Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has slammed the Nigeria Police Force for attempting to stop the protest planned by popular musician, 2face Idibia, against Federal Government’s purported non-performance, dismissing the police action as undemocratic.
Although 2face, who was the arrowhead of the protest scheduled for Monday in Lagos, called it off citing “security challenges”, his partners including: the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, the Enough is Enough, EiE, and a popular comedian, Seyilaw, maintained that the protest would go on as planned.
But Soyinka asserted that the cancellation of 2Face’s planned protest was a deep embarrassment and a national shame “triggered by the state’s attempt to water down the criminal code against corruption” and that the police reversed the hands of the democratic clock.
The playwright, who said he had sent a message to the Inspector-General of Police, through the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni, urged the police to respect the constitutional rights of Nigerians.
He expressed shock learning from media reports that the office of the inspector-general could issue a statement stopping the protest.
In an article published on Sunday and titled, “Again at risk-The rights of lawful assemblage”, Soyinka said, “I hope that, even at this eleventh hour, legality and the democratic imperative will prevail”.
He noted that from the beginning, the organisers had cited quite an extensive list of areas of concern and demands for urgent attention from the Buhari administration.
“I do not know of any citizens of civilized community who do not subscribe to the fundamental right of the freedom of expression in any form, as long as it is peaceful, and non-injurious to humanity,” he said.
The Nobel laureate added that he found “the Police attempt to reverse the hands of the democratic clock more appalling at a time when open demonstrations are taking place all over the world against
the policies of a recently elected president of the United States, whose democratic formula this nation allegedly serves as Nigeria’s adopted model. Across numerous states of that federated nation, ongoing at this very moment, is the public expression of rejection of a president’s policy that has also pitted the Executive against the judiciary. We have heard of no preventive action by the police, nor arrests of demonstrators”.
He recalled that “efforts, both under military and civilian orders, have been made in the past to stifle the rights to freedom of expression by Nigerian governments including those of Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Olusegun Obasanjo, Sanni Abacha, Goodluck Jonathan….and now again, Buhari? These efforts have been, and will always be resisted. It is a moral issue, as old as settled humanity. It has been settled in other parts of the world. Nigeria cannot be an exception, not as long as her citizens refuse to accept the designation of second, even third-rate citizens”.
Soyinka described the latest attempt by the police to stifle the planned protest “as a deep embarrassment, and a national shame” at a time when one of the largest gatherings of humanity is taking place in one of the former totalitarian states of Eastern Europe – Romania.
“Its size has been assessed as the largest in former Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin wall. It was triggered by the state attempt to water down the criminal code against Corruption, and has has brought out hundreds of thousands of people into the streets and stadia, day after day, until the much awaited announcement of the withdrawal of the obnoxious decree. This should resonate within the current Nigerian governance that has made the anti-corruption crusade its mantra,” he recalled.
“The battle for the right of lawful assembly of citizens in any cause, conducted peacefully, has been fought and won several times over. It is time that this contest is gracefully conceded. It must be consolidated by its routineness as a choice of action at the front of any people’s democratic participation.
“This battle has been won legally, constitutionally, and even morally. It enjoys near global acceptance as one of the means of actualising the protocols of a people’s Fundamental Human Rights,” Soyinka added.