Soyinka on President Jonathan

THOSE of us who were already adults when, in 1986, Professor Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka won his Nobel Prize in Literature, knew very well that he won the laurel, not so much because of his literary prowess but for what he did as a political activist.   So extreme was Soyinka’s radicalism that as far back as the 1960s he seized a radio station at gunpoint in Ibadan during the political crisis in Western region. To be honest, although Wole Soyinka is a scholar by profession, he is more known for his extreme political views. And, sadly, he has always been partisan and biased.

That Wole Soyinka is antagonistic of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and his administration is a fact too obvious to hide. Not only has he been contemptuous of the person of Dr. Jonathan, he is also cynical about almost every programme, decision or action undertaken by the administration. Indeed, like some members of the opposition parties, the Nobel Laureate has never found anything good with the Government.

What has become increasingly worrisome is the fact that Soyinka’s cynicism is beginning to overflow into some kind of hatred or bitterness, best described as the product of a wobbled mind. Otherwise, why would a Professor of sound mind liken President Jonathan to the biblical “King Nebuchadnezzar”? Nebuchadnezzar was one of the worst kings that ever lived according to the scriptures and Soyinka thinks that Jonathan is worse than that evil personified. What are Soyinka’s reasons for vilifying the President on this occasion?

Soyinka’s statement touched on several issues, some of which he had bottled up, including what he claimed to be President Jonathan’s involvements in last year’s crisis of the Nigerian Governor’s Forum, his handling of the Chibok girls, the Nyanya bomb blast, his alleged insensitivity to the recent Kano tragedy, campaign on ethnic sentiments and the sacking of former Minister of Foreign Affairs, the late Ambassador Gbenga Ashiru.

However, the main thrust of Soyinka’s attack on Jonathan was what he described as the glaring display of impunity, citing instances such as the barring of Governors by Policemen from entering Ekiti State to campaign for former Governor Kayode Fayemi and the more recent incident involving some members of the House of Representatives and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Suleiman Abba. While castigating the President for the actions of the Police, the Nobel Laureate praised the lawmakers who scaled the gates and walls of the parliament building for their dedication to duty.

Those who have followed Soyinka’s political views over the year would find it extremely difficult to separate him from members of the All Progressives Congress (APC), except his high-falut in language. I don’t even think the Professor would try to convince anybody that he is not a member of the APC. But there is nothing wrong with being a member of a political party whether the governing party or the opposition. The only problem with Soyinka is that he is partisan to the core but wears the cloak of scholarship.

Almost every statement in Soyinka’s “King Nebuchadnezzar – The Reign of Impunity”, is laden with biases of all sorts, political, religious and ethnic. For instance, he accuses President Jonathan of impunity and at the same time finds nothing wrong with Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State who has no respect for the rule of law; Soyinka accuses Jonathan of carrying out ethnic campaigns in the same statement in which his ethnic bias is betrayed when he castigates the Government for the sack of the former Foreign Affairs Minister, the late Ambassador Ashiru.

Think about it: in spite of Soyinka’s so-called objectivity, there are Nigerians he has never uttered a word of criticism against, even when they are known all over the country to be of questionable character. It is amusing seeing the like of Bola Tinubu and Soyinka on a round table discussing corruption in Government!

Although intellectually creative and prolific, Soyinka is not, strictly speaking, a scholar and has never been one. He knows this fact himself, which was why he had to leave the then University College, Ibadan, for the University of Ife, a regional institution, where he was made Professor in 1975. He knows the class of degree he obtained from Ibadan could not have secured him admission to higher degree there, which was the reason he had to go to Leeds University in the UK. This was enough to create a complex in Soyinka. It might be argued that the issue of higher degree or distinction between scholarship and creative writing should not apply to a man who has won the Nobel Prize. What we must admit, however, is that no amount of awards can alter an academic truth.

In motivation research, psychologists believe that, generally, creative minds have the special gift of disguising the real factors that induce their actions, even those that are known to be natural human tendencies. The instances are many in Soyinka. When, in 1953, he founded the Pyrates Confraternity, at Ibadan, he ingeniously credited the cult with the goals of fighting for justice and anti-corruption. Soyinka still defends his membership of this cult today, even when the facts are obvious that it is not different in any way from other secret cults in the country. Soyinka, Amaechi and many others highly placed Nigerians are still tied together by the vows they swore to, as Pyrates. Talk of impunity, arrogance and cognate vices, and Soyinka and his disciples are the epitomes, not President Jonathan. And they would never find anything wrong with one another.

We must grant that it is natural for a man to be sentimentally pulled to an organisation that has dominant influence in his or her place of birth.   The defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), which became the dominant partner in the APC, had its roots in Yorubaland. There is, therefore, nothing unusual for Soyinka, a Yoruba man, to be sympathetic to the party, its leading figures and whatever they stand for.

To put it bluntly, Soyinka is not a detribalized Nigerian. He should be honest enough in his criticism of President Jonathan and say: “Yes, we also have many Nebuchadnezzars, rogues and corrupt politicians amongst us, but they are of my stock or association, and I have an obligation to defend them.” Only then, would he be objectively reflecting the ideals of the Nobel Laureate which he wears around his neck. Otherwise, Soyinka’s numerous biases make nonsense of whatever he may say of President Jonathan and, indeed, any leader in his administration.

Mr. John Udumebraye, a commentator on national issues, wrote from Port Harcourt, Rivers State.

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