Nigeria must be decentralised -Soyinka

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, yesterday, charged Nigerian leaders to accept the inevitability of decentralizing the county.

Soyinka, who was the guest lecturer at the 50th anniversary lecture of the PUNCH, noted that virtually every Nigerian leader recognized the importance of restructuring and its inevitability, before they got into power but neglected to implement it for whatever reason.

Delivering a lecture, ‘Recovering the Narrative,’ Soyinka said Nigerians did not have to go through unending hardship to live better. He said restructuring remained the panacea to sustainable development of the nation.

According to him, restructuring is necessary in order to maximize development.

“It is about time that leaders of these nations stopped taking us for a ride. Do we actually have to go through surrogates, dismantling empires in order to come to fulfilment?

“Decentralize simply so that the government can come closer to the people and productivity ability manifested as a product of citizens, not simply as a manna from heaven.”

Soyinka noted that provision of palliatives to the suffering masses was just a stop gap.

Calling for genuine action on restructuring, Soyinka decried that many conferences on the subject had not yielded positive results. He said the government should restore dignity to citizens and guarantee three square meals a day for the people.

He lamented the lack of justice for Deborah Samuel Yakubu about two years after she was brutally killed and burnt by a mob in Sokoto for alleged blasphemy.

If last week, a judge still found it possible, logical and constitutional to order the Attorney General of the nation to bring Dele Giwa’s killers to justice, then what happened in the case of Deborah Samuel?

“Just what happened there? Why? Is that case merely forgotten already? It went beyond that. It was not just that Deborah Samuel was killed and that the suspects were set free, we discovered months later, just recently that there was another woman, who had been in prison for daring to make a video condemning the lynching of Deborah Samuel. She was released eventually I think after spending 13 months in jail as a result of the work of human rights and some Christian associations.

“The insult goes even further. Turn to social media, you will see that till today one of the killers posing and holding up a box of matches, saying in effect, this is the instrument with which I committed a final act, which was setting Deborah Samuel’s body on fire.

“He has not been arrested; he has not been charged for inciting hate.”

Prof. Soyinka advised Nigerians to trust in the new administration.

“It is okay to predict and offer suggestions where the country has to improve. We must also talk about all those good things happening in this country. It’s not all bad story all the time. These challenges will continue to be there. But the most important thing is that government is taking the right step towards ensuring that all these things go away. We don’t have any other country. If the leaders run down the country, there is no other place for all of us to go to. Let us look at the perseverance, determination the focus on people who are willing to take the country to a greater height.”

Soyinka said that humanity could be transformed if language and media were positively used.

According to him, the nation has to ensure the free flow of information without undue censorship.

Stressing the importance of a good justice system in a nation, Soyinka decried cases of brutal killings of media practitioners without getting justice.

Also speaking, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, said the reforms of President Tinubu-led Federal Government are well-intentioned and for the good of the country.

He said Tinubu’s commitment to the Nigerian project was of resilience and hard work, to put the nation on track again.

He said the president removed subsidy and implemented other reforms in the interest of the nation.

“The government of President Bola Tinubu has taken, as you know, very bold steps from inception. He (Tinubu) didn’t pretend from day one that it was going to be an easy thing. Of course, we are seeing the effects of some of these hard decisions.

“The good story is that the government is taking very bold decisions to ensure that we turn the corner, and the Nigerian economy comes back again. The government believes that all these things happening are for the good of the country.”

The minister added that the president was working on the unification of the foreign exchange regime and had also met with key drivers of the nation’s economy to discuss how Nigeria would get better.

“Of course, the challenges are going to be there. No one is pretending that they don’t exist, but we see a situation, where in another year, the story is going to be quite different.”

He insisted that the government needed more time, adding that people could criticize the government and offer suggestions, but the country has to exist.

According to him, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) only recently said that for the first time in a very long time, Nigeria was witnessing capital import, improving by about 66 percent.

Idris said the nation’s domestic refining capacity had also gone up by about eight percent.

He noted that insecurity was inherited by Tinubu but that the administration had done a lot to significantly respond to the problem.

“We are not saying that your security has gone away completely, but it has improved significantly.”

On the organized labour’s demands, the minister said many of the demands had been met but pointed out that all the issues cannot be resolved overnight.

He also said the government had done a lot, including interventions in the social security system for the teeming youth population, and consumer credit scheme, among others, which the media needed to talk about.

On food supply, he said the government was working hard to see how to end the challenge.

He said the government had been listening to the people and reviewing some of its policies from time to time, to ensure a better life for citizens. While urging the media to propagate the government’s efforts, Idris said Tinubu remained a strong believer in press freedom and would do all to uphold and deepen it.

He, however, said that press freedom also came with enormous responsibilities.

“You do not have the liberty to report what you know to be absolutely untrue. We have seen how other countries are also promoting their own.

“Let us please talk about all those good things happening in this country, it is not all bad stories all the time. So, as all these things are happening, investors are coming to the country.”

“Now, all these are good stories that we should talk about, and I implore the media to please report well. This is the country that we have, we don’t have any other country. If we run down this place, there is no other place for all of us to go to,” the minister said.

Earlier in her remarks, Chairman of the PUNCH, Mrs Angela Princess Omoshalewa Aboderin-Olubusi said 50 years of the newspaper was a testament of resilience and determination.

“Today, I call upon every one of you to join hands in this crucial mission and stand firm as Punch goes into the next 50 years, doing what it knows best. I want to take this moment to express my deepest gratitude to all our friends who have stood by us over the decades.

“Your support has been invaluable and it is your belief in our mission that propels us forward. A special acknowledgement goes out to all Punchers, past and present. You are the heart and soul of this institution. Your dedication, hard work, and unwavering commitment, have been the driving force behind our success.”



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