Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has disavowed a role as a negotiator on behalf of the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA), a militant group that has claimed responsibility for numerous bombing attacks on oil installations in Nigeria’s oil-producing delta.
In a press statement he sent to SaharaReporters, Professor Soyinka declared that he never agreed to play a role as a representative of the interests of the NDA in any negotiations with the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari.
A week ago, the NDA had issued a statement warning the Buhari administration against negotiating with any delegation from the Niger Delta led by a traditional ruler, Alfred Diete Spiff, and other personalities from the geopolitical zone. The NDA declared Diete Spiff and the other would-be negotiators as “vultures.” The militant group then asserted that they would only recognize a negotiating team led by the Professor Soyinka and Anthony Ani.
However, the Nobel laureate today denied that he ever agreed to play a role as a negotiator. “I have just seen the release by the NDA that I shall be leading NDA’S negotiating team,” he said, adding, “I wish to make it abundantly clear that I have never at any time agreed to any such mission. My role in this affair has been restricted to advising this movement on realistic approaches to a rational resolution. I have no intention of extending that role.”
In the statement, the Nobelist prescribed the restructuring of Nigeria as the most enduring way to address the crisis in the Niger Delta. He stated: “I have also insisted on a holistic approach to the recurrent unrest in the Delta, such as addressing such discontent within the context of national restructuring.”
In his statement, Soyinka took exception to the NDA’s description of Diete Spiff and other potential negotiators as vultures. He voiced “disapproval of negative labeling of other initiators of dialogue, such as designating them vultures. Such language is disturbingly reminiscent of the tragic consequences of a demonizing phase of the earlier struggle by the Ogoni.”