- Professor Wole Soyinka said the June 12 struggle is for all Nigerians
- The social critic condemned those giving the struggle an ethnic colouring
- Soyinka said he is unaware of any promise made by Yorubas to the government regarding the recognition
Nobel Laureaate and critic, Professor Wole Soyinka has condemned the notion held by some persons that the June 12 struggle is just for Yoruba people.
In a statement on Tuesday, June 11, Soyinka described the annulled June 12 election as “universally acknowledged as the fairest, the most orderly and peaceful election ever conducted in Nigerian history; a chastening contrast to the 2019 general elections.”
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He said: “Next, I found it equally lamentable that anyone should attempt to reduce the June 12 struggle to that of an ethnic project. It is a depressing travesty of the realities, a denial of the existence of a nation’s collective sense of justice and its tenacity in pursuit of that objective.
“No one denies that the immediate family of a victim of robbery feels the pangs of dispossession more keenly than others. The truth, however, remains that the entirety of the compound itself was violated, arrogantly and contemptuously dispossessed.
“In this case, its very aspiration to a unified identity was simply ground underfoot, compelling a return to the starting block, and even several milestones behind! Disenfranchisement is the ultimate stigma for any free people. Again, despite official hostility, corporate blackmail and even victimisation of some adherents of that date…”
Soyinka said people should remove ethnic colouring from the issue as the struggle was much more than that.
He added: “However, there is even more matter for discouragement, so we should not be surprised at the ethnic caviling. After the annulment, I recall that when we tried to mobilise opposition to that sadistic impostor, fanatic voices of ethnic irredentism informed us bluntly, verbally and in print, that the Yoruba should go and solve their problems themselves, since we had let them down in the lead-up to the Biafran war of secession, and should seek no collaboration from that side of the Niger.
“One recognises, in today’s renewed voices of ethnic denigration, the same chant of a hate chorus, the fanning of divisive embers. It is gratifying therefore – and here we come to some cheering news – that this tendency has become a source of concern to many of the leaders of that former secessionist state. It led to recent counter efforts under themes such as Hands Across The Niger, later followed by Hands Across The Nation, encounters that have taken place both within the nation and outside her borders.
“It is crucial that those laudable initiatives continue in the same spirit of civic responsibility and nationally craved closure. We must, however, sound warning: these high-minded efforts are increasingly vitiated by the fanatic and obnoxious voices of an irrepressible handful. No, we are not speaking here of organised protests and demonstrations to keep Biafra alive – for those of my school of thought, these are both legitimate expressions of the democratic will, and cannot be suppressed. We refer specifically however to abrasive, irrational, and irreverent diatribes of purveyors of unrelenting discord.”
“Let us address some brutal truths. One comment regarding this formalisation especially rankles, since its accompanying train of remarks indicated that it was not a mere aberrant individual, but a revelation of a group sentiment. It was sent to me through the usual Internet link and was, undisguisedly – a mock lament, a condescending swipe at the Yoruba race – yes, directly indicted – for being so naive as to have fallen for an obvious vote gathering ploy.
“First, I was not aware that the Yoruba, acting as ethnic entity, ever made a statement that promised to reward the government with their votes in return for this alleged June 12 bribe. The serious, problematic bribe – the Minimum Wage concession – of course receives the scantiest of attention – beyond solidarity calls and insistence on implementation. Never mind that, North to South, East to West, numerous tiers of government are scrambling to find ways and means of ‘settling’ an agreement directed from the centre, with no corresponding consultation with states.”
Meanwhile, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the national leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in his evaluation of Nigeria’s democratic history, said that June 12, not May 29, captures the nation's evolution in the struggle for freedom.
This position by Tinubu is contained in a statement he signed to commemorate the June 12 celebration titled, June 12: The truth that sets democracy free in our land.
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He maintained that May 29 only stands for Nigeria's transition from military to democratic rule in 1999, adding that the date does not reflect the woes the country suffered even before 1993 as a result of dictatorship,
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