Soyinka Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, offered President Olusegun Obasanjo an unusual Christmas gift Wednesday by way of a 1,788-word biting response to claims Mr. Obasanjo made in his new and controversial three-volume memoir, My Watch.
Mr. Soyinka mockingly described the old general as “our Great Immortal, the Unparalleled Achiever, Divinely appointed Watchman”.
“Okikiola, [Mr Obasanjo’s middle name] the overgrown child of circumstance,” was how Mr Soyinka called out at the former president whom he characterises as an individual with “capacity for infantile mischief, and for needless, mind-boggling provocations, such as his recent ‘literary’ intrusion…”
Defining Mr. Obasanjo’s many public interventions as a “compulsive career of lying” and the former soldier as a “Master of Mendacity,” Mr. Soyinka promised a “full, frontal dissection of Obasanjo’s My Watch for later, most especially since the work itself is currently under legal restraint and is not readily accessible to a general readership.”
However, he described Mr. Obasanjo as “a seasoned predator on others’ achievements – he preys on their names, their characters, their motivations, their true lives, preys on gossip and preys on facts, preys on contributions to collective undertakings…even preys on their identities, substituting his own where possible. Well, hopefully he may actually believe in the inevitable End to all vanities?”
The two elder citizens have a long history of squabbles and public disagreements, but in his current comments, Mr. Soyinka is part-sarcastic, part-playful, but still broad-sweeping, from the personal to the policy ramifications of Mr. Obasanjo’s life story.
He derisively described Mr. Obasanjo’s pet possession, the Presidential library at Abeokuta, as a “Presidential Laundromat,” pointing to the circumstances of the land acquisition as “morally dubious” and suggesting that it was “blatantly developed through a process that I denounced as ‘executive extortionism’.”
The fund-raising event for the library drew intense public smack at the time, and now Mr. Soyinka likens it to the recent fund raising for Mr. Jonathan’s presidential election. “That obscene proceeding has certainly set a competitive precedent for impunity in President Jonathan’s recent fund-raising shindig,” Mr. Soyinka said, jeering at the relationship of the two presidents.
Mr. Soyinka was at his most scathing humour when he drew presumed parallels between Mr. Obasanjo, whom he calls “our Owu retiree soldier and prolific author,” and an admonitory fictional character in Fagunwa’s famous Yoruba novel, Igbo Olodumare: “The seventh…. is not among those who set out to improve the world but rather to cause distress to its inhabitants. It was through manipulations that he attained a high position.
“Having achieved this however, he constantly blocked the progress of those behind him, this being a most deplorable act in the eyes of God, and rank behaviour in the judgment of the dwellers of heaven – that anyone who has enjoyed upliftment in life should seek to be an obstacle for those who follow him.
“This man forgot the beings of earth, forgot the beings of heaven, in turn, he forgot the presence of God. The worst kind of behaviour agitated his hands – greed occupied the centre of his heart, and he was a creature that walked in darkness. This man wallowed in bribery, he was chairman of the circle of scheming, head of the gang of double-dealing, field-marshal of those who crept about in the dark of night.
“With his mouth, he ruined the work of others, while he used a big potsherd to cover the good works of some, that others might not see their attainments. He nosed around for secrets that would entrap his companions, and blew them up into monumental crimes in the eyes of the world. He who turns the world upside down, places the deceitful on the throne, casts the truthful down – because such is a being of base earth, he will never stand as equal among the uplifted.”
“Chei! There is Death o!” Mr. Soyinka concludes his response, in biting reference to the First Lady’s famous dramatic torment in the wake of the abduction of 219 Chibok schoolgirls.
Read Mr. Soyinka’s full response to Mr. Obasanjo’s book here