Soyinka’s Eruption and Nigeria’s Opposition Infantilism

by Michael Oluwagbemi II

There are Lions and there is Ekun; there are Jewels and there are crown jewels. When certain people talk, people listen. Indeed, the insertion of certain voices of reason into public discourse usually changes not only the tone of that conversation but the direction. There are perhaps two living Nigerians generally have this effect: whose voices not only resonate with the common class but also with the high and mighty: Gani Fawehinmi is one of them, so also is Professor Wole Soyinka. The reverberations felt in political quarters following the insertion of the voice of the Lion himself – WS – as we head into the general election could be called a volcanic eruption and still be an understatement.

But in erupting I am afraid to conclude that the professor has shown the persisting lack of discernment that pervades the moribund opposition movement in Nigeria. Indeed, WS was not the first to take issue with the new found love relationship going on between certain characters in the progressive quarters and the ex-dictator Buhari; in fact in the not less interesting personality as Ebenezer Babatope, had in a piece in The Punch delivered the same dosage of reality but was not nearly as potent given his own romance with a greater devil in the person of General Sani Abacha. WS lacks such liability: he is still an unadulterated voice of reason in Nigeria who perhaps even has his credibility intact for lack of the emotionalism usually associated with Gani (who saw nothing constitutionally wrong in removing corrupt governors at night with less than majority vote).

In his now famed critique of the upcoming election, WS did not mince words in clearly dismissing the ambition of one dictator he held and still holds in so much contempt as to postulate (rightfully within his fundamental human rights to opine) that he should be barred from seeking the highest office in the land. But quite interestingly, neither of the top three in the same piece by WS seems to satisfy his longing for the Utopian Nigeria. In many ways, the piece lampooned Buhari for crimes against humanity committed in his first shot at government, roped in Y’ardua for the atrocities and inhumanity of his godfather and held up Atiku (the sitting Vice President) as an effigy of a turn coat: once outstanding but now as filthy as WS personal hunting buddy and friend – President Olusegun Obasanjo. There is no doubt in my mind that WS piece while I could hardly find any factual error (except for few mix-ups regarding NPN & PDP), falls short of the political sagacity and brightness of mind one will expect to associate with someone in the cadre of the professor and I say that with a great sense of responsibility and respect.

First and foremost, the piece lacks the political realism one would expect from WS, in my opinion. For one, in critiquing the three main choices before the Nigerian people come April 2007, WS fails to give a clear sense of direction to the electorate that he wants to convince rather he only increased the confusion as if we are not already confused by a ballot paper with over twenty five names of contending candidates. In dismissing all three candidates, and requesting some kind of impossible concession from at least two of the three (Y’ardua to quit PDP, Buhari to step down), the professor views diverges from the political reality on ground. More than likely, while his piece have done next to nothing to improve Buhari’s chances, what it has done is that it has concretized the chances of the anointed candidate of his arch-political foe. I use the word concretize because political reality number two that the professor fails to realize or at least admit is that Y’ardua is more likely to win than lose not because of his political clout but because of the dirty tricks that are being played on our path to that historic election. Indeed, add this to the fact that calculation that might have yielded a second round presidential election in case neither of the three candidates could not meet the constitutional requirements are now less likely given that WS might induce political hara-kiri on one of the threesome. Indeed, good political sense would make WS cautious not to become a willing tool in the hand of the Hopeless 2007 team house in Wadata waiting to pounce on the political enterprise of our country with vengeance come May 29, 2007.

Secondly, whenever one writes a piece of public consequence the possible net positive effect should be less consequential than possible collateral damage. Political strategists will tell you that if the collateral damage is more consequential than your brownie points the onus lies on the political actor to retreat. WS failed to retreat in the face of these calculations. With this piece, what WS have achieved is to dim the chances of opposition at the state and local level and encourage more of the same brigand and madness that have been ongoing in the past eight years. Indeed, in his fit of persisting hatred for Buhari he has achieved what the AD governors did in 2003 and have failed to learn from that mistake. If anyone can remember, we all know how the hatred of Buhari drove those political neophytes to the hands of Obasanjo and we are witness to how Oyo and Ekiti states especially have paid a terrible price for this enterprise of political stupidity. Indeed, whereas I postulate that Buhari is still highly unlikely to win in April, will it not be prudent of WS have reserved his piece until when this election possibly goes into a run off between Y’ardua and Buhari instead of just killing the APGA, AC and ANPP hopefuls that are far better quality candidates than the stripper club frequenting PDP gubernatorial and local council candidates?

Lastly, I cannot but take issue with WS piece if examined against the background of where we were back in 1999. Indeed, in that year works like his were lacking against the candidacy of his friend (OBJ), who quite interstingly was assumed to be a reformed person after going into prison (says who?). Indeed, this is the same Obasanjo that did not have problem killing Nigerian students in cold bold, sending off opposition to Snake Island detention or even killing Fela’s mother. How prison or time did not achieve the same level of reforming tendencies in Buhari the professor have failed to prove but this should not be in any way construed as I holding brief for Buhari because that is not my intention. Fair is just fair. While WS have vaunted the lack of regrets by Buhari for his past sins of manic wickedness, why was the same litmus test not applied to OBJ back in 1999 or 2003 when the AD Governors lined up support for the animal called man now occupying the highest office in the land? The same double standards that WS posits dogged the Buhari anti-corruption campaign obviously dodges his own present logic especially when contrasted against where we were in 1999 and 2003 especially since the professor was healthy and was not lacking in high spirit to write the same damning piece that could have saved us eight years of suffering.

Perhaps, in closing this unmistakable Monday morning quarterbacking (apologies to Prof. Aluko) piece of mine – there is one thing that must be pertinent to note. That is, in dealing with the political enterprise of Nigeria especially on the federal level there is hardly anything that is black and white. Things are not necessarily as they appear to be- around us are mirages of a cabal that thinks the highest office in the land should be at the disposal of their kin and kinfolks. This group engages in incestuous relationship and will fight when the loot does not go round: but don’t be deceived, they are still the same. It might even be better if we allow them go head to head in fair competition but we must be careful not to allow our intervention to disadvantage one camp against the other. Indeed, it goe

s to the heart of my testament that we should quit concentrating on reforming the center. Change in Nigeria has a better chance of survival from the bottom to the top not the reverse. Hence, if any injection into the political sphere negates the reform that can only come by chance of changing the current crop of People Destruction Party (PDP) killers on the local and state level – I consider such injection not only lethal but a deadly dose of political infantilism.

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Yomi Dawotola January 25, 2007 - 4:01 am

I consider your desription of Obasanjo as an animal in the second to the last paragraph of your essay as rude and uncalled for. This is not to say you should be uncritical of him but at least you should show some restraint in your use of words. Please show some respect to his person and the position he is occupying.

Yomi Dawotola.

Michael Fadulu January 23, 2007 - 3:27 pm

Michael! You need to stop picking up words randomly from the english dictionary. I say this because this incoherently written piece just makes no sense! To attack Prof. Soyinka for advising us to reject a failure like Buhari is a sin against all the bright minds in Nigeria.

Anonymous January 21, 2007 - 6:01 pm

Lagbaja, What was the point raised by the author?

Lagbaja January 21, 2007 - 12:25 pm

Cheap skates…@ comment 2. It is not enought to attack the author , may be a diligent review of points made will reveal it is okay to disagree with everyone in a democracy: even a nobel lauretes. And if we preach to the President to respect other views, everyone of of us including a Nobel Lauretes should expect our views to be questioned.

Anonymous January 20, 2007 - 1:57 pm

Hmm! Soyinka is lacking in brightness of mind and political sagacity. it appears that the internet has created a new group of untutored experts in every field. One group of experts psychiatrists are telling us that Soyinka is neurotic. Another group has even gone further to point at Soyinkas public disagreement with Prof Ali Mazurui as evidence of that. These group are expert Psychiatrists cum political stratergists. They can only be rivalled by the famed Carl Rove. Reading some of these guys makes you want to puke. But then someone reminded me in my native tongue: interneti O gbole o gba ole (translated: internet, it accepts all, it accepts the thief, it accepts the lazy). It is obvious that these guys would do better to do their thinking elsewhere aside from the bed and bathroom or may be if they watch less mob movies they would think and write better.

Anonymous January 18, 2007 - 1:24 pm

Be comprehensible and go back to re-read Prof Soyinka's write-up before you jump to write. Don't just attribute his excellent write-up to "persisting hatred for Buhari" or assert without any foundation that the Nobel Laureate is lacking in "discernment" and "political sagacity and brightness of mind".

If you are confused because of 25 Candidates on the Ballot, Nigerians are not. If you were old enough to vote in 1984 when Buhari seized power by coup d'etat you would not have writen to insult the Nobel Laureate. Did Wole Soyinka tell lies against Buhari? Did Buhari show any sign of remorse or change in attitude and behaviour over the past 23 years? Has Buhari appologised to Nigerians and particularly Alhaji Shehu Shagari for his treasonable offence?

So in your own judgement Nigeria should continue voting in retired Soldiers so its democracy can grow. Have asked yourself the long-term implications of electing Buhari as President? So in your own little mind Yoruba's are mistaken in voting out the AD rogues they mistakenly made Governors in 1999. And you think it was because they were running from Buhari.

For your information Buhari cannot run away from his dirty past.He will not be acceptable to the international Community. And most importantly he will not, because of his dictatorial tendencies last one week in office even if he rigs himself into office. But if you have something positive to tell Nigerians about him say it. Don't just condemn Soyinka's well researched and truthful piece.


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