Africa’s literacy giant, Professor Wole Soyinka has frowned at the planned reopening of the old cattle grazing routes by President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

Speaking on Arise TV, Soyinka said the herders-farmers conflict needs pragmatic solutions, insisting that reopening the grazing routes won’t solve the decades-old problems.

Soyinka, who is the first recipient of the Nobel prize in Literature in Africa said this while criticizing the President for muting the idea of restoring the grazing routes created in the first Republic in a recent interview, which many believed would further encourage open grazing in the country.

Recall that the 17 Southern Governors in Nigeria had banned open grazing in their respective states. According to the governors, the decision was necessary to curb the infiltration of bandits into the southern region.

However, Buhari, who spoke in an interview with Arise TV last week disclosed that he had asked the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN) to begin the process of recovering land from persons who have converted cattle grazing routes for their personal use.

“What I did was ask him(Malami) to go and dig the gazette of the first republic when people were obeying laws. There were cattle routes and grazing areas. Cattle routes were for when they (herdsmen) are moving up country, north to south or east to west, they had to go through the routes,” the President had stated.


However, Soyinka in his reaction described the statement of the President as “disturbing”. According to him, it seems that the President was not listening to the cry of citizens in wanting an urgent end to the herders-farmers conflict.

In his words, “There is a case of which 50% of the country and their representatives saying that within this Constitution we are operating, we are saying we don’t want open grazing anymore and then somebody sits in Aso Rock and says to them, ‘oh well there is a kind of Constitution I am instructing my Attorney General to dig up some kind of law, colonial law which arbitrated between farmers and Herders. So I am instructing to dig up some old documents, so that I can recover on behalf of a certain private business the whole routes.’ Which means that he is not listening to what people are saying, he is not listening to what the Governors representing them are saying. He is saying, ‘I am going to restore those routes by referring to some colonial agreements.’ When I listen to a thing like that, I am really disturbed. It is an instructive statement.

“This is the language of a leader who felt is on a roller coaster, a leader feeling he is on top on his head where everybody from all quarters, north, south, east, west, people on the streets, the professionals, intellectuals, foreign governments are saying the country is on a nose dive…. That is why he is able to say, ‘I haven’t heard what everybody is saying and I am going to reinstate the whole route through some old documents’. The leader is not listening and if the leader is not listening that means he is not engaging in a democratic means, that is where the danger is.”

Soyinka, who strongly advocated for June 12 as Nigeria’s democracy day commended Buhari for listening to the demands of the people by changing the democracy day from May 29 and declaring June 12 as the day to commemorate democracy in the country.

The Nobel Laureate also decried the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria by the federal government, stating that the government has truncated a channel of self expression among citizens.

Recall that The New Diplomat had reported that the Federal Government indefinitely suspended the operations of Twitter in the country.

According to the Minister for Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the microblogging and social networking service has been used to persistently undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence.

However, Soyinka in his reaction said: “In truncating the various channels of self expression open any populace, you are absolutely abrogating the very essence of democracy. Democracy is not a sequence of symbolic gestures such as restoring June 12 as the democracy day. That is purely symbolic. It is an act of restoration. I have read comments about people saying “it was all a deceit”, how can there be a deceit when it was never a reality. That restoration was obviously a symbolic gesture which is very calculative by the way. However, it has to be manifest consistently and without exception in the act. When you truncate any channel of self expression of the people, you are literally become an enemy of democracy. It is obvious, it is so plain.”