Why I opposed Biafra War — Soyinka

Posted by Chima Nwafo | 14 January 2020 | 1,021 times

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Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, on Monday, explained that as a humanist he was opposed to the Biafra War from inception “not because of the reason of the indivisibility of the Nigerian nation” – which he said was a mere sound-bite, meaning nothing – “but because the death and suffering and other pains inflicted on innocent citizens who know nothing about the war they’re called upon to wage against each other.”

Soyinka made the explanation as one of the keynote speakers at the ‘Never Again!’ Conference entitled “Nigerian Civil War: 50 Years After” held at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, on Monday.

In his speech, which was more philosophical and historical, couched in his characteristic elevated language, he made it clear that he was opposed to war anywhere in the world, especially in Africa where it was a testing ground for the weapons of the world powers.

In that spirit, he recalled an encounter with former President of Tanzania, Dr Julius Nyerere, in the 70s, for his official recognition of Biafra during the war. This he said was wrong because it violated the principles of the then Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which stood for the sanctity of member nations, adding that Nyerere was an astute politician but never realised that his recognition of Biafra was futile. He insisted that he prefers describing it as the Nigerian tragedy rather than Nigeria-Biafra war. To him, the problem is more at the base and not at the consequences.

After his kaleidoscopic review of wars and political unrest world over, including the disintegration of the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR), the demand of freedom by Scotland from the United Kingdom that led to a referendum six years ago, the suffering of  Ethiopians and eventual beak-up of the country giving birth to Eritrea, the Somalian crises and attendant loss of lives and debasement of humanity prevalent in Africa, he suggested that we should learn from our African American brothers by rising against oppressive governments to let them know: African Lives matter.

Soyinka used the opportunity to charged security agencies to release Agba Jalingo, who was arrested and detained by the police since August last year. According to the lawyer of the Calabar, Cross River State-based journalist/publisher and right activist, the police has said that “Jalingo is being charged with conspiracy to overthrow the Cross River State Government, treasonable felony and terrorism; charges which pressure groups have described as laughable.”

Soyinka, who congratulated Nigerians on the release of Sahara Reporters Publisher, Omoyole Sowore, insisted on the gesture being extended to Jalingo.  

He also said that the decision of South-West governors to set up the security outfit, Amoteni, which he noted came as a surprise, but is a commendable gesture and another way to say never again. He said there are several ways to say never again.

Soyinka regretted the air of fake news and misrepresentation of facts in the newspapers and Nigerian media generally, of which he said he was a major victim, though chose to ignore them.


  • PHOTO: Prof. Soyinka and other dignitaries at the ‘Never Again!’ Conference titled: “Nigerian Civil War: 50 Years After”, held at the Muson Centre, Onikan, Lagos, on Monday

Source: News Express

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