They all agreed that the country should not break up but could be renegotiated to decentralize power and give states more effective and efficient control of their resources.
In a workshop titled: “A day with the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Ijaw literary icons,” held at the Ijaw National Academy (INA), Kaiama, Kolokuma-Opokuma local government area of Bayelsa State, they affirmed that the people should negotiate many knotty developmental issues bugging down the country.
Dickson, as part of his efforts to challenge and motivate the students of NIA, one of the 15 boarding secondary schools built by his administration, brought Soyinka and other celebrated Ijaw literary giants to speak to the students.
Notable Ijaw icons, who attended the programme, are Prof. John Pepper Clark, 96-year-old Dr. Gabriel Okara, said to be the oldest poet in Africa and a foremost historian, Prof. Ebiegberi Joe Alagoa.
The event, which witnessed performances of poems written by Soyinka, Clark and Okara, was also attended by the Deputy Governor of the state, Rear Admiral John Jonah (retd), Dickson’s wife, Rachel, lawmakers, traditional rulers, cabinet members and celebrated authors, under the auspices of the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA).
Responding to questions on agitations in the country, Soyinka, said people are mixing up and confusing the argument, adding that some politicians are sounding hypocritical, dogmatic and dictatorial each time they say Nigerian unity is not negotiable.
He said: “That for me is a falsity. Anything is negotiable. The right of people to determine their future is what is non-negotiable. Most nations came to be through negotiation.
“Sometimes, when people say negotiate, what they really mean is restructure. What the question should be is, should Nigeria break-up? An answer to that is no. But, please don’t tell me that the Nigeria as it stands is non-negotiable.
“For me it is a fallacy. The nation has got to be negotiated. Negotiation includes ensuring that there is no marginalisation. Negotiation has to do with control of resources.
“Negotiation has to do with restructuring the nation in a way in which the components are not feeding an over-bloated centre to the detriment of their own development.
“So, Nigeria is negotiable. But the language we should use is what are you willing to sacrifice, what effort are you willing to make to ensure that Nigeria remains intact? That is a citizen question.”
Also responding to the question, Dickson aligned himself with Soyinka’s submissions and asked his people to feel free without fear of intimidation to interrogate every notion.
He said the Niger Delta region had funded the Nigerian project for over 61 years, insisting that staying together as one Nigeria is desirable.
Dickson said: “I believe that if you ask the question whether Nigeria should continue to exist as a united country, the answer you will get from the majority is yes. I believe that the continuous existence of our nation as an indivisible entity is desirable.
“There is a very strong case to make for that. After all you and I, our people have been funding the Nigerian experiment for the last 61 years. From your backyards, they carve out portions of land and call it in Abuja and Lagos and other capitals of the world, they call it oil blocks.