Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has called for the reconfiguration and decentralisation of the country, saying they are necessary steps towards national progress.

Speaking on Thursday at the 50th anniversary lecture of the Punch newspaper, with the theme, “Recovering the narrative,” Soyinka said it was time the country stopped organising national conferences, which had proved to be mere distractions.

Soyinka stated, “I don’t like the word restructuring. I prefer expressions like reconfiguration, decentralisation of the country. Those ruling us recognised the necessity, the importance and almost invariability until they get into office.

“Reconfiguration and decentralisation are not slogans, and it’s time we stopped the pretence conferences, which have proved to be mere distractions, especially by those who have different agenda in mind, such as third term agenda.

“It is not new that nothing of value has come out of some of the conferences we have had in the past. So, it is about time that leaders stop taking this nation for a ride.”

The renowned playwright, novelist, poet and essayist submitted that decentralisation would bring government closer to the people, so that productivity could be manifested as a product from the citizens and not simply as manners from heaven.

He said there was nothing wrong in the general representatives sitting down to discuss and determine protocols of association, and anyone, who did not want to abide by these protocols, could take a walk.

“Let nation die so that humanity may live,” he stated.

Soyinka maintained that there was nothing sacrosanct about nation building, but “it’s a constant work in progress.”

He warned that civil wars would continue as long as some sections of the country questioned whether they could claim national belonging, stressing that issues that erode the basis of nation-being should be addressed on a regular basis.

Soyinka stated, “The Biafran war of secession offers us a constant springboard for a rethink. All we have to ask is the question: is that war over?

“Taken narrowly, for instance, an ancient statement of mine, which warned that a people, who had resolved on secession could their mind that a seceding part of a nation could never be defeated, would appear to be contradicted by a mutual, terminal ceasefire ritual.

“The leaders did sign the article of surrender. A policy of No Victor no Vanquished rang out vibrantly and the three Rs were promulgated, and probably with the most sincere intent to deliver as declared – Reconciliation, Restoration and Reconstruction – or something along those lines. However, is that all? Then tell me, what is MASSOB? Or, more currently and militantly – IPOB?

“Only a few months ago, I was sent a statement allegedly issued by IPOB, canvassing an internationally supervised plebiscite among the Igbo to determine whether or not their people wish to remain within Nigeria. Peacefully. Legitimately.

“I have not read of any follow-up, but I am assured that it was not fake news. Certainly, early pronouncements and actions of that movement weigh on the side of authenticity.

“Well, all the foregoing results in only one question? Why not? Fifty post-bellum years of existence for this journal have passed and I challenge its midwives and their successors and consumers – that is, all of us in this hall – to point out anything they have published or read that sheds, unwaveringly, the laser beam of illumination from the whole wide world – from the Ukraine to Palestine, from the Horn of Africa to Myanmar – on that critical question: Why not?

“We find that we come down constantly on the side of relativity, not categorical absolutes. The right to self-determination for any people, capable, and desirous of creating a viable national identity for themselves cannot be proven inimical to human survival, its road to prosperity and human dignity – indeed, the contrary comes closer to the truth.

“There are effective, non-dehumanizing ways of determining the authenticity of that choice of belonging or not belonging, rational ways that result in a Reconfiguration of the Willing, not the incorporation of the Reluctant or Resentful. It can hardly be considered elevating to substitute one geography of subjugation for another.”

Dignitaries at the event included former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi; former governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Jimi Agbaje; former Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu; and Special Adviser on Information and Strategy to President Bola Tinubu, Mr. Bayo Onanuga.