Benue News

Nationwide Killings: Soyinka Urges FG to Seek International Assistance

Nobel Laureate, Professor Woke Soyinka, has urged the Federal Government to seek international assistance to curb the menace of killings being carried out by Fulani herdsmen nationwide.

He spoke today during a courtesy call on Governor Samuel Ortom at the Benue Peoples House in Makurdi. Professor attended the 35th anniversary of Senator Suemo Chia’s novel, Adan Wade Kohol Ga, written in Tiv. “If the government cannot cope, it should not shy away from asking for international help,” he said. When human lives are concerned in their thousands and so on, as it was observed everywhere all over the world, those nations where our military has served before can come to our assistance, I think there should be no business of national integrity, national pride and so on.” He stated that “people are dying, this government cannot cope, please just ask for international help and I know they’re ready and willing to come to our aid.” “Just like refusal to recognise, and at the critical moment, the nature of a particular problem that has been the basis of the massacres going on in this region, especially Benue State. There’s no any other word for it. Let’s not play around with the euphemisms. It’s no other word but ethnic cleansing. There’s no other definition for what has been going on here. And it’s  very sad to me personally to see that a nation like Nigeria, with so much human talent, has failed to learn the lesson of the history of places like Rwanda,” he stated. Governor Ortom stated that what was happening in the state was ethnic cleansing and Jihad. “This is not a hidden agenda; it’s  known and those people who are perpetrating it did say it. They’re not hidden. They held press conferences, they came out and said they were going to resist our law, that they were going to do ethnic cleansing, it’s about Jihad, it’s about taking over the land, it’s not about herders and farmers clashes. They said it clearly and it’s written and we have the documents and I’ve reported them to the security agencies. I’m in agreement with you but as law abiding citizens, we don’t even have cutlasses to fight back. We cannot use any weapon to fight back, we depend on the law enforcement agencies. Even the cutlasses that we used to have were taken over by security agencies. Our dane guns the Inspector General said we should surrender them, including those that were licensed. So we are left in the hands of the security men. Those of them who are posted in Benue State are doing their best and they have been victims of these attacks too. Several Police men have been killed in the course of this crisis. Soldiers and Civil Defence are not spared. State Security Service are not also spared. They have been killed and slaughtered like animals. So, like you rightly said, this is not a matter of ringworm but real cancer. If there were any other word stronger than cancer, I would have said what is happening in Benue State is more than cancer. And like you rightly observed, it is our responsibility to rise up to defend the unity of this country and to defend our integrity as leaders.” The Governor commended Professor Soyinka for his solidarity and President Muhammadu Buhari for upgrading the military action in the state and expressed hope that the invaders would be flushed out.

