By Tunde Odesola
Unlike charity, hypocrisy is homeless. Since the Soyinka-Datti fascism brouhaha broke out, Mr Obi, you’ve not made a categorical statement in condemnation or commendation of either Soyinka or Datti. But your supporters, Obidients, have been painting the internet sick in riotous colours, denigrating the impeccable integrity of the greatest literary enigma ever to come out of Africa.
Your Excellency, did you lie doggo in fulfilment of political correctness? Did you button your lips because what Datti said was wrong? Or, you quit chattering because you know Soyinka was right? Obedient Nigerians need answers to these questions which Obidients won’t ask.
The shrill husband of beautiful Margaret, leaders don’t sit on the fence, they scale it and take position. If you’re evasive on critical issues, you’re not different from Muhammadu Buhari, who goes snoring when the country is on fire. I do not see a leader in the horizon, I see a cringer.
Sir, when also the leaked audio conversation between you and Bishop David Oyedepo blew up the internet, you came up with an unconvincing defence, saying it was doctored, but you left critical questions unanswered.
Your Excellency, your admission that the lengthy conversation you had with Oyedepo was doctored means you, truly, had a conversation with the bishop. What behoved your integrity, therefore, was for you to come up with the aspect(s) that was/were supposedly doctored. Insightful Nigerians won’t enlist on Obidients’ Animal Farm, where the eyes don’t see beyond the nose, where reason is displaced by rudeness.
Oga Obi, are you saying the whole of the revealing conversation you had with Oyedepo was doctored? If not, you need to come clean and own up to what you said in the Freudian conversation. In what context did you say, “It’s a religious war?” And what do you mean by religious war? A Christian jihad? Who are those fighting the religious war? Where do you stand in the religious war?
In the pantheon of Nigeria’s literary and socio-political activism, Soyinka is beyond compare. This truthful statement is not a deification of Eni Ogun, as he’s fondly called, it’s a testimony to Soyinka’s time-tested and borderless struggles towards the attainment of a just society. I need not recall his heroics herein; they’re forever etched in on the golden pages of countless poetries and prose, symbolising peerless fecuncity and language use unknown in this part of the globe. Termagant new-age Obidients might not know this, but the old brigade knows, admission of this fact, however, will misalign with the ongoing political bigotry.
It’s a shame that Nigerians still look in the direction of an 88-year-old lion for validation in their unjewelled country, trashing his socio-political interventions in the dumpsite of tribalism and hypocrisy. I checked the list of men and women who fought against the military for the restoration of democracy in the country, the name of Obi is missing. But the steaming aroma of democracy broth attracted Obi, the trader, after Soyinka and other patriots had chased the military back to the barracks in 1999.
If Soyinka and other prominent Nigerians like Ken Saro-Wiwa, Gani Fawehinmi, Olikoye Ransom-Kuti, Beko Ransom-Kuti, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Chinua Achebe, Olisa Agbakoba, Ola Oni, etc had not fought for democracy, the Elluppee elpee being sang by Obidients today would never have been waxed.
It’s important to imbue the Soyinka-Datti discourse with historical perspective in order to curb ambiguity, lest Obidients say their god was the symbol of modern Nigerian democracy.
For almost all his life, Soyinka has been in an unending fight against fascism. He knows fascism and its apparitions. In his prison memoirs, “The Man Died,” Soyinka says, “The man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny.” He went on to say, “Justice is the first condition of humanity.”
The late Nigerian scholar, Professor Pius Adesanmi, in an article, “Biafra: Justice is the First Condition of Humanity,” published in 2017, said, “Wole Soyinka’s work as a teacher of his nation and people in the last seven decades can be summed up in one word: transcendence. His entire envisioning of Nigeria – for which he has suffered persecution, deprivation, abuse, insults and other unspeakable forms of punishment – is reducible to transcendence.
“If you look at Wole Soyinka’s essayistic exertions since the beginning of the 2000s, you will notice an upshot in his pre-occupation with terrorism, political sharianism, and other ideologies of hate and murder, sallying forth from the warrens of radical Islamism. We have no greater intellectual and ideological opponent of these murderous ideologies and the philosophies they propagate than Soyinka.
“Yet, the moment Mohammed Yusuf, the founder of Boko Haram, was extra-judicially murdered, followed by a heavy-handed military mop-up in civilian warrens of Maiduguri, Soyinka, the transcendent envisioner of society, did not mince words. You cannot kill extra-judicially. You cannot use the military for civilian mop-ups in civilian spaces.”
That is the quintessential Soyinka that Obidients want to drag unto the slab in their Animal Farm, but the white-maned lion is no sport for misguided children and bigoted adults; he will continue to roar truth into obstinate ears in power or farmlands, perchance, the God of thunder and lightning will blaze a path for a country in utter darkness.
The precursor to Soyinka’s stinging letter, “Fascism on course,” was an interview he granted on national television. In the manifold interview, Soyinka spoke about his networking with like-minds to create a Third Force in response to the shenanigans of the political class – as constituted by the current political class. The Third Force, he said birthed, the emergence of Obi.
The Nobel laureate harshly condemned the Indepenent National Electoral Commission, INEC, the Federal Government, the All Progressives Congress, APC and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, particularly recalling how he told Tinubu and Abubakar, before the presidential election, to quit the stage for the ‘infusion of fresh blood,’ which ostensibly is Obi. Soyinka simply urged Datti to rein in his rage and let election petition follow due process, rather than threaten.
The fact that the literary giant wanted fresh blood in Nigeria’s political system won’t stop him from cautioning Datti in these words, “I’ve been distressed, however, by this certain aspect of this movement which, for me, tended towards the fascistic, and we haven’t come all this distance, made all the sacrifice to watch the entire procedure being jeopardised permanently with consequences if we get to a situation where threatening, menacing language is being used, where people are beginning to be afraid to talk, to advise, to contribute simply because of disagreement over tactics. And so, this was what I was objecting to in Datti’s performance (utterance).”
Sired in Zaria in 1969 by a Mauritanian father, who had 33 children, Datti said Nigeria’s democracy will end if the Supreme Court upheld the result of the contentious presidential election.
Subsequently, Obidients stormed the internet, rent their clothes and called Soyinka ugly names. Not one to be intimidated, Soyinka released a bombshell statement, “Fascism on course,” sending Obidients on expletive overdrive.
The caution Soyinka was trying to make Datti apply is located in the Nigerian Constitution, which solely vests law interpretation within the authority of the court.
This is to say that, even if the National Assembly makes a law that criminalises cattle-grazing, for instance, it’s the court that defines the various ambits of grazing and other litigation matters that arise thereof.
So, a legislature could make a law, and the court could interpret it in a way different from how the legislature envisioned it. The legislature must still comply with the ruling of the court even if the law it made is interpreted in a way different from what the legislature has in mind. Therefore, it is not far-fetched to say that it’s the court that makes the law – in the real sense, and not the legislature.
The lack of tact by Datti, and his usurpation of the function of the court, was what Soyinka was cautioning against. If you read Soyinka’s lips properly, you would know he was warning against an invitation to anarchy.
•Odesola, a United States of America, USA-based journalist and public affairs cum political analyst can be reached via: Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Facebook: @Tunde Odesola; and Twitter: @tunde_odesola.