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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More