The Nobel Prize laureate Professor Wole Soyinka explained why he was optimistic about Muhammadu Buhari's emergence as Nigeria's president-elect and what should be expected from Boko Haram.
The prominent Nigerian made his position known in the course of the lecture "Predicting Nigeria, Electoral Ironies" delivered in the United States, The Punch reports.
The dramatist insisted that Buhari could not perform worse than the past presidents because he would be guided by a sense of history.
When asked by Walter Carrington, the former US Ambassador to Nigeria, if the new president was capable of reforming the country like the late Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew, Soyinka replied:
"I am very, very cautiously optimistic."
He predicted that Buhari would be influenced by those around him to "keep his nose to the letter of the law. In his zeal to absolutely eradicate corruption, he might take advantage of ambiguous areas in the law and the constitution to empower himself to deal very ruthlessly and quickly with those who have robbed the nation blind".
The Nobel laureate, however, warned Nigerians against touting Buhari as the Messiah:
"I think that Buhari has a sense of history. He knows that he must make a mark, a very positive mark, on Nigeria to be able to live with himself, or die with a clean conscience. We must make sure that Nigerians are not allowed to forget his past. They should not think that the messiah has finally arrived.
"I think we stay on guard and continue to do what has needed to be done for the past 20 years or so."
Regarding the issue of the insurgency in the northeast, Soyinka doubted that it would end soon.
"We will never get rid of Boko Haram. They are jihadists who wish to impose Sharia law and ban Western learning across Nigeria as indoctrinated. They are fanatics who believe that if they die in the cause, they will go straight to heaven where they believe literally in the 77 virgins awaiting their arrival."
This Day adds that the professor faulted the outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for his failure in the fight against Boko Haram:
"Even as the nation was bleeding, the body language and the atmosphere in the seat of power did not reflect the pain and vulnerability of the country. Was Jonathan so numbed, so unshockable, so desensitised to sympathise with the Nigerian people?
"The offensives against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nigeria were too shameful and belittling and Jonathan’s leadership quotient hit rock bottom by his failure to visit Chibok.
"It was certainly an unimaginable feat of political miscalculation and a colossal error of judgment, as it portrayed Mr. President as thoroughly insensitive. By his uncanny display of ineptitude in rescuing the Chibok girls, the president was derelict in his duty to the Nigerian people."
Flashbacks, Soyinka about Buhari, Jonathan and Boko Haram, before the March 28 presidential election
- "Buhari and his partner General Tunde Idiagbon, after [former military head of state] Sani Abacha, I think they represented the most brutal face of military dictatorship. There is no question about that... I’ve been disappointed before and we must always be ready to be disappointed again."
- "I have studied him from a distance, questioned those who have closely interacted with him, including his former running-mate, Pastor Bakare, and dissected his key utterances past and current. And my findings? A plausible transformation that comes close to that of another ex-military dictator, Mathew Kerekou of the Benin Republic."
- "I will not vote and I will not encourage anyone to vote for the continuation of this government [Jonathan-led], simply because your colleagues numbering over two hundred were kidnapped."
- Speaking about the insurgency shortly after the Chibok girls abduction: "It is not just the President that has been living in self denial but some of those he has surrounded himself with. I cannot understand why it is difficult to ask for international help when you are confronted with a problem of this nature. The problem would not have reached this monstrous level if the President has not been living in self denial. So, accepting the help of the United States in this matter is long overdue."