Wole Soyinka

Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has called on Nigerians to resist what he described as irrational demands of religionists, noting that they would demand a mile if given an inch.

The renowned author who made the call on Monday, in response to critics of Sokoto Catholic Bishop, Matthew Kukah, noted that their threats to excommunicate Kukah should not be condoned as the “brutal lessons of past surrenders appear to exercise no traction on society’s faculty of cause and effect.”

Soyinka who threw his weight behind the Catholic clergy, argued that such threats were diversionary from the main critical issues which the cleric raised in his Christmas message and which were the obvious concerns of many Nigerians.

“The timing of Rev Father Kukah’s New Year message, and the ensuing offensives could not be more fortuitous, seeing that it comes at a time when a world powerful nation, still reeling from an unprecedented assault on her corporate definition, is now poised to set, at the very least, a symbolic seal on her commitment to the democratic ideal,” Soyinka said.

“Let no one be in any doubt that some of the most extreme of the violent forces that recently assaulted her governance citadel are sprung from religious and quasi-religious affirmations, a condition that still enables many of them to be brainwashed into accepting literally, and uncritically, indeed as gospel truth, any pronouncement, however outrageous and improbable, that emerges from their leadership.

“As usual, we have not lacked, within our own distanced environment, advocates who, even till recently, claimed to have seen in their vision, the triumph of God’s own anointed in the electoral contest of that same United States.

“In this nation we have learnt the painful way what such inbred loonies are capable of. Thus, extreme care, and historic awareness, should be taken in imputing any act or pronouncement as an attack on faith.

“Again and again, we have warned against succumbing to irrational demands of religionists, yet even the brutal lessons of past surrenders appear to exercise no traction on society’s faculty of cause and effect, especially in that religious propensity for incremental demands. Surrender one inch, they demand a mile!”

Soyinka noted that Nigeria must nip religious extremism in the bud and disallow it from degenerating into national chaos.

“It should not come as a surprise that a section of our Islamic community, not only claims to have found offence in Father Kukah’s New Year address, what is bothersome, even unwholesome, is the embedded threat to storm his ‘Capitol’ and eject him, simply for ‘speaking in tongues’.

“Any pluralistic society must emphatically declare such a response unacceptable. On a personal note, I have studied the transcript as reported in the media and found nothing in it that denigrates Islam.

“The furore over Father Kukah’s statement offers us another instance of that domineering tendency, one whose consequences are guaranteed to spill over into the world of both believers and non-believers, unless checked and firmly contained.

“In this nation of religious opportunism of the most destructive kind especially, fuelled again and again by failure to learn from past experience, we must at least learn to nip extremist instigations in the bud,” he said.

Soyinka was reacting to the criticisms that have followed Kukah’s Christmas message, including one by a group – Muslim Solidarity Forum – which asked Kukah to apologise or leave Sokoto, a state in the Muslim-dominated North.

The bishop had accused President Muhammadu Buhari of institutionalising northern hegemony while reducing other parts of the country to second-class status.

According to Kukah, there could have been a coup or war in the country if a non-Northern Muslim President had practised a fraction of President Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘nepotism’.