Democracy day: Why I would be absent at June 12 celebration – Wole Soyinka attack critics

Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has criticized those trying to reduce the worth of the June 12, 1993, presidential election struggle to ethnic project.

Soyinka in a statement on Tuesday said June 12 celebration should not be rubbed in ethnic garb.

The iconic writer further disclosed that he would not be present at this year’s June 12 celebrations by choice.

According to him, “the decision to be absent at June 12 celebration was part of his training exercises to withdraw from public space.”

The statement titled, “Democracy Day Primer (1),” read: “A resolution that I first half-seriously injected into encounters over five years ago. That absence applies, not to the official celebration alone of which I have never been a part anyway but to the annual ritual by civic groups, a ritual of both tributes and defiance that has been unflaggingly observed till now.

“Regarding the earlier Abuja ceremony that signalled the state’s reversion to June 12 as the most truthful expression of a people’s democratic will, I did attend, even at the cost of breaking a journey on the way to Brazil. That event, for some of us, represented closure – at least substantially.

“It was a reunion of sorts, a cauterisation of many internal, invisible, and yet suppurating wounds, and private thanksgiving – for some of us – that the only route that appeared left for the recovery of a people’s dignity was abruptly, and ‘providentially’ closed by the timely demise of a singular human perversion.

“The nation was saved by the anguish of the unknown. That sense of relief, on its own, is worth celebrating.”

“Even before the Annunciation of June 12 as Democracy Day, the “same nihilist voices” were already primed to degrade it and ridicule what should be a potent signpost for future generations.

”Such voices even make desperate efforts to annul its history, no different from the original act of annulling an event “universally acknowledged as the fairest, the most orderly and peaceful election ever conducted in Nigerian history; a chastening contrast to the 2019 general elections.

“Next, I found it equally lamentable that anyone should attempt to reduce the June 12 struggle to that of an ethnic project. It is a depressing travesty of the realities, a denial of the existence of a nation’s collective sense of justice and its tenacity in the pursuit of that objective.

“No one denies that the immediate family of a victim of robbery feels the pangs of dispossession more keenly than others.

“The truth, however, remains that the entirety of the compound itself was violated, arrogantly and contemptuously dispossessed.

“In this case, its very aspiration to a unified identity was simply ground underfoot, compelling a return to the starting block, and even several milestones behind!

“Disenfranchisement is the ultimate stigma for any free people. Again, despite official hostility, corporate blackmail and even victimisation of some adherents of that date.”

Saying he would not participate in this year’s June 12 celebrations by choice, Soyinka said the decision was part of his training exercises to withdraw from public space.

Soyinka further said that those actively involved, no matter how ‘tangentially’, in the events that flowed from the annulment of June 12, 1993, presidential election – largely of blood and lamentations – the restoration of that date to a slot among the milestones of nation-building would evoke, side by side with a sense of elation, a mood of sobriety and reflection.

“However, there is even more matter for discouragement, so we should not be surprised at the ethnic cavilling.

“After the annulment, I recall that when we tried to mobilise opposition to that sadistic impostor, fanatic voices of ethnic irredentism informed us bluntly, verbally and in print, that the Yoruba should go and solve their problems themselves, since we had let them down in the lead-up to the Biafran war of secession, and should seek no collaboration from that side of the Niger.

“One recognises, in today’s renewed voices of ethnic denigration, the same chant of a hate chorus, the fanning of divisive embers. It is gratifying, therefore – and here we come to some cheering news – that this tendency has become a source of concern to many of the leaders of that former secessionist state. It led to recent counter efforts under themes such as Hands Across The Niger, later followed by Hands Across The Nation, encounters that have taken place both within the nation and outside her borders.

“It is crucial that those laudable initiatives continue in the same spirit of civic responsibility and nationally craved closure. We must, however, sound warning: these high-minded efforts are increasingly vitiated by the fanatic and obnoxious voices of an irrepressible handful.

“No, we are not speaking here of organised protests and demonstrations to keep Biafra alive – for those of my school of thought, these are both legitimate expressions of the democratic will, and cannot be suppressed. We refer specifically however to abrasive, irrational, and irreverent diatribes of purveyors of unrelenting discord.”



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