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Nigeria is suffering greater carnage at the hands of Islamist group Boko Haram than it did during a secessionist civil war, yet this has ironically made the country’s break-up less likely, Nigerian Nobel Literature Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has said.
Reuters News Agency reports that Professor Soyinka was speaking at his home surrounded by rainforest in Abeokuta, Soyinka said the horrors inflicted by the militants had shown Nigerians across the mostly Muslim north and Christian south that sticking together might be the only way to avoid even greater sectarian slaughter.
The bloodshed was now worse than during the 1967-70 Biafra war, when a secessionist attempt by the Igbo almost tore Nigeria up into ethnic regions, he added.
“We have never been confronted with butchery on this scale, even during the civil war,” Soyinka said in his front room, surrounding by traditional wooden sculptures of Yoruba deities on Tuesday.
“There were atrocities (during Biafra) but we never had such a near predictable level of carnage and this is what is horrifying,” said the writer, who was imprisoned for two years in solitary confinement by the military regime during the war on charges of aiding the Biafrans.
Soyinka, a playwright and one of Africa’s leading intellectuals who still wears his distinctive white Afro hairstyle, turns 80 in two weeks. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first African writer to receive it.
The conflict’s growing intensity has led commentators to predict it may split the country.
“I think ironically it’s less likely now,” Soyinka said. “For the first time, a sense of belonging is predominating. It’s either we stick together now or we break up, and we know it would be not in a pleasant way,” he said.