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Soyinka: In Defence of My Governor

September 6, 2008

ONCE upon a feud, there existed a ‘Kongi’ (or, Wole Soyinka); and a ‘Lagun’ (or, Olagunsoye Oyinlola). One is an intellectual giant and a Nobel Laureate; while the other is a retired military officer, and, now, a transmuted practising politician.

ONCE upon a feud, there existed a ‘Kongi’ (or, Wole Soyinka); and a ‘Lagun’ (or, Olagunsoye Oyinlola). One is an intellectual giant and a Nobel Laureate; while the other is a retired military officer, and, now, a transmuted practising politician.

Indeed, so successful were they in their individual professions that the former rose to the very pinnacle of his career as “Professor of Comparative Literature” while the latter, a Brigadier-General in the Armoured Corps of Nigeria Army, was only about two or three steps short of reaching the peak. One is “United Nation’s Goodwill Ambassador” while the other is [an] “Ore Ara Ilu” (that is, “the people’s friend”). Again, while one is an unrepentant rights activist, and, if you like, call him anti-establishment, the other has not only been in concord with the establishment but has also for several years been an integral part of the convention of the oligarchy, the subvention of the hegemony and the band of the ‘Unknown Soldiers’ that have been terrorising and victimising dear nation. Besides, while ‘Kongi’ has never been as privileged as to have ruled, or led, even his Local Government Area in any popular, sorry, electoral contest, (I even learnt that he once contested but lost as Chairman of his Local Government Area), ‘Lagun’ has become so successful in that trade that he once ruled the ‘Centre of Excellence’ (or, Lagos State) “with immediate effect”; and he is now ‘leading’ the ‘State of the Living Spring’ (or, Osun State) with the people’s “popular mandate” (as reflected in the ‘popular votes’ garnered through the ‘free, fair and credible’ elections held in 2003 and 2007).

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There are more interesting comparisons but, in as much as I may wish to continue exploring the womb of these ‘comparative’ idiosyncrasies, apart from space which may be insufficient and time which may be inadequate, the essence of this piece may become defeated. And, so, with regard to this piece, the Centre of Attraction, or Discord, is the proposed - and rightful - place in Nigeria for Professor Ulli Beier’s Archives and our destination, or reference, here is ‘Sunday Punch’, August 24, 2008. In the said edition, ‘Kongi’ had fired the first salvo, titled: ‘A Misgoverned Governor’ in which he accused Oyinlola of attempting to transfer Beier’s Archives to Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta in Ogun State, instead of Osogbo in Osun State. But, in a ‘Lagunlike’ counter-jibe, titled: ‘What Does Soyinka Want’, and, interestingly, too, published beside Soyinka’s, Oyinlola accused the Nobel Laureate of reducing