Celebrated playwright and essayist Professor Wole Soyinka has for the first time revealed the details of his conversation with former President Olusegun Obasanjo over his reaction to the Ikeja Cantonment bomb incident in which a number of people were killed.
He lamented that in the aftermath of the incident, he read that Obasanjo had chided survivors, and relatives of victims, that he was not obliged to visit them.
Prof Soyinka spoke while delivering his key note address at the maiden edition of the Ripples Nigeria Dialogue held in Lagos on Thursday.
The accidental detonation of a large stock of military high explosives at a the Ikeja, Lagos barrack, in January 2002, had caused panic across the state, as people fled the flames, and many stumbled into a concealed canal at Oke-Afa, Isolo and drowned.
At least 1,100 people were reported to have died with over 20,000 displaced, with many thousands injured or homeless.
An inquiry by the federal government of had blamed the Nigerian Army for failing to properly maintain the base, or decommission it when instructed to do so in 2001.
According to him, Obasanjo told the victims: “What do you want me to do? I am not even obliged to be here?”
The Nobel Laurete stated further that he called Jonathan to ascertain if he actually said such a thing, but got a reply from the former president which he said still remains a riddle to him till today.
He said, “So I called him, to chide him for his reaction. I called him and said to him, you want to be accepted as a political leader?
And you do not even accept that it is your duty to have been there? At a scene of disaster, created further-more by your own military?
“I asked him. Did you actually utter those words attributed to you?
“His response remains a riddle to me till today.
“His actual words, not easily forgotten, I assure you, were: ‘Kámpálá tí è ní yèn’, ‘that is you own Kampala’”.
When translated from Yoruba language this means, ‘That’s your own problem, deal with it’.
The serial playwright while speaking at the event with the theme “Rebuilding trust in a divided Nigeria” also spoke on the recent kidnap of more schoolgirls, this time from the Government Girls Secondary School, Dapch, Yobe State.
He quipped that “Building a new Nigeria requires frankness” but also lamented the fact that everything Nigeria touches usually withers away.
He called on President Muhammadu Buhari to act on the nation’s security needs, as well as bring an end to the incessant clashes between farmers and herdsmen and Boko Haram insurgents.
According to him, visiting the affected areas where Nigerians were killed, is not as important as ensuring that justice is served, by bringing the perpetrators to book.
“I get impatient when I hear things like Buhari has failed to go and sympathize with the people of Benue, with the people of Nassarawa, with the people of Dapchi or wherever,” he said.
“Who needs sympathy? Is it sympathy that will reorder their broken lives? Is sympathy the issue? We are speaking here of one commodity that is fundamentally human deserving, justice.
“We are speaking here of a president that will respond with massive action and not showing up at the arena of human desecration to shed any unjust tears, but give orders that the bloodthirsty terrorists are brought to book.”
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