Legendary Nigerian Writer Wole Soyinka on Oil in the Niger Delta, the Effect of Iraq on Africa and His New Memoir
I asked him about his perspective on the invasion and occupation of Iraq and how it affects Africa.
WOLE SOYINKA: Not only for the African continent, but for the entire world, this is one of the most unbelievably monumental disasters, miscalculations, acts of governmental irresponsibilities with consequences which will be with the world for a very, very long time. A lot of Africans do not fully understand the issues in Iraq or else are indifferent. They have their own problems. If you like, they have their own mini-Iraqs on their hands, and so the blunders of countries like the United States are spoken of almost in a kind of academic way, not in terms of the effect, the impact of such blunders on the world, impacts such as the distrust of the United States, distrust even of some of the very positive role it can play in a situation like Darfur, for instance. But that distrust runs so deep that the soul of Darfur can just expand and pollute the entire region, whereas if the moral authority of the United States had not been so badly damaged, it might have been able to influence what's happening in Darfur a lot more, operating through the Africa Union or through the United Nations. So Iraq, the ramifications of the events in Iraq really have been very bad for Africa, generally.
AMY GOODMAN: And the Niger Delta, we talked about it in our first part of the interview, but the level of militancy, the anger at the oil companies coming into the Niger Delta, this organization called MEND, Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, can you tell us who they are?
WOLE SOYINKA: They're very young, mostly, very highly motivated people who, however, have links with some of the elders, the progressive elders in the region, in Bayelsa, for instance, in Ijaw region, many belong to the Ijaw ethnic group, and from all indications, they're very articulate. The ones whom I’ve spoken to asked me to intervene in a number of ways in Nigeria, very articulate, and at the same time, they're reluctant rebels. Take, for instance, an email which one of them sent to me, said, “Prof, listen. We are people who would rather be with our families raising our children, sending them to school. We’re not happy sort of carrying out operations in the creeks. We want to be home. We want all this to be over so we can return to our families, but what future do our children have? There are no schools, there are no clinics. All the wealth in this region is going to Abuja, is going to sustain the rest of the nation, so it's about time that we took a stand. We want you to understand this.” This is the kind of language which they use. It's not bravado; it’s not crude, thuggish kind of people, at least the ones whom I’ve spoken to. read more