• Monday, May 20, 2024
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Wole Soyinka & the price of partiality


After the election of President Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, my cousin, who lives in my home town, called me. He told me that he, in concert with many other supporters of President Goodluck Jonathan, was celebrating the president’s electoral victory. In such elation and jubilation over the triumph of their preferred candidate, it is possible for them to get carried away and restore to behaviours not entirely in conformity with the law. And these will happen without any knowledge of the president and his aides. So, there is so much that the supporters of the president can do without his knowledge.

The hanging of the banner, Bring Back Jonathan 2015, at one of the entry points into Abuja was despicable. With that detestable banner, a bunch of supporters of the president, in their sycophantic intoxication, defenestrated all decency. Like every Nigerian, Goodluck Jonathan reserves the constitutional right to vote and to be voted for. Therefore, he can seek re-election in 2015. But to make a case for his re-election by exploiting a national tragedy was repulsively callous. It was insensitivity taken to a nauseating extreme. It made a mockery of a national misfortune and the grief of the parents and other loved ones of the kidnapped Chibok girls. Refreshingly, the president has stated his lack of complicity in the hanging of that obnoxious banner.

In a recent newspaper article, the Wages of Impunity, in addition to criticizing the banner, Wole Soyinka also censured the president for including the ex-governor of Bornu state, Ali Modu-Sheriff, a suspected sponsor of Boko Haram, in his entourage on a recent visit to Chad. The president denied travelling with him to Chad. Ali Modu-Sheriff has longstanding business interests in Chad and often spends a lot of time there. He happened to be in the Chadian capital, N’Djemena at the time of the president’s visit. He joined Nigerians residents of the Chadian capital to welcome the president, on his arrival, at the airport. 

Therefore, the insinuation that the president is hobnobbing with an alleged sponsor of Boko Haram is totally incorrect. The president, according to his spokesman, is fully aware of the allegations against Sheriff and is awaiting the outcome of a security probe on him. Like most Nigerians, I believe the president on both counts, especially, as there is no evidence, in either case, to the contrary. Moreover, it is reasonable to trust the judgment and believe the words of a man overwhelmingly elected by Nigerians to lead them, and thus, determine their collective fate for four years.

In the article, Wole Soyinka was acidic, and he did not mince words in excoriating President Jonathan. The problem with Soyinka is that he is not an impartial critic; he is biased. He turns a blind eye to the corruption, lawlessness and political blunders in the Southwest and the Southwest dominated All Progressive Congress (APC). He gives the false impression that only the federal government and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are culpable of political sins. Well, Mr. Soyinka, other governments and political parties are also guilty of some political offenses.      

After all, one of the most corrupt politicians in Nigeria, who is also the most despotic and domineering political godfather is from the Southwest and a member of APC. Of all the geo-political zones, the Southwest is an anachronism, at least, in one respect – it is a zone still run by an imperious political godfather as a personal political fiefdom.

Governor Rajiv Fashola, in one swoop, raised school fees at the Lagos State University (LASU) by up to 1000 percent? It is understandable that, occasionally, school fees are increased, in line with inflationary pressures and other insinuating economic and academic realities. However, decency and sensitivity to the economic plight of the generality of Nigerians dictate that such increases should be reasonable and modest. A one thousand per cent increase in school fees was unconscionable. It was an exercise in arrogance, superciliousness and disregard for the pervading economic predicament of the masses and their struggle to acquire an education.

Quite naturally, the students protested. Their protest was peaceful. Still, policemen were called in by the state government. The police fired (life ammunition) on students. The state government and the police tried to excuse away what was a violent and unlawful repression of the constitutional right to peaceful protest, by stating that the police fired into the air. Still, the use of live bullet in dealing with a peaceful student protest, for whatever reason and/or under any guise, was excessive and unconstitutional.

Wole Soyinka is on a self-serving mission. He is driven by personal interests: greed for money and love for the spotlight. In retrospect, there was the Wole Soyinka that prevented the falsification of election results in the old Western Region. Armed with a pistol, he entered the Western Broadcasting Corporation and forced the radio announcer to announce the accurate election results. There was also the Wole Soyinka that drove into Biafra through the battle field at Nsukka. He returned to Nigeria and, in an unusual act of courage, denounced Yakubu Gowon for his stances on Biafra; he was jailed by the Gowon administration. That former Wole Soyinka was selfless and honourable, and his credibility was unimpeachable.

But over the years, his integrity and honour were compromised by his dalliance with a number of military dictators and subsequent political leaders. Presently, his business interests entangle him with a number of APC governors. So, as he speaks and writes, he is motivated not by the public good but by his business interests and the political interests of his political sponsors. As such, Nigerians cannot trust him. For the price of partiality is distrust.