Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Our Soyinka Has Gone Wrong Again

*Wole Soyinka and Lai Mohammed

By Chuks Iloegbunam
The first time Wole Soyin­ka misdirected himself, it had to do with his “cautious endorsement” of Muhammadu Buhari’s presi­dential candidacy. He offered a platter of reasons for the stunning faux pas, of course. But, post-election, his out of sync reading of Nigerian politics has been pa­tently exposed.

To recap, it happened that in the run-up to the presidential ballot, Professor Soyinka, long time combatant on the side of the oppressed, announced that the best thing that could happen to Nigeria was a President Buhari. His rationalization:

“It is point­lessly, and dangerously provoca­tive to present General Buhari as something that he probably was not. It is however just as purblind to insist that he has not demon­strably striven to become what he most glaringly was not, to insist that he has not been chastened by intervening experience and – most critically – by a vastly trans­formed environment – both the localized and the global.”

Aware that his about-face would set teeth on edge, Soyinka took the pains to further explain his Road-to-Damascus conver­sion. He had become a Buhari flag-waver, having “studied him from a distance, questioned those who have closely interacted with him, including his former run­ning-mate, Pastor Bakare, and dissected his key utterances past and current.” He underpinned his implausible argument with his location in Buhari of “a plausible transformation that comes close to that of another ex-military dictator, Mathieu Kerekou of the Benin Republic.” 
*Chuks Iloegbunam

Some of those unconvinced at the time went public with their disagreement. How vindicated they now are! President Kerekou had apologized in front of his people for the wantonness of his military dictatorship before they granted him a shot at democratic leadership. But, Buhari would have absolutely nothing to do with remorse and apologies, not even for heading a junta that ex­ecuted its citizens on the strength of a retroactive decree, and not for other wild excesses of his des­potic rule, for which Soyinka, in better days, had been indignant:

“Of course, we know that hu­man beings change. What the claims of personality change or transformation impose on us is a rigorous inspection of the evi­dence, not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances. Public offence, crimes against a polity, must be answered in the public space, not in caucuses of bargaining. In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evidence suggests that this is one individual who re­mains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order.”

Well, Buhari’s presidency is not even a year old and already the chickens have come home to roost. During the 1970s, Soyinka criticized Uganda’s Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada for converting his country’s universities into toys. Only this month, Buhari, with a mere press statement by one of his subordinates, fired the Vice Chancellors of 14 Federal univer­sities, an irrational move unsup­ported by any known Nigerian statute. Is Soyinka unaware of this?
*President Buhari
In his Introduction to The Movement of Transition: A Study of the Plays of Wole Soyinka [Ibadan University Press, 1975], Professor Oyin Ogunba told the fascinating story of how, during an Ife Varsity conference, Soyin­ka had dramatically borrowed a piece of paper from someone, to pen an instant letter of resigna­tion because a high official of the institution had mouthed a new and arbitrary administrative pol­icy he could not live down. How time wounds all heels.

While, in-between global jun­keting, Buhari has been busy on a firing spree, his field command­ers have been firing at and killing peaceful pro-Biafra demonstra­tors. In fact they seem minded to match, if not surpass, the un­enviable record of massacres set by Olusegun Obasanjo in Odi and Zaki Biam, when they mas­sacred nearly a thousand Shias in Zaria. Pray, in what way does this contemporary preying on human lives begin to equate the transfor­mation that our Soyinka discov­ered in Kerekou?

While an undergraduate at Ife during the 1970s, and work­ing on freelance basis for The Punch group of newspapers, I recall approaching Soyinka to issue a damning statement over the 20 or so suspects that suffo­cated inside a Police Black Ma­ria, and he obliged! This kind of memory jerks the consciousness into conceiving of our man at the barricades with placard-bearing demonstrators insisting that an immediate stoppage must be put to President Buhari’s human rites.

