Dear Festus Adedayo,
If there is any columnist I never fail to read, it is your good self. No matter how busy I am, or how long your column is, I take my time to digest every word of it. It is always well crafted and deep in history and cultural anecdotes. My respects!
However, since columns may not always be facts and only represent the writer’s opinions, even when I disagree with the contents, I respect the right of the columnist to express himself and this, I believe you have done. Although I see an attempt to be balanced in this column, I think you expressed bias against Soyinka, which stems from your obvious anathema to anything Bola Tinubu. I think the sequence of events should have been placed properly to be able to actually understand how Wole Soyinka and Peter Obi’s supporters (called Obidients) got to this point.
His fascism statement was a reaction to the “Obi can do no wrong” diefication on the internet. Fascism it is, when any person who criticises Peter Obi is lashed at with all the violence mustered by that uncontrollable mob on social media. Interestingly, they, like yourself, lose sight of the various allegations against Peter Obi (his fiscal governance of Anambra State, the Panama papers and other warts) that make him not materially better than the devil’s garb, which Tinubu is robed in.
Wole Soyinka granted an interview to Channels TV. That interview was not all about Datti or a criticism of Peter Obi.
In the interview, he condemned Buhari for his failed leadership and inhuman policies. There, he had stated that he had at different times advised Atiku and Tinubu, being older men, to look for younger people to mentor for the Presidency rather than entering into the ring (I don’t think his words were even charitable to either Atiku or Tinubu). He had equally condemned the various forms of ethnic profiling during the last elections and the violence issuing from these, while also critiquing the process of the elections.
However, in the same interview, he had opined as dangerous, the statement made by Datti and the fact that he had advised Obi to be wary of his supporters as they would cause his electoral undoing. Unfortunately, attention was not paid to those preceding aspects of his submission. The focus shifted selectively towards his criticism of Obi’s supporters and their truly worrisome violence on the internet.
How did it appear in that interview that he was supporting Tinubu? For the Obi crowd, any person who criticises their modus operandi, even in good faith, is a Tinubu supporter. In fact, going by his statement that the course Obi was on was a cause that he had been pursuing for some years gives me an impression that he is even more of an Obi sympathiser!
His fascism statement was a reaction to the “Obi can do no wrong” diefication on the internet. Fascism it is, when any person who criticises Peter Obi is lashed at with all the violence mustered by that uncontrollable mob on social media. Interestingly, they, like yourself, lose sight of the various allegations against Peter Obi (his fiscal governance of Anambra State, the Panama papers and other warts) that make him not materially better than the devil’s garb, which Tinubu is robed in. That there is this much frenzied reaction to Soyinka’s interview with this amount of villification, vitriol, bile and hate spewed against him by Obi’s social media supporters, who obviously do not have a historical insight into the literary or political persona of Wole Soyinka, is only a confirmation of the internet fascism he wrote about! Their reactions have only confirmed his observation.
If Wole Soyinka could go to prison for almost two years for an “against the grain” action of holding a meeting with Ojukwu in (seeming unpopular) support for the Biafran cause, I do not see how this development will demystify him. He may end up being vindicated at the end of the day, like he has been, over other controversial issues he has enmeshed himself in!
It reminds me of a story narrated by the late popular comedian, Gbenga Adeboye, where a man, while seeking divorce, complained to his in-laws of his wife’s bad habit of bullying, insulting and cursing at every turn. On invitation to state her own side of the story, upon being informed of her husband’s allegation, she went into a round of insults and curses on the person who accused her falsely and those who believed her accuser. This is the scenario I see with the Obidients and anyone who makes any comment they perceive not to suit them. In their language, that person would see “wotowoto” (hell). If this is not fascism, tell me what is!
I do not see where in all of his statements that Soyinka expressed any sympathy for Tinubu and this, except if my reading of your column is wrong, is where I differ. I think you missed it when you attempted, like Obi’s people, to put Tinubu into the mix. Tinubu was never the issue in that discourse!
No doubt, Soyinka has had a history of a relationship with Tinubu, and this was a product of a shared cause to chase the military back to the barracks. No individual could have fought the Abacha government alone, and various forces coalesced for that purpose. With the advent of civilian rule and controversy surrounding Tinubu’s credentials, what would he have said when the issues had been resolved by the courts then? He could not have attended GCI at the same time as Tinubu had allegedly claimed and was not the Records Officer of the school to have made a statement on that. Should he have fixatedly flaggelated Tinubu simply to prove a point to the world? I don’t think so.
While you acknowledged Kongi for his literary prowess and courage in taking up struggles, you seemed to taint him with a tag of corruptability by citing a dinner in his honour in Rivers State and by declaring Tinubu his benefactor. I think these are subtle attempts to infer that he was perhaps bought over or financially induced to grant the interview and make the subsequent reactionary statement. I think this is unfair!
Wole Soyinka is a maverick. You acknowledged that much. His ways are not our ways. His thoughts will always be unconventional. That’s what makes him Wole Soyinka. If Wole Soyinka could go to prison for almost two years for an “against the grain” action of holding a meeting with Ojukwu in (seeming unpopular) support for the Biafran cause, I do not see how this development will demystify him. He may end up being vindicated at the end of the day, like he has been, over other controversial issues he has enmeshed himself in!
Please keep up your writing. I admire you even if I don’t always agree with you.
Abdussobur Olayiwola Salaam writes from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta.
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