For a while now Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has been in the bad eye of the Nigerian online storm. It started with his infamous green card tearing statement. But if you look closely, it goes beyond that.
Sometime in 2007, President (then General) Buhari was running for the Nigerian presidency under the umbrella of ANPP, with Edwin Ume-Ezeoke as his running mate, Wole Soyinka wrote an article attacking the moral and historical eligibility of Buhari to rule Nigeria again.
The title of the piece was, The Crimes of Buhari
Soyinka opined in his article that: “The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternate choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive. HISTORY MATTERS. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future…”
Crime number one
Soyinka’s first crime was swallowing his own words in 2015 when he turned his back on history and endorsed the same Buhari candidacy, calling him repentant and changed.
On what basis did Soyinka make a u-turn to suddenly present the same man he spoke of as ‘a far graver, looming danger, personified’? What tangible evidence of change did a historically conscious Soyinka see in Buhari’s campaigns to shrug away historical red lights and announce that the future of Nigeria was safe in his hands?
Was Soyinka a victim to his well-known disdain for then president Goodluck Jonathan and his wife? Did our learned professor turn blind eyes and deaf ears to concerns about Buhari’s mental, physical and intellectual fitness? Did he cut his nose to spite his face?
While Soyinka, like every other Nigerian, is entitled to his franchise, Soyinka, unlike every other Nigerian, is not entitled to immunity from the consequences of such choices. Especially when he had made utterances aimed at swinging public opinion Buhari-ward. You can’t blame Nigerians too much for holding him up to standards he set for himself.
Crime number two: Silence.
You cannot be a vocal critic-cum-opposition of the past administration, endorse the present one against your own prior reservations and go mute when the present government comes in and ironically becomes just about everything you warned of before you turned your back on history.
“The man dies who keeps silent in the face of tyranny.”
Unarmed Biafrans were murdered while peacefully protesting, the man chose to die. Shiites were massacred for a minor face-off with the army, the man stayed dead. Marauding Fulani cattle herdsman went on rampage from village to village, the president said nothing and the man played dead. Confused economic decisions saw the economy tottering, saw inflation sky-rocketing, saw living conditions worsen, what did the man do? He barely turned over in his coffin. Not a word.
Rather, he chose to frolic with the tyrants. To be hosted at lavish parties, to appear in photo ops with the president and when questioned, lash out with ‘com’an arrest me na’ (paraphrase mine).
Crime number three: Developing bow leg for anoda pesin vitamin D deficiency.
If there is anything Nigerians hate the most, it is what we call, ‘drinking panadol for another person headache’.
Soyinka gulped outrageous amounts of panadol and even added Alabukun powder to the mix when he made the statement about tearing his green card if Donald Trump won the US presidential elections.
Perhaps he believed so much in his myth. As Wole Soyinka the man who battled successive government after successive government and refused to back down. That’s why after Trump won and Nigerians started calling for his head, he came back with abusive articles, using fine-tuned grammar to give as good as he got.
But like Achebe said in Arrow of God, No man can win a fight against his clan.
Soyinka’s demystification has already set in. And it all began when he attempted to beat history in a game of Ayo. For a man who rose to national prominence more for his criticism than his literary abilities, he is shockingly glass-jawed to the uppercuts of criticisms. He can keep writing angry piece after angry piece, wowing his few remaining admirers, mostly the older folks, with well-worded punch lines. But to those teeming battle-hungry rebels of the present I No Send generation, the No Dey Look Him Face generation, the retort will remain, Who you epp?