Rather, our Soyinka of the “Justice is the first condition of humanity” fame, decided on ap­propriating a turf better left to the devices of people with the éclat and élan for economics and public finance. Soyinka wants an ‘emergency conference” to fix the country’s “dire” economy! As was the case with his “cautious endorsement,” he is fluent with reasons. “Recovery is going to take quite a while...the President should call an emergency eco­nomic conference, with experts to be invited. Consumers, pro­ducers, labour unions, university experts, professors, etc. I think we really need an emergency eco­nomic conference, a rescue oper­ation bringing as many heads as possible together to plot the way forward.”

Soyinka’s difficulty in this new adventure is three-pronged. To start with, it is preposterous, un­less our man will claim that be­tween the superstructure and the substructure, he would place pri­macy on the latter? In which case the onus would be on him to list the numerous ways in which the inhabitants of graves benefit from buoyant economies. Of course, the problem is also to do national amnesia. There was a national conference held recently in this country. Its report is presumably on the presidential shelf, gath­ering dust. It, quite possibly, has been binned. Now, if the report of a properly constituted national conference is unworthy of atten­tion, where is the assurance that the outcome of Soyinka’s emer­gency conference will attract other than skeptical presidential smiles or guffaws?
Soyinka, Fashola and Amaechi (pix:36ng)
Another fundamental disabil­ity of his recommendation is that the man in charge of the econo­my believes that it is soaring. As Soyinka was somewhere wailing about an economy going under, Buhari was elsewhere insisting that “Today, our country has the fastest growing economy in Af­rica and one of the fastest in the world.” So, who really requires a talk shop on an economy that is firing on all cylinders?

Soyinka’s third handicap is the most dangerous – to him! Through the past year, Buhari and all the newcomers have been hammering it into every thick skull that the country’s problem was and still is the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). There­fore, doesn’t it occur to the No­bel Laureate that his emergency conference is tied into the un­canny prospect of proffering the problem as solution? How could we have “consumers, producers, labour unions, university experts, professors, etc.,” in whose ranks are PDP cadres, looters, stalwarts and foot soldiers, salvaging the economy? Doesn’t Soyinka real­ize that his idea, liable to con­taminate the antiseptic purity of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) with tainted victims of change, could get him wrapped up on a treasonous charge?

As an ardent and long-stand­ing fan of Soyinka’s, I have advice for the “grey-haired lion”. Please leave President Buhari well alone. The man has experts in quantum, including those who would host a dinner for N82 million and oth­ers who would upgrade a person­al website at N78 million, to con­fer with. Together, this amalgam can, in great speed, navigate the Nigerian economy to ether.
*Mr. Chuks Iloegbunam, an eminent essayist, journalist and author of several books, writes column on the back page of The Authority newspaper every Tuesday.


  1. Another good piece by Mr. Iloegbunam as usual. Time has come for Soyinka to be told clearly that he can be hobnobbing daily with the politicians who are the architect of our problem and claim to be part of the solution. Another danger is that the he will always find himself (As has been ever so often) speaking from both ends of the mouth.

  2. So long as Wole Soyinka continues to flaunt his friendship with Tinubu, so long he would always keep company with those Tinubu endorses. Remember the other time when Soyinka went to Benin with Tinubu and co. at an Oshiomole event only to discover that IBB was already there, also as part of the event. Kongi had to scamper back to Lagos to issue statements to denounce IBB and association with him. But if he did not follow Tinubu to that place, would he have stepped into the embarrassing situation

  3. Chuks should better watch it. Soyinka has an army of fanatical fans who believe the man can do no wrong, and would go to any length to shred anyone who tried to suggest otherwise, no matter the weight of evidence. If there is anyone that would demystify Wole Soyinka, it is Wole Soyinka; and he is doing a pretty good job at that.

    1. Egbom, people in the political realm do not base their judgement on belief anymore. The evidence speaks volume of Soyinka's double speaks. My father said, "tell me with whom you go and I will tell you who you are". Soyinka is living in and with bad company.

  4. Anyone seeking to know how the mind of this Soyinka works should just google up and read "The Crimes of Buhari by Wole Soyinka." To imagine that after writing all this, this same Soyinka will turn around to endorse the same Buhari in 2015. He speaks according to the kind of company he is keeping at any particular time and whose interest he has in mind to service.


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