What Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka Says About Buhari

Avatar
Written by Staff

From Bloomberg. Story by Yinka Ibukun.

Africa’s first Nobel laureate for literature, Wole Soyinka, said Nigerians must show a Nelson Mandela-like ability to forgive president-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s past as an iron-fisted military ruler.

“I criticized him for certain acts during his stint as a military dictator,” Soyinka, the 80-year-old playwright and poet, said in an interview with Bloomberg TV Africa at his hillside home in the southwestern Nigerian town of Abeokuta. “But I also insist that it’s about time we try our best to be mini-Mandelas, to learn there’s a moment when we must put the past aside.”

Buhari’s 20-month term as the military head of state of Africa’s biggest oil producer when he overthrew an elected government in 1983 included a campaign against “indiscipline,” in which the press was muzzled, hundreds of politicians, businessmen and journalists were jailed and police officers ordered to hit people who didn’t line up to wait for the bus.

By voting in Buhari, a 72-year-old Northern Muslim who describes himself as a “converted democrat,” many Nigerians have shown an ability to look past his earlier misdeeds, said Soyinka. Buhari denies having ever perpetuated human rights abuses.

“Mandela had a faith in the capacity of the boer, the masters of apartheid, to reform,” Soyinka said in his booming voice in a living room filled with wooden carvings. “There’s a moment when we must put the past aside, most especially when what presumes to the present becomes untolerable and continues and threatens to prolong itself, then we have to be more pragmatic.”

Read more at Bloomberg.