Nobel laureate warns of Nigeria civil war

2012-01-10 22:31

London - Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka warned on Tuesday that his country was heading towards a civil war, blaming political leaders who spread religious intolerance.

Asked whether he agreed with President Goodluck Jonathan that the current unrest was worse than the 1960s civil war, he told the BBC World Service: "It's not an unrealistic comparison - it's certainly based on many similarities.

"We see the nation heading towards a civil war."

Soyinka was also asked whether the unrest threatened the state of Nigeria itself, and replied: "It is going that way. We no longer can pretend it's not.

"When you've got a situation where a bunch of people can go into a place of worship and open fire through the windows, you've reached a certain dismal watershed in the life of that nation."

Soyinka said the issues raised by Islamist group Boko Haram, which was blamed for violence targeting Christians in the north of Nigeria and has sparked fears of a wider religious conflict, had been brewing for some time.

"There are people in power in certain parts of the country, leaders, who quite genuinely and authoritatively hate and cannot tolerate any religion outside their own," he said.

"When you combine that with the ambitions of a number of people who believe they are divinely endowed to rule the country and who... believe that their religion is above whatever else binds the entire nation together, and somehow the power appears to slip from their hands, then they resort to the most extreme measures.

"Youths who have been indoctrinated right from infancy can be used, and who have been used, again and again to create mayhem in the country."

He added: "Those who have created this faceless army have lost control."

Soyinka, a dramatist and essayist, became Africa's first Nobel laureate in literature when he won the prize in 1986.

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