Steadfastness: What Soyinka didn’t do

Professor Wole Soyinka does not require introduction to anywhere significant personnel converge or strategic discourses are raised. Most of us in the bookish world almost always revere him. To avoid sounding patronising, these gargantuan good impressions about the rare personality of Soyinka came under serious attack with the sudden manifestation of his diminishing returns, self-destructive trajectories, and tragedies. How I wish it were not him. What one worked assiduously to build over the years, the same edifice he undertook the unwholesome project to pull down, unconscionably. There is a pertinent Igbo phrase quite instructive here… ‘akona nri okpa onye nkwa.’ Translated: do not cultivate like a cripple. Buttressed further this way… being a physically challenged but industrious fellow, who using his farm tool, hoe, makes a yam heap, for example, but as he makes his way out, the disfigured legs by their zigzag motion help to scatter the gathered mound. And the Igbo sage pleads, DON’T DO THAT!

The avalanche of correctional media intervention in the opinion section of both the print and electronic media platforms is still trending following Soyinka’s candid commentary about Peter Obi’s continued pursuit of his presidential ambition come 2027. He forbade Peter Obi from contesting the Nigeria presidential position in 2027 on the position that his followers, the Obidient Movement, are not fit, so to vie for. He is confronted with correctional perspectives, especially from his fellow avant-garde class for his first punitive onslaught on a man considered as the bandwagon (then and ever) by the Nigerian registered voters – Peter Obi. I have always opined that the best way to persecute a prospering and progressing South Easterner is to ignore him. Sooner than later, he will revert to resting on his laurels. Pronto, complacency will set in. Consequently, his other zealous competitors can overtake him. Otherwise, confrontational and offensive attacks fuel the passion of an average Igbo man who’s determined to accomplish his life goals. He is ever disposed to prove his detractors wrong. He glows in encountering resistance and challenges. He thinks they’re the reason his pursuit is worthwhile. He becomes more resolute and result-oriented. Think about the Biblical story of the oppressed Israelites in Egypt under the despotic regime of Pharoah who does not know Joseph.’ Are there not nowadays Pharoahs who do not know the Igbo?
Any Bible student will not need further illustration because the Egyptians realised quite too late that the more hardship meted to the sojourning Israelites in their land, the stronger and greater they grew. Their population grew too, despite the male childbirth restriction policy that King Pharoah promulgated by fiat. Moses, the Israeli emancipator, was born during this subversive policy regime.

Hence, as a matter of deference to the afro-styled and gray-haired (about to clock) nonagenarian, I will tell him the whole truth and nothing but the truth. His bohemian activism remains a source of inspiration for upcoming revolutionaries like this writer. Not to mention his sterling academic record, which have earned him classic awards and recognition on the global spectrum. This was a Wole Soyinka who certain envious and malicious scholars thought was not good enough to earn excellent marks while he was in the university here in Nigeria at now the University of Ibadan in Oyo state. But life cannot be as vindictive as most of us are. Life approves or disapproves based on merit or mediocrity. Therefore, when he stood gallantly and gloriously to receive his Nobel laurels in 1986, I do wonder about the terrific battles that would have been running in the minds and conscience of his suspected detractors in his university days in Nigeria, who chose to deprive him of his due qualifications. Again, in one of the erupting diatribes which his onslaught on Peter Obi instigated, a fellow literary masterpiece, Prof Promise Adiele, brutally made this commendation:

“Wole Soyinka is by every intellectual and academic classification an iconic figure. His reputation blossomed after he won the Nobel.., having distinguished himself as a literary genius. For involving in the Nigeria/Biafra war, the Yakubu Gowon military junta incarcerated him. While in detention, he wrote his prison memoir, The Man Died. His literary flourishes bestride all the genres of literature – poetry, drama, and prose – but it is for drama and poetry that he is widely known and acclaimed. Within the literary fraternity, Soyinka’s oeuvre bulks large as symbolic canonical emblems, inspiring an avalanche of academic degrees.”

Ray Dalio, in his classic PRINCIPLES, seems to have foreseen Wole Soyinka’s character and admonished him in time. He writes, “Don’t let loyalty stand in the way of truth and the well-being of the organization (nation). Prof Soyinka seems to value loyalty above integrity. He apparently overvalues the practice of a quid pro quo relationship more than upholding and appreciating a justified evaluation of an individual worth in the face of better alternatives. Ethnicity, sectarianism, and cronyism are all sounding louder to our literary professor. He is therefore biased, so to prefer. At the altar of tribal jingoist and ethnic chauvinistic patronage, Soyinka is witnessed by his numerous disillusioned fans, particularly those of Nigeria extraction, as he lowers his guard in the face of overwhelming atrocious leadership.

Suddenly, Prof Soyinka, in his advanced age, abhoring characters’ defects and deceitful personality is considerably alien to him, who made this demand his conversation and passion earlier in his life Before the nation’s agile youth could decide to emulate him, he has caused it to rain after sending us out on an errand with the bag of salt on our heads. Everything Soyinka holds against Peter Obi and his Obidient Movement revolutionaries is practically opinionated. “Making judgment about people so that they are tried and sentenced in your head without asking for their perspective is both unethical and unproductive,” added Ray Dalio. Can someone organize a forum where the two guests shall be Peter Obi and Prof Wole Soyinka with a raging topical issue bordering on “essential pillars of nations sustainable development”? This will then let the national spectators evaluate the indepth capacity, understanding, optimal sagacity, and the lack of the combination before any can draw their verdict? There is a need for a national debate forum where ordinary citizenry can participate so they can vent their frustrations, angst, disillusionment, and express hopes and resilience capacity to a receptive and responsive government agency.

In conclusion, we, the Nigeria patriots of the youth wing, earnestly implore our gracefully aging literary genius Professor Wole Soyinka to uphold his landmark legacy of upright governance even in the face of beckoning contradiction. Steadfastly and consistently standing for and identifying with proper accountability, equity, and meritorious representation epitomises true audacity that longevity of age (which status he has attained) is supposed to align with. How would he have reacted in his prime if this scenario is reversed…he lives in the now with a certain 90 year old Wole Soyinka of literary sage antagonising his patriotic, purposeful and decisive moves meant for the general good of all? Well, he was incarcerated. Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it, shall we not endeavour to disannul this maxim by conducting ourselves differently? Constantly abiding in the upward way that leads to the promised land. Let us not retrogress or revert to slavery status quo.
Let the revolutionary youth breathe.

Orajiaku writes from Lagos via [email protected]