Alexander Okere, Benin
Noble laureate, Wole Soyinka, on Thursday warned that religious violence would persist in the country, until the preachers of religious intolerance were prosecuted and made to atone for their offences.
Soyinka, who said this while delivering a lecture on “Culture at Risk” at the University of Benin, Edo State, blamed the outbreak of violence and killings of innocent persons by religious extremists on what he described as the “toxin” injected into them by their spiritual leaders.
The Nobel laureate, who condemned the recent murder of eight students of the Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, Talata Mafara, in Zamfara State, noted that such leaders were vicariously liable for the destruction caused by their followers.
He explained, “In my view, it is that toxin injected into the social consciousness of the followers of that religion, which has resulted in the murder of its citizens. Is there something called vicarious guilt or not?
“Should we be surprised and start shouting aloud and condemning some stupid young fellows who took the law into their own hands and killed, burnt eight people alive, who were not even part of the original scenario?
“I call them stupid and a disgrace to their school, Abdu Gusau Polytechnic. I say they are stupid and a disgrace to learning anywhere because even a child who leaves in a community must understand that if you want to create a serious fight between two people, just say that, ‘That individual whom you are targeting has abused your mother.’ It is as elementary as that.”
Soyinka also attributed the emergence of the Boko Haram sect “to religious teaching that incites violent behaviour and intolerance to the fundamental rights of every citizen.”
“It is this kind of mentality that created Boko Haram and all its seedling,–the sense of intolerance, the failure to understand that you are just another member of the society and you have no right over another human being.
“My view is that we can complain, we can protest, we can condemn as much as we want. Until those who are guilty even of vicarious liability, when a murder is committed, are brought to book and made to apologise to the whole nation and do penance, such cannot stop,” he added.
Earlier, the Vice-Chancellor, University of Benin, Prof. Faraday Orumwense, had described the lecture series as apt and significant to the cultural history of the ancient Benin Kingdom and beneficial to members of staff and students of the institution.
He noted that the event was one of his intellectual hallmarks and initiatives to leave an indelible footprint in the history of the institution.