Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, has criticised the two frontline candidates in the March 28 presidential election, President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party and Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) of the All Progressives Congress.
Soyinka, in an interview with the BBC on Monday, insisted that the political parties should have come up with far better options than the two leading candidates.
He described President Jonathan, who is running for a second term and the opposition leader, Buhari, as “problematic candidates.”
“There is a huge albatross hanging [around] the necks of the two main candidates. I can understand the dilemma which many voters have,” Soyinka said.
He added that “one contender is troubled by the present, the other by the past.”
Soyinka also decried the lack of fair play in the election, saying the spirit of “let’s have a fair war” was not yet deep enough.
He faulted Jonathan for the failure to rescue the more than 200 schoolgirls abducted from Chibok in April 2014.
“What happened was a clear failure of leadership – a slow reaction, an inadequate reaction and response,” Soyinka told the BBC. He stressed that while responsibility for the Boko Haram crisis rested with President Jonathan, the government could not be held solely responsible for the entire jihadist problem as it began under previous governments.
“Buhari and his partner, the late Gen. Tunde Idiagbon, after (former military head of state) Sani Abacha, I think they represented the most brutal face of military dictatorship. There is no question about that,” Soyinka said.
“But the environment changes, circumstances change and… I look at the possibility of a genuine internal transformation in some individuals. I’ve been disappointed before and we must always be ready to be disappointed again,” he added.
Soyinka, however, said Nigerians should be ready to “go back to the trenches stand up against misrule from whoever wins the election.
“Nigerians should be prepared to deal with any new betrayal by any ruler with the same passion and commitment…. as they did with the late Sani Abacha because we cannot continue this cycle of repetitious evil and irresponsibility.”
On what to do to counter the Boko Haram sect, whose activities was cited for the postponement of the election, Soyinka called for “an aerial bombardment with weapons of the mind” in addition to the military offensive.
“All kinds of propaganda leaflets should have been raining in those areas because not all members of Boko Haram are convinced. They need to know there is an exit and the state will take care of them. Then the waverers’ minds have to be reinforced on the positive side – on the side of humanity.
“The kind of propaganda being used now between the political parties, just a fraction of that should have gone into attacking Boko Haram,” he added.
Asked whether he believed the nation could be dismembered in the next 10 years, he said, “I doubt it very much. The threats of dismemberment have been going on so long that one of these days there is going to be a wish fulfilled.
“The idea of either dismembering at the cost of human lives, as the Boko Haram people are trying to do with their caliphate delusions or to force people to stay together as happened in the case of the [1967-1970] Biafra war, doesn’t make sense, it’s an abuse of intelligence.
“Arrangements can be made in which people stick together under protocols of association which allow some kind of autonomy for certain issues and other cases centralised policies,” he said.
Soyinka also noted that the huge amount being expended on campaigns would inevitably lead to broken electoral promises.
“What does this make of the incoming government? This money came in from somewhere. It means such candidates are going to owe, they are obliged to interests which are not necessarily in the best interests of the nation.
“So, a lot of the electorate will be disappointed at the failure – the reneging on electoral promises – because there may not be funds for the fulfilment of those promises,” he said.