Transcript of the exchange between Soyinka and Ortom

Professor Wole Soyinka It’s a delight to be here, although not the best of times, I know, for Benue and sister states. But the presence and the resilience of the Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, which is a literary association, a cultural association, it’s a statement of defiance to continue to be creative, to insist that life is about creativity in spite of horrors around one. It’s one of the most ennobling preoccupations that humanity can have, creativity in any form. So it does not matter how you wish to destroy us, it does not matter how you wish to dehumanize us, there is something which is left which will create and recreate humanity itself. This is what literature is all about and that is why in my conversation with Mr. Charles Iornumbe, (Benue ANA chairman,) I said at the first opportunity I’ll come here, to this centre of immediate testing of the human spirit. That is by the way. I wish to congratulate once again the author of this book who provided the occasion for me to come here to celebrate indigenous literature. Now it’s impossible to come to Benue without touching the sad conditions. The trouble with not calling things by their proper names and at the right time is what leads communities, nations, and people generally to start treating a malignant tumour with Vaseline. Just like refusal to recognise, and at the critical moment, the nature of a particular problem that has been at the basis of the massacres going on in this region, especially Benue State. There’s no any other word for it. Let’s not play around with the euphemisms. It’s no other word but ethnic cleansing. There’s no other definition for what has been going on here. And it’s very sad to me personally to see that a nation like Nigeria, with so much human talent, has failed to learn the lesson of the history of places like Rwanda. I happen to have been very much involved in the Rwandan situation vicariously. The phenomenon of human beings rising against one another and butchering innocents in their hundreds and thousands has always being something of a mystery to me. As some of you know, one of my favorite hobbies is hunting. You hunting of animals for food, but why do you hunt human beings? Why should an organised force descend on sleeping villages and mow them down, men, women, the old and children? What’s the motivation? Now from time to time we hear explanations like these are Libyan mercinaries on the loose, yes but who brought them here? Who shelters them? Who supports them? Who sponsors them and why? You kill human beings very often because you want their land so that is at least some where to begin with to see what’s the motivation. And that is why I threw that challenge to the President. I said why don’t you give those who are occupying land that does not belong to them, why don’t you give them 48 hours’ notice to get out of there? And then those whom you find still in those villages where the proper indigenous occupants have been ousted then you speak to them in the language which they understand. Why are you still here? What are you doing here? Who brought you here and what crimes did you commit to enable you take over peoples land and increase in an exponential way the problem of Internally Displaced People we have in hundreds of thousands still traumatised by Boko Haram? Then you add this new menace and you think that it’s impossible to contain, at least to track the origin. I find that very very difficult to accept. There is anger, unquestionably, and that is human emotion. But I think it’s time for all of us to come together and really probe this tumour and stop pretending that this is simply ringworm when we are actuality dealing with cancer in this society. It’s time for the Government to wake up. The critical moment by the way has been lost. The critical moment when this act of impunity, this rampage of impunity could have been stopped if the President of this nation had gone to the site of the first atrocity and said this would not be tolerated and I want this place sanitized by the military, it would not have had this succession of killings which have even been given from time to time religious overtones. My feeling by the way is that, for instance the recent killing of the Priests and the congregation, my feeling is that it was a deliberate diversion. I think this is just a campaign of ethnic cleansing for the purpose of occupation of land, that is one. Two, our feelings are that some really desperate politicians who are sponsoring these mercenaries in order to create chaos in advance of the next election because they are desperate to stay in power and continue to enjoy immunity. I think that approach, that concern, should also be a possibility in the minds of all of us because the ferocity, the suddenness and the organisational aspect of this invasion is just too suspect. These are not sporadic attacks. They are coordinated and I think if we have really thinking people around the Government by now it should have been possible, at least, to identify some of those who are sponsoring these killings. So this is what the point of view of this student of history because I’m relating this also to experience like in Rwanda and that is not the only one. It happened in Europe, ethnic cleansing in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and elsewhere, so it’s not a new phenomenon. And therefore we should have been able to learn from the experiences of others and stopped this thing before it became an epidemic which is what it is today. With those few words I wish to bring to you the solidarity of our people, our profession, and reemphasize the fact that an injury at the other end of the nation is an injury committed on the opposite side no matter how distant. I don’t believe in false pride. If the government cannot cope, it should not shy away from asking for international help. When human lives are concerned in their thousands and so on, as it was observed everywhere all over the world, if these complements will be returned and for those nations where our military has served before to come to our assistance, I think there should be no business of national integrity, national pride and so on. People are dying so this government cannot cope. Please just ask for international help and I know they are ready and willing to come to our aid. Governor Ortom Our respected Professor Wole Soyinka, our father, the great man of our time. Let me on behalf of the people of Benue State welcome you to the State and thank you very much for finding time to be here with us. I know how precious your time is and how the whole world demands your visit, so for taking time to be here, we believe that you have done other sacrifices to be here and we appreciate this. Let me thank you again for your solidarity with us, not just because you came, but in the time of our trial you never left us. You sent words of encouragement, you stood with us and you opened up and told the whole world that this is not right. Justice should be given to thepeople of Benue State. Your words are gold wherever they are spoken because you are a man of integrity, you’ve been selfless in the course of your service to this country and elsewhere in the world. You’ve always been a voice for the down trodden and for the voiceless and the oppressed. You’ve never hidden from this fact, so we appreciate you. When we heard those words that you sent through me to the people of Benue State, we commend and thank you once again for adding your voice in addition to all that you have said elsewhere and even to the authority that be concerning what is happening in Benue State. This is not a hidden agenda; it’s known and those people who are perpetrating it did say it. They’re not hidden. They held press conferences, they came out and said they were going to resist our law, that they were going to do ethnic cleansing, it’s about Jihad, it’s about taking over the land, it’s not about herders and farmers clashes. They said it clearly and it’s written and we have the documents and I’ve reported them to the security agencies. I’m in agreement with you but as law abiding citizens, we don’t even have cutlasses to fight back. We cannot use any weapon to fight back, we depend on the law enforcement agencies. Even the cutlasses that we used to have were taken over by security agencies. Our dane guns the Inspector General said we should surrender them, including those that were licensed. So we are left in the hands of the security men. Those of them who are posted in Benue State are doing their best and they have been victims of these attacks too. Several Police men have been killed in the course of this crisis. Soldiers and Civil Defence are not spared. State Security Service are not also spared. They have been killed and slaughtered like animals. So, like you rightly said, this is not a matter of ringworm but real cancer. If there were any other word stronger than cancer, I would have said what is happening in Benue State is more than cancer. And like you rightly observed, it is our responsibility to rise up to defend the unity of this country and to defend our integrity as leaders. We appreciate Mr. President because when he came visiting on the 12th of March 2018, we told him that the ‘Exercise Cat Race’ was not strong enough to send the right signal to these mercenaries. There should be a military operation and that he has approved.They are here and the operation has started and we are hoping that this will mark the end of these killings and occupation of the land. These people are known. I’ve reported them. Several other groups have reported them to the law enforcement agencies and they are still perpetuating these acts with impunity. The ones leading Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore are responsible and we have evidence against them and we will continue to call for their arrest. They are the sponsors. May be other people are sponsoring Miyetti Allah but maybe those ones are ghosts and we don’t know them but the ones we know are Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore. Their leadership is in Abuja and they are known. Until they are apprehended, we’re not going to stop crying. Even yesterday, 22 May, 2018, while people who attended the mass burial of the priests and other worshipers were coming back, they were ambushed and killed by the same mercenaries, whether Boko Haram or Libyan mercenaries or Fulani herdsmen or whatever you call them. All that we want is that let justice be done to all of us. We look forward, like I said before, that the operation of the joint security agencies coordinated by the Defence Headquarters will give us justice this time around and let those people be brought to book. For us, we will continue to be law abiding, we will continue to push that justice be done because this country belongs to us. Once again, thank you very much sir, we appreciate this visit and I believe that your coming and these words of encouragement and admonishment to us who are in leadership will also go a long way in solving this problem once and for all. We want to see a country where there is freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of everything. We want to see the safety of all so that we live together and add value to the development of our country. Thank you very much and God bless you.