By Chesa Chesa
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has charged President Muhammadu Buhari to stop causing confusion among Nigerians by honouring the icon of democracy and “June 12” struggle, the late Chief Moshood Abiola and at the same time eulogising his tormentor, the late Head of State, Gen. Sani Abacha.
Abacha hounded and incarcerated Abiola as well as several other June 12 activists until his death in 1998.
Soyinka kicked against naming a street in Abuja after the dictator, who he said, should have been tried by International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands if he were to be alive.
The literary giant, who was a guest at the June 12 ceremony in Abuja on Tuesday when Buhari conferred on Abiola the national honour of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR), said he did not expect an apology to the family of the late politician from the President, but that he had accepted it on behalf of Nigerians
He said: “Mr. President, since we are honouring heroes of democracy today; l like to request that you manage to stop creating confusion in the minds of Nigerians. It is not possible to honour MKO Abiola in one breadth and admire his tormentor in another breadth.
“Loyalty is all very well but loyalty can become perverse if that loyalty is retained to an individual who if he were alive today would be before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. The one who broke the laws of Nigeria, international laws, pauperised this nation, it is confusing if professional loyalty is carried so far as to be accorded such an individual.
“We had a private conversation some time ago and l remember one of the things which l mentioned to you was this: ‘l said you are fighting corruption… how cometh that a notorious dictator, corrupt ruler, is honoured by one of the most important avenues in the capital of Abuja, whereas, individuals like the martyrs of the struggle, philanthropists have not been honoured. The answer you gave to me was not too satisfactory. But I let it pass.
“Today, perhaps is also an opportunity to inaugurate our Hall of Shame so that as we have our Hall of Heroes on the one hand, we can also have our Hall of Shame, as a lesson to future generation, but your apology has been most touching.
“On behalf of the Nigerian people, l accept it and l am sure that most Nigerians will agree with me.
“It is a beginning. l do not agree that this is closure to the event of June 12. There are far too many traumatised individuals walking around the streets, pauperised individuals walking around as a result of the policies and attitudes of one of the most brutal dictator. In fact, the most brutal dictators that this country has ever known!
“Closure will come by responding to those traumatised individuals or victims of unspeakable tortures, some of whom were compelled to watch even their beloved ones being tortured, on behalf of a man who was determined not just to demonise, to dominate his environment, but also to dehumanise that environment,” he said.
In his remarks, former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, praised Buhari for courageously searching previous regimes to correct the errors of the past, which showed him to be a great leader.
He recalled to Buhari the travails of canvassing for the restoration of June 12 mandate, saying that “I know one of the ex-presidents because of June 12, who threatened to throw me out of the helicopter. But you remained resolute to put Nigeria back on self-discovery, great determination and fidelity with democratic principles. Thank you for bringing back hope to Nigeria,” he said.
Former Senate President Iyorchia Ayu, who was in office during the June 12 saga, told President Buhari that his recognition of election showed he had a large heart, against the perception that he was unforgiving.
He admonished Buhari to strengthen his democratic credentials by not always regarding the opposition as his enemies. Ayu declared that the President’s real and worst enemies were the people he has surrounded himself with, “who turn everybody into your enemy.”