Op ed

Achebe, JP Clark, Soyinka warn: ‘Let not this fire spread’

achebe-5 200 160Urge action on Boko Haram, confab, subsidy

FOR three of Nigeria’s foremost literary giants, it is time to take the pulse of the nation, assess its challenges and alert the leaders and the led to the dangers these threats pose not only to individual citizens but to the corporate existence of the country.

The writers who stressed the urgent need to address these challenges and warned against the insecurity in the country that has led to killings and massive destruction included Prof. Chinua Achebe, Prof. John Pepper Bekederemo-Clark and Prof. Wole Soyinka.

In a statement entitled “Let not this fire spread!!! An Appeal to the Nigerian Nation Community,” the writers who identified themselves as “Three survivors of the pioneering writer/teacher generation of a half-century, post-Independence Nigeria, in her continuous struggle for a viable Nation-Being” said: “The fears we have all secretly nursed are coming to realisation. The nightmare we have hugged to our individual breasts, voicing them only in family privacy, or within trusted caucuses of friends and colleagues – lest they become instances of materialising evil thoughts – has finally burst through into our social, physical environment.  Rumblings and veiled threats have given way to eruption, and the first cracks in the wall of patience and forbearance can no longer be wished away. Boko Haram is very likely celebrating its first tactical victory: provoking retaliation in some parts of the nation.

“We insist however that this need not be, and should not be so. And as long as any part, however minuscule, opts for the more difficult path of envisioned forbearance, we are convinced that its responses will find neighbour emulation between homesteads, between towns and villages, between communities on all levels and indeed – states. This hard, demanding, but profoundly moral and heroic option will be recognised and embraced as the only option for the survival, and integrity of the whole. All who claim to be leaders must lead – but in the right direction!

“We urge a proactive resolve in all such claimants to leadership.  It is not sufficient to make pious pronouncements. All who possess any iota of influence or authority, who aspire to moral leadership must act now to douse the first flickers of ‘responses in kind’ even before they are manifested, and become contagious. We urge that, beginning from now, leaders become true leaders in all communities, utilise the platforms of their associations, professions, clubs, places of instruction and places of worship, NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations and other civic orgnisations, that they relentlessly spread the manifesto of COMMUNITY – capital letters! – as an all-embracing human bond, and refuse to be sucked into the cauldron of mutual attrition that is the purpose of the religious warmongers among us…

“Calls have been made in the past – sometimes in response to a crisis within the nation, other times as an objective necessity even in the most tranquil of times – for the convening of a National Conference to debate just how the nation should proceed in reinforcing civic and political life, and decide, in full freedom, the terms of her integrated existence. The government is urged to stop shying away from this project, pretending that those who happen to have been elected into the nation’s legislatures are best qualified to undertake the exercise, largely through piecemeal tinkering.  This surely begs the question, since the very system and terms under which these – often dubiously – elected, serve, including the intolerable strain these institutions place upon the nation’s resources – are all at issue. That last indeed, the very inordinate exaction of running a presidential system, forms part of the impatience of the public, as new avenues for economic hardship are opened in a people’s struggle for survival, such as the recent crisis of the removal of petroleum subsidy.  We call upon the government to re-think this measure. We warn the security forces to recall that their primary duty is to protect all citizens, and most especially those in opposition to government policies, in the exercise of their democratic rights.”

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