News / Africa

Soyinka: Boko Haram Making Nigeria Break-Up Less Likely

Nigerian Literature Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka during home interview in the southwest city of Abeokuta, July 1, 2014.
Nigerian Literature Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka during home interview in the southwest city of Abeokuta, July 1, 2014.
Reuters

Nigeria is suffering greater carnage at the hands of Islamist group Boko Haram than it did during a secessionist civil war, yet this has ironically made the country's break-up less likely, Nigerian Nobel Literature Laureate Wole Soyinka said.

Speaking to Reuters at his home surrounded by rainforest near the southwestern city of Abeokuta, Soyinka said the horrors inflicted by the militants had shown Nigerians across the mostly Muslim north and Christian south that sticking together might be the only way to avoid even greater sectarian slaughter.

The bloodshed was now worse than during the 1967-70 Biafra war when a secessionist attempt by the eastern Igbo people nearly tore Nigeria up into ethnic regions, he added.

"We have never been confronted with butchery on this scale, even during the civil war," Soyinka said in his front room, surrounded by traditional wooden sculptures of Yoruba deities on Tuesday.

"There were atrocities [during Biafra] but we never had such a near predictable level of carnage and this is what is horrifying," said the writer, who was imprisoned for two years in solitary confinement by the military regime during the war on charges of aiding the Biafrans.

Soyinka, a playwright and one of Africa's leading intellectuals who still wears his distinctive white Afro hairstyle, turns 80 in two weeks. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first African writer to receive it.

A million people died during the Biafra war, though mostly through starvation and illness, rather than violence.

Boko Haram's five-year-old struggle to carve out an Islamic state from its bases in the remote northeast has become increasingly bloody, with near daily attacks killing many thousands.

The conflict's growing intensity has led Nigerian commentators to predict it may split the country, 100 years after British colonial rulers cobbled Nigeria together from their northern and southern protectorates.

"I think ironically it's less likely now," Soyinka said. "For the first time, a sense of belonging is predominating. It's either we stick together now or we break up, and we know it would be not in a pleasant way."

Governments let in religion

Boko Haram's abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April drew unprecedented international attention to the insurgency and pledges of aid from Western powers, but violence has since worsened.

Boko Haram fighters frequently massacre whole villages, gunning down fleeing residents and burning their homes.

Nigeria, amalgamated by the British in 1914, brought together often historically antagonistic peoples — principally the largely Muslim Fulani, Hausa and Kanuri of the North, and the Yoruba, Igbo and other peoples of the mostly Christian south.

Several regional movements have launched low-level independence campaigns that get little national attention.

But Soyinka said fewer people were shrugging off Boko Haram's menace.

"It's almost unthinkable to say: 'well, let's leave them to their devices.' Very few people are thinking that way."

Attacks spreading southwards, including three bombings in the capital since April, showed it was not a just a northern problem.

"The [Boko Haram] forces that would like to see this nation break up are the very forces which will not be satisfied having their enclave," he said. "[We] are confronted with an enemy that will never be satisfied with the space it has."

Soyinka blamed successive governments for allowing religious fanaticism to undermine Nigeria's broadly secular constitution, starting with former President Olusegun Obasanjo allowing some states to declare Sharia law in the early 2000s.

"When the specter of Sharia first came up, for political reasons, this was allowed to hold, instead of the president defending the constitution," he said.

Soyinka sees both Christianity and Islam as foreign impositions.

"We cannot ignore the negative impact which both have had on African society," he told Reuters. "They are imperialist forces: intervening, arrogant. Modern Africa has been distorted."

He added that while the leadership of Boko Haram needed to be "decapitated completely," little had been done to present an alternative ideological vision to their "deluded" followers, driven largely by economic destitution and despair.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Sam
July 02, 2014 1:54 PM
When somebody is poor and at the same time ignorant nothing can cure such a person from being a follower of Boko Haram for sustainability.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid