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

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Comment Sorting
Comment on this forum (1)
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.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid