Primer, to coincide with the first nationally observed June 12 anniversary.

“The now undeniable social crisis is beyond the capacity of any government built on accustomed partisan loyalties and regimented thought processes, with their debilitating baggage of sectarian interests. I am aware that such a call is unlikely to be heeded, but let it be made anyway, and let it stand to trouble those who discard any opportunity to turn a radical page in a nation’s history”, Soyinka said.

“This year’s recall of an uplifting day in the year 1993 comes up against a background of its most shameful disavowal: the 2019 elections – still under judicial contestation – an event that would be more accurately described as an exercise in body count rather than ballot count. The elections however merely reflected a pattern of savagery and abandonment of human sensibilities that have eaten away the sheerest sense of community in the nation. I have already described it as the final descent into the abyss of human degradation. The recent call – no matter how suspect the motivation — for what amounts to a national discourse on future directions was nothing new. The NIGERIA MOURNS movement, for instance, is only another expression of the same desperation. Input from someone who has exercised control over the nation’s affairs for a total of close to a dozen years, with shared responsibility for the very predicament in which the nation finds itself, reinforces the general anxieties that have become palpable in every corner of the nation — across class, political partisanship, religion and ethnicity. I wish to take the notion of a national ‘indaba’ even further, and urge a non-partisan, broad-based government…

“And so, on looking back, our view encounters only the debris of a wobbly scaffolding of the 2019 democratic exercise that predictably crashed, a rickety podium of cynical improvisations on four temporal legs roughly identified as: (i) payback time (ii) our turn next time (iii) laissez-faire time, and (iv) the all-purpose ‘stomach infrastructure’ dinner bell. The unprecedented epidemic of the collapse of buildings all over the country has since struck me as a morbid analogy for the collapse of humane structures, burying so much hope of advance on 1993, a full quarter of a century later, in their rubble. One became quite fearful that the nation was trapped in the material actualisation of an even more comprehensive advance on Shakespeare’s curse: A Plague on All your houses!

“If only nothing more than the current political houses took a final tumble! Alas, the collapse is far more extensive than such mere contraption. We need only look around, or revert to those alarms that we echoed at the beginning. One may squirm at the verbal formulation but, truthfully, NIGERIA MOURNS! And so, towards the exorcising of that curse, the prescription of a government across partisan interests is not misplaced, and is not entirely starry-eyed. A day dedicated to democracy – as a compelling morality of social existence – is merely frivolous unless directed at the recognition of the telling, prevailing features of the last exercise, which throw in question the free, hopefully educated exertion of human choice. It brings us back to numerous considerations of what constitutes, as the democratic base of any human grouping, their rights and limitations, both of which are involved in the guarantee of a healthy societal survival. It must raise, pre-eminently, the very issue of the protocols of association – relation of the parts to one another, and the parts to the whole. Such protocols are of a fundamental, negotiable category for a basic reason – they deal with humanity, not abstractions or material resources. Above nations, we cannot help but place humanity, otherwise, we are mere idol worshippers – the idols of patriotic jingoism and pietistic abstractions (e.g. sovereign integrity and allied rhetoric).”