This, Prof. Soyinka at a grand programme organised by the Bayelsa State government with the theme “A Day with Nobel Laureate and Literary Icons” at the Ijaw National Academy commissioned by former Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon, in Kaiama, Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of the state.
The Nobel Laureate said there is a lot of mix up over argument bordering on restructuring, stressing that sometimes when people say negotiate, what they really mean is restructure, even as he noted that nobody should tell him that Nigeria, as it stands is not negotiable.
Prof. Soyinka averred that contrary to views held by some Nigeria, the nation has got to be negotiated and it includes: ensuring there is no marginalisation, with control of resources, structuring the nation in a way that the constituents are not feeding an over-bloated centre to the detriment of their own development.
He alluded that instead of the rhetoric over whether the nation should break up, the question, or what should dominate the reasoning of Nigerians is what are we ready to sacrifice, what effort are we willing to make to ensure our country remain intact in the face of myriad agitations and issues.
Also, Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa State on the question as to whether Nigeria should continue to exist as a united country said the continuous existence of the nation as a united country is desirable, but that several issues raised in the front burner has to be addressed.
He noted that the Ijaw nation has feed Nigeria for the past 61 years, yet no commensurable return to the state, adding that what they call oil bloc is the portion of land taken from Ijaw people, even as he told the students that the land his their heritage.
Dickson said “what is going on in your backyard, oil blocs, pollution and emission of toxic waste that has desecrated your environment, I call it environmental terrorism and injustice, feel free to ask questions, negotiate and do not let anybody intimidate you, that is why we invested in education as a weapon to fight intimidation and oppression.
The Governor posited that nobody would tell Bayelsans that they have nothing to negotiate, because there are so many things to negotiate, regretting that the state by decree was created with eight councils while some other have over 40 councils is unacceptable, adding that Bayelsa get less than one quarter of what these states get, even as he noted that it accounted for councils’ inability to pay up salaries of workers because the state does not have control over what it produce.
Said he “if I have been able to build the Ijaw National Academy and several other infrastructures with scare resources in time of recession, you can imagine what I would have done if we are given our full entitlement or allowed to control our resources, the state would have looked like Dubai.
He charged the students to always stand up for their right, stressing that government investment in education would amount to waste if they are unable to say no when no is the right answer, because he expects them reason intellectually and to always use their mind to stand, support and promote justice.
Dickson reiterated that negotiation must be sustained, saying “All of us have issues to bring to the table for amicable resolution so that we can make our union perfect, enduring and sustainable.
He emphasized that the literary icon were brought to interact with the students to motivate them to aspire to become the best in their academic pursuit, stressing that government desire is targeted towards grooming a new generation of leaders for the Ijaw nation.
The Governor urged them to shun cultism, militancy, criminality and all negative vices that crept into the state as a result of ignorance that pervades Ijaw land prior to now, even as he noted that government would not relent but do more in the area of educating human minds.
Dickson averred that government have built several infrastructures, including the world class Diagnostic hospital, State Specialist hospital with Dialysis machine, the iconic government house commissioned by Gowon, but all remains in vain without building the minds of the young ones.
“In vain do we build the roads, bridges and government house because in the end all amount to mere bricks and cement, if we don’t first build your minds” Dickson said.
High point of the events was the cutting of the 83rd birthday cake of Prof. Soyinka, others were drama presentations, cultural dance, recitation of poems (Abiku) written by Prof, Soyinka, casualty by John Pepper Clark and River Nun by Pa Gabriel Okara.
Dignitaries at the event include, former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Mukhtar Shagari, former minister, Labaran Maku, state deputy governor, Gboribiogha John Jonah, members of the national and state assembly and top government functionaries.