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It is impossible to honour Abiola yet admire his tormentor, Abacha, says Soyinka


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WOLE Soyinka, Africa’s foremost Nobel Laureate, says it is impossible to honour the memory of Moshood Abiola on one hand, yet admire his tormentor, Sani Abacha.

Soyinka said this while delivering his speech at the event to honour late MKO Abiola, acclaimed winner of the June 12, 1993, which was annulled by then military Head of State of Nigeria, Ibrahim Babangida.

Though Soyinka did not mention names, Abacha was the one who shoved aside the interim government of Ernest Shonekan and became military Head of State, shortly after Babangida stepped aside.

Also, it was Abacha who ordered Abiola’s arrest when the latter declared himself President in 1994. Abiola remained in prison – sometimes in solitary confinement – till his death 1998.

Buhari has, on more than one occasion spoken in admiration of Abacha’s administration.

“No matter what opinion you have about Abacha, I agreed to work with him and the PTF road we did from here to Port Harcourt, to Onitsha, to Benin and so on… On top of other things in the institution, education, medical care and so on,” Buhari said while addressing a group of supporters at the State House on May 22, 2018.

However, Soyinka described Abacha as “Nigeria’s most brutal dictator”.

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“It is not possible to honour M.K.O Abiola in one breath, and then admire his tormentor in another breath,” he said.

“Loyalty is all very well, but loyalty can become perverse when that loyalty is retained to an individual, who, if he were alive today, will be before the International Court of Crimes against humanity, one who broke the laws of Nigeria, who broke international law, pauperised this nation, committed crimes against humanity, it is confusing if loyalty, professional loyalty, is carried so far as to be accorded such an individual.

“We had a private conversation, and I remember one of the things which I mentioned to you was this: ‘You’re fighting corruption. How come  that a notorious corrupt ruler is honoured by one of the most important avenues in the capital, Abuja, whereas individuals like the martyrs of the struggle, the philanthropists of the nation have not been honoured. The answer which you gave to me was not too satisfactory, but I let it pass.

“Today, perhaps, is also a day to inaugurate our hall of shame, so that as we have a hall of heroes on one hand, we also have a hall of shame as a lesson to future generations.”

Soyinka, however, said he accepts Buhari’s apology to the Abiola family and to all Nigerians for the injustice of June 12, 1993, adding that more need to be done.

“There are far too many traumatised individuals walking round the streets, pauperised individuals, as a result of the policies and the attitudes of one of the most brutal dictators, if not the most brutal, in fact, the most brutal dictator that this nation has ever known.

“Closure will come by responding to those traumatised individuals, the victims of unspeakable tortures, some of whom were compelled even to watch their beloved ones being tortured, on behalf of a man who was determined, not just to demonise, to dominate his environment, but to dehumanise that environment.”

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Soyinka also paid tribute to Comrade Ola Oni, whom he said mobilised some young people “and fought the goons and the slaves, the surrogates of that dictator to a standstill” at the Liberty Stadium, Ibadan.

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