Amid the campaigns for the forthcoming general elections, Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday stated that neither President Muhammadu Buhari nor former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, would get his vote. Buhari is the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) while Atiku is his counterpart in the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Soyinka, who noted that the country was in an urgent need of a new direction, said little wonder there were so many opposition parties to take over governance.He spoke yesterday at the Freedom Park, Hospital Road, Lagos during an interactive session with the theme “Civic Choice In A Time Of Judicial ‘Penkelemes.’ ”
Soyinka disclosed that meetings were being held simultaneously in Lagos and Abuja to evolve a political platform that would produce a consensus candidate that would define his choice. He said there was no need for Nigerians to be enslaved permanently with the old discredited order of politicians.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me make my position quite clear because I don’t want any ambiguity; I, Wole Soyinka, will not be voting for either of the two so-called contestants. I find both of them worthy of absolute rejection. For a number of reasons, I will not go into that and I am not interested in comparative assessment, it is too late for that.
“My position is simply that it is time for a totally new direction. Obviously I am not the only one, otherwise there will not be so many opposition parties wanting to take over the reins of government.“As I am speaking, there is a coalition having its meeting in Lagos, in which they hope to produce a consensus candidate. There is another group meeting in Abuja and at the end, they will send us their consensus candidate,” the Nobel laureate said.
According to him, “There are things going on in the background and there is need to change the direction of this nation in a positive way, and to make the public understand that they do not have to be enslaved permanently with the old discredited order.“I don’t believe in what is called negative vote, which means, for me, throwing your vote in a waste basket. I believe instead in a creative vote, not a protest vote, not a negative vote, but a creative vote. And a creative vote means that the will to at least sow a seed through your vote that will germinate eventually. The pace of germination is beyond the control of everyone, but it is never too early to make a beginning.”
On last week’s controversial suspension of the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Walter Onnoghen, by President Buhari and the appointment of an acting CJN, Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, Soyinka said every Nigerian government had tried to subjugate the judiciary in one form or the other.
“The judiciary is the best hope for the common citizens. No law, no democracy. No democracy, no society. Successive governments try and hamstring any kind of controlling force within government such as the judiciary. They do it in all sorts of ways. There is hardly any government here, even all the way back to the First Republic, that didn’t attempt to muzzle, destroy or degrade the judiciary in some ways. Methods differ. That is all.
“Oh! Sorry there are one or two exceptions. I would say that one former head of state was an exception. He never tampered with the judiciary. All he did was to ignore them completely, including their decisions. And of course, he locked up individuals without trials, people like Dele Faseun and the new Are Ona Kakanfo for months.“That is one way of respecting the judiciary. You don’t give them much work so you don’t bring people to trial. You just lock them away. I make that exception,” he said.
Also speaking at the event, human rights activist, Joe Odumakin, described Buhari’s removal of the CJN as a nullity.“If the rule of law is not obeyed, governors can wake up one day and do whatever they like. This is not a Banana Republic. Finding an alternative to the rule of law is creating penkelemes,” she said.
Elsewhere and in a different context, former President Olusegun Obasanjo who spoke on the situation in the country yesterday noted that despite the fact that the President Buhari’s leadership was under- performing and things might be gloomy in the nation, Nigerians should not despair but remain optimistic and vigilant.
Obasanjo charged Nigerians to rise and defend the country’s fledgling democracy, saying if Nigeria as a country must get it right, there must be good governance as well as free, fair and credible elections. He spoke yesterday in Abuja at the public presentation of a book entitled Politics as Dashed Hopes in Nigeria written by Dr. Auwalu Anwar.
“I am not in despair and I would ask the rest of us not to be in despair; our hope lies in democracy with good governance as one of the hallmarks, which is free, fair, transparent and credible elections.“I believe if we all see ourselves first as Nigerians and then we enunciate for ourselves the Nigerian dream, a land flowing with milk and honey, a land of opportunity, a land that gives you a stake in all that it is, I think, we will have a country that we can all be proud of.”
The former president, who promised to do everything humanly possible to safeguard the country’s democracy, noted that democratic rule without a strong opposition is akin to a marriage without a bridegroom to consummate it.Meanwhile, religious leaders in the country have called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as well as security agencies to demonstrate total neutrality and impartiality during the general election.
They also charged the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, take steps to improve on the security situation in the country, particularly those areas being ravaged by insurgents, to ensure that elections hold in those places. In a statement issued yesterday on the meeting they held in Abuja last week, the religious leaders under the umbrella of “Interfaith Dialogue Forum for Peace”, said INEC should display its independence and be impartial in the conduct of the elections.
The statement jointly signed by the two co-chairmen of the forum, Bishop Sunday Onuoha and Alhaji Ishaq Kunle Sani, also urged government to engage in massive sensitization to call on all to embrace peace and eschew violence before, during and after the elections. Political, religious and traditional leaders and all relevant stakeholders should exercise restraint in their choice of words to avoid heating up the polity.
“Relevant stakeholders such as religious bodies, civil society organizations, town unions, youth groups have critical roles to play to douse the palpable tension and ensure hitch free elections.The statement charged politicians to see election as a platform to serve the people and should not instigate violence in the process.
The office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) has been accused of directing the INEC to connive with internet service providers to shut down internet access during the polls. Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State who made the allegation expressed reservation about the willingness of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to accept defeat if they lose the general election.
Wike, who spoke when members of the Savannah Centre Council on Peaceful and Violence-Free Election in Nigeria led by Prof. Ibrahim Gambari visited him at the Government House, Port Harcourt, yesterday, explained that the directive to shut down internet access during the elections was geared at facilitating rigging.
“The national security adviser has met with INEC to ensure that internet service providers shutdown the internet, so that foreign bodies won’t see what’s happening in the country during the elections. They will jam all the frequencies and internet services to stop real time communication during the elections.”
Wike warned that the plot to manipulate the electoral process remained a major recipe for violence. He declared that those behind the scheme would not succeed in whatever they are planning as the world would be informed about their criminal activities. He stated that the alleged negative actions of the Buhari’s administration in recent times were indicative that they would not accept defeat when they lose the elections. Wike implored Buhari to emulate his predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan who in 2015 placed Nigeria above personal consideration by conceding defeat even before the results were finally declared.