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Wole Soyinka explains why he is not buying what Femi Adesina is selling

The other day, Femi Adesina, the Special Adviser to President Muhammadu Buhari, wrote an article titled, “Wanted: A restructuring of minds.” Responding to calls for the restructuring of the country, Adesina said: “Is political restructuring the most urgent thing Nigeria needs now? I don’t think so. For me, what is more urgent is the restructuring of the Nigerian mind.”

His attempts to divert the current national debate from restructuring of the polity to restructuring of the mind fell flat with Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who said on Monday that “restructuring of the mind is not the issue, nobody is saying the exercise of restructuring them should not be undertaken, anybody who indulges in self-examination is already engaging in mind restructuring.”

Speaking to newsmen at the Freedom Park in Lagos, Soyinka said the attempts to divert attention were “dishonest, cheap, time wasting, and a trivialising of the issues.”

He called out “those who try to divert direct attention away from the main issues by mounting platitudes, clichés like it is the mind that needs restructuring, you know who I am talking to. This is a constant process – the restructuring of the mind is both an individual exercise as well as a theological exercise. People go to church and mosque to have their minds restructured, they go to school, they go to extra-mural classes to have their minds restructured.”

Importantly, Soyinka asked this question of the new proponents of mind restructuring: “Are you saying that you cannot reconstruct the mind and reconstruct the nation at the same time?”

On what restructuring or “reconfiguring” entails, he said it is about the “protocol of association of the constituting parts of a nation, we are talking about decentralisation, that is another word. This country is over-centralised and that has been the bane of development, even on issues like security for decades.”

“Call it whatever name, what we are saying is that this nation is long overdue for reconfiguration. That is the expression I choose to use now.”

On President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments that Nigeria’s unity is not negotiable, Soyinka said it was another attempt to sidestep the main issues. He said those equating restructuring with secession are guilty of intellectual dishonesty. “Nobody is talking about disuniting Nigeria, we know there are movements for secession, but let Buhari and others go and address this separately,” he said. “To try and suggest that the moment you say restructure, you are calling for disintegration, is for me intellectually dishonest, that is not the issue at all.”

“The issue of outright secession is totally different, even if it is only one state that is left, that state has a right to say, listen you people, let us restructure this state; the protocols which have gone into the making of this state are no longer valid or have been distorted along the way or have been abandoned and we want to go back to the original set of protocols that created what we call this national entity.”

The Nobel Laureate said current calls for the president to seek a second term are sickening. “Why are we talking about a second term for heavens sake, I don’t understand this. We have hardly gone half-way or barely gone half-way and people are already talking about positions. I refuse to be part of that discussion,” he said.

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