Soyinka counters Osinbajo, says Nigeria’s unity negotiable

Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka yesterday said the unity of Nigeria as a nation is an issue that must be discussed in order to address lingering complaints of marginalisation. His view runs counter to the one expressed by Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who said the country’s unity is not negotiable.

“The claim that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable is a false statement”, Soyinka said, adding that “the right of the people to determine their future is what is non-negotiable.”

The Nobel laureate who made the comments in Bayelsa when he joined the state governor, Seriake Dickson in an interactive session with students of the newly commissioned Ijaw National Academy, Kaiama, Kolouma/Opokuma local government area of the state stated that Nigeria’s political leaders that bear enormous responsibility have been indulging in what he described as a falsity that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable. The Ijaw National Academy, which has been running for four months, accommodates up to 1,000 students at the junior and senior secondary levels.

After a brief exchange with the students about his exploits as a renowned writer, Soyinka challenged those who maintain that Nigeria must remain as currently constituted, while her unity remains non-negotiable. “Don’t tell me that Nigeria, as it is, is non-negotiable. To me, that’s a fallacy”, he added.

Soyinka’s position is coming at a time when some politicians and top government officials have asserted that Nigeria’s structure is not defective and as such, does not require restructuring.

Two weeks ago, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo repeated the administration’s position on Nigeria as an entity. “Our unity is not negotiable. We should make sure that we remain united in order to enjoy the resources God has blessed Nigeria with. So many nations envy what we have as a nation,” Mr. Osinbajo said while receiving Muslim leaders in the State House June 25.

But Soyinka further disagreed with Mr. Osinbajo and other proponents of the status quo, stressing that “negotiation involves ensuring that there’s no marginalisation. Negotiation involves ensuring that the major components of the country are not feeding on the centre.”

The professor said he believes in the unity of Nigeria, but warned those against restructuring to stop being ‘dogmatic and dictatorial’ in expressing their position.

“We must stop confusing the argument, mixing up the argument. When people especially former leaders especially those who bear enormous responsibility speak on the question of breaking up or not breaking up, it always sounds hypocritical and dogmatic and dictatorial and that statement is that the unity of Nigeria is non-negotiable. No! That for me is a falsity.  Anything is negotiable. The right of people to determine their future is what is not negotiable. Most nations came into being through negotiations.

“Sometimes when people say negotiate what they really mean is restructure. What the argument should be, what the question should be is should Nigeria break up? My answer to that is no. But that Nigeria as it stands is non-negotiable, to me it is a fallacy, a nation got to be negotiated. Negotiation includes ensuring that there is no marginalization, negotiation has to do with control of resources, negotiation has to do with the restructuring in a way the components, the constituents are feeding an over bloated centre to their detriment. So Nigeria is negotiable. The language we should use is; what are you willing to sacrifice, what efforts are you willing to make to ensure that Nigeria remains intact. That is the citizen question.

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