Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has warned that the current crisis between herdsmen and farmers in the country could lead to a civil war if actions are not taken to address the situation.
In an interview with BBC Pidgin, Soyinka commended the moves by some state governors in the South West to address, adding more need to be done to prevent further violence.
According to him, the citizens are struggling against an enemy (herdsmen) that believe that they are untouchable, insinuating that some security operatives, to some extent, are taking their sides instead of remaining neutral and professional.
He said: “My fear is that it could degenerate into violence that ends up in—I hate to use the word—a civil war unless we take action. I’m glad that governors are already dialoguing with groups like Miyetti Allah (cattle breeders).”
“I’m also glad that they’re already discussing agreeing to obey the rules and that other groups are already liaising. I think we need to ensure they reach a consensus that will be fair to all parties.
“We’re struggling against an enemy that believes in acting the way they please. They believe they have immunity or that nothing can happen to them. That is why, in my own state, you find a soldier taking the side of an enemy.
“They actually escort killers, rapists, raiders while flogging the victims. That wouldn’t happen if the people are conscious of the nature of their enemy and are encouraged to collaborate with the security forces.”
Soyinka noted that the eviction orders and the uprising against herdsmen in the South-West region were expected as the indigenes of the region have suffered and seen their own land being taken away from them for a long time.
He added that he is ready to contribute in any capacity should there be a need for civil mobilisation to rid the region of criminal herdsmen as the Federal Government seems not to be ready to take any meaningful action.
He said: “What do they expect of us now that this war is on our doorstep? Of course, there has got to be civil mobilisation and if we keep waiting for this to be centrally handled, we are all going to become, if not already, slaves in our own land. That, for me, is personally intolerable, it’s not an acceptable condition and whatever it takes, I stand ready to contribute in any way and I have made my governor understand this that we are here not just to live, but to live with dignity.
“Right now, our dignity is being rubbished. My forest is being taken over, it’s been shrinking, shrinking; my normal hunting ground is shrinking. My family tells me that if I go there again, they will have me institutionalised.”
When asked what could be done to resolve the situation, the acclaimed playwright and poet called on President Muhammadu Buhari to make a presidential broadcast and directly inform the herdsmen that he does not support their action in any form.
The Nobel Laureate stated that the president should empower the security forces to flush out all criminal herdsmen across the country, noting that anything short of these directives would indicate that he (Buhari) is actively supporting the activities of the herdsmen.
He said: “(the president should) Address the nation in very stern, unambiguous terms. Say openly, yes, ‘I know I am the patron of the cattle rearers association etc, I am a cattle rancher myself, it’s a business and I run my business on business terms. I do not run my business by killing people, I don’t run my business by rigging, by displacing, by torturing, I do not run my business by occupying land that does not belong to me, and I am warning business people in the food commodity, all you cattle ranchers, whatever comes to you for illegal occupation or for trespassing on other people’s property it’s your business, and I am ordering the army, I am ordering all the security forces to back citizens’ effort in flushing you out.’
“This is the language which I expect from President Buhari and as long as that language does not come out, I must consider him quite complicit in what is going on because the buck stops at his desk.”