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Contractors hijacked Stella’s burial-Soyinka

Posted by Dotun Oladipo on 2005/11/04 | Views: 1286 |

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Contractors hijacked Stella’s burial-Soyinka


Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said that the burial of the First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, was turned into a charade by people who used the opportunity to curry favours from President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said that the burial of the First Lady, Mrs. Stella Obasanjo, was turned into a charade by people who used the opportunity to curry favours from President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Soyinka also admitted that there was a rift within the ranks of the Pro-National Conference Organisations, but said efforts were on to mend it.

Soyinka, who spoke at a news conference on Wednesday in Lagos, said that he aligned with the position of Lagos lawyer, Chief Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), that Nigeria did not have to wait for the death of a prominent person before putting its health facilities in good condition.

He said that those that handled the funeral programme of the First Lady, including Obasanjo, made a mockery of the solemn moments the burial offered the country.

Reacting to a statement by Obasanjo during the funeral service at Moshood Abiola Stadium, Abeokuta, Soyinka said, “For the President to say that sort of thing at a solemn event and in such atmosphere, you have to consider that he is grief-stricken, may be his own tongue too tumbled.”

Soyinka said that the solemnity that should have been the hallmark of the burial was also absent at the one of the services held at the Presidential Villa, as those seeking to please Obasanjo hijacked the event.

He said, “When I first saw the headline of Gani’s article, I said, ha, my aburo (younger brother) has come again o! But when I read it, it was very well balanced. As he said, some of the mourners are contract seekers and so on and so forth. He didn’t say anything false. And it is so difficult not to be sometimes irritated by the manner some of the events were handled.

“I was watching the service at Aso Rock and I couldn’t believe what Prof. Jerry Gana was doing. He was recognising everybody. A dog will enter, he will recognise. In between solemn songs, somebody will come in and he will recognise. What kind of thing is that? There is something wrong with the culture of recognition in this country. It is really disgusting. There is no longer any sense of occasion. How can you be holding a memorial service and somebody is standing there recognising, even as the wind blows in any debris he recognises it?

“Gani was only articulating what many of us felt about these things. I watched some of the stadium things and I went to the Abeokuta one, which I felt would be more intimate. Thank goodness I did.”

He added that his criticism of the First Lady, both in public and privately shortly after the inauguration of Obasanjo, helped her to be focused in her pursuit.

He said that though Mrs. Obasanjo, whom he called my younger sister, told him that he would pay a fine for criticising her publicly, his criticisms helped her to moderate her activities.

He said his reason for criticising the late First Lady was to save her from the kind of distractions that consumed the wives of former military rulers.

Soyinka said that the crisis within PRONACO was as a result of disagreements over the structure that the conference should take and the suspicion that some people were interested in turning the movement into a political party.

On the structure of the conference, Soyinka said that while some people wanted mini conferences to be held before the main one in Lagos, others preferred one conference in Lagos.

While noting that there was no serious ideological difference in the position of the two groups, Soyinka said that he had stepped into the crisis.

He, however, warned that he was going to take a drastic action against any of the two factions in PRONACO that used his name for any wrong purpose.

Soyinka, who made specific reference to the group led by Dr. Beko Ransome-Kuti, which held a rally in Lagos on Monday, said that he did not want to be dragged into the face-off.

He said he would work to unite the two factions.

He added, “My appeal to them (the factions) is for a cessation of hostility. None of the two sides should make any negative comments again. That way, we will resolve the problem. Otherwise, the public may lose confidence in PRONACO and that will not be too good for us.”

Soyinka described Obasanjo’s promise not to increase the pump price of petroleum products until after 2006 as “provocative.”

He said that the comment, made shortly after the mass rally during which labour activist, Mr. Chima Ubani, and Mr. Tunji Oyeleru of Vanguard newspaper died, showed that more still needed to be done to make the government sensitive to the needs of the people.

On the detention and prosecution of the leader of the Niger Delta Volunteer Force, Mr. Asari Dokubo, Soyinka said he was not convinced about the charges.

He said if the aim of the government in trying Dokubo and the leaders of the Oodua Peoples Congress, Dr. Frederick Faseun and Chief Gani Adams, was to silence the various ethnic nationalities, it was going to fail as more people are likely to be provoked by the action that he described as “self-defeating.”

The PUNCH, Thursday, November 03, 2005

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