Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, has called for urgent efforts to reverse the trend of school abductions in Nigeria.
Soyinka made the comment in reaction to the series of kidnappings of schoolchildren in several northern states.
In the latest on such abductions, 317 students of Government Girls Secondary School, Jangebe in Talata-Mafara local government area of Zamfara, were abducted by bandits on February 17.
Their whereabouts have remained unknown.
At least 1,157 students have been abducted over the course of seven years in northern Nigeria.
Speaking during an award lecture and public presentation of his latest book, ‘Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth’, held in Ogun state on Saturday, Soyinka said though his suggestion may be extreme, he cannot think of what else can be done.
He also noted that states may need to shut down some of their activities in solidarity whenever a child is kidnapped.
The literary icon added that the government has repeatedly failed in its responsibility to protect the citizens.
“The abductions of our children, when will it end; how will it end? I don’t think anyone of us can tell. But it is important that we continue to stress and to remind ourselves that, not only are these abnormal times, but it seems to be, to me anyway, times of the shirking of responsibility in very key areas,” Soyinka said.
“We cannot permit ourselves — we just cannot — to continue in this fashion. Something drastic, meaningful has to take place, and it has to be collective.
“This is no longer the responsibility of those at the top (who are) supposed to be in charge of security, in charge of governance; they have clearly failed the populace. They’ve failed us. There is no point in trying to reason it out, to find excuses, to lay blame.
“The important thing is that we are very close to accepting a culture of the unacceptable. I think we are reaching the point where, in any state where any child is kidnapped, that state should shut down completely. And other state, in solidarity, should at least shut down some of their activities.
“We shouldn’t wait for an enemy, faceless, airborne, unpredictable enemy like COVID, to make us shut down. In protest and as a statement of the unacceptable, we are shutting ourselves down until this situation is resolved.
“Sounds extreme, but we don’t know what else one can propose at this particular time. Yes, life must go on, but even those activities will generate and enhance our very existence.”
Soyinka expressed optimism that the Jangebe schoolgirls would be rescued and reunited with their families, adding that what worries him, however, is “the permanence of those scars on our collective psyche”.
“We’ll get those children back; I know that. It is a price we pay and the consequence, the permanence of those scars on our collective psyche — that is what worries me,” he said.
The event was put together by the Ogun state chapter of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), in collaboration with Abeokuta Club.