Symbols of Corrupt Nigerian Leaders: Soyinka Tackles Buhari

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By Ameh John

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Whole Soyinka has questioned Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari’s commitment to fighting corruption in the country.

Soyinka said national institutions bearing names of leaders who perpetrated horrendous crimes bordering on stealing from public treasury against Nigerians, was sickening.

Soyinka pointed out that Africans, particularly Nigerians should stop complaining about Cecil Rhodes, late controversial colonial master whose statue was recently removed from the campus of the University of Cape Town, South Africa.

It would be recalled that students at the varsity, had in 2015 campaigned vigorously using the hashtag: #RhodesMustFall#, to push for the removal of the brooding statue of the British colonialist, Cecil Rhodes.

Rhodes, one of the most committed imperialists of the 19th Century, had his statue pulled down and replaced with that of Sarah Baartman, a victim of colonial inhumanity in South Africa.

Addressing the issue of past Nigerian rulers whom he described as “symbols of corruption”, the Nobel Prize winner for Literature, advised Buhari who has just won his reelection for second term in office, to take down all national monuments bearing the name of Nigeria’s allegedly most corrupt ruler and dictator, late General Sani Abacha.

The fierce critic of former president Obasanjo, opined that when symbols of African rulers who perpetrated worse crimes than colonialism, assault the sensibilities of their victims, the masses, on a daily basis, then the people should not lament the evils of colonialism on the continent.

In an interview with British award winning journalist, Christianne Amanpour, Soyinka noted that Buhari’s avowed commitment to tackling corruption to a standstill, would make no meaning if Abacha’s name remained on the major road leading to Nigeria’s seat of power, Aso Rock.

The Nobel Laureate who is often described as “conscience of the nation”, insisted that a new crop of leaders must emerge to salvage Nigeria from its leadership woes.

His words: ” I am more interest in what we make of our own history and what we emphasize.

“In Nigeria, for instance, when I go to Abuja and I see a street, a hospital and institutions still carrying the names of some of the the most villainous leaders like Abacha, what moral right do I have to go to Oxford or Cambridge and say, ‘remove this statue of Rhodes when we have not cleansed our own environment of negative history?

“The existence of those institutions is a lesson, and I have challenged leadership again and again, including the Minister of Abuja, ‘why is this so?’

“I have even said this to the President in one meeting we had. I said, ‘you say you are against corruption, and yet the road that leads to Aso Rock (presidential palace) bears the name of the most corrupt we have ever known!’

“The relegation of humanity to subhumanity by anyone is the same level of criminality. But one feels the pain more when that is being administered by your own people with whom you already undergone some very negative history. That for me is double treachery,” Soyinka said.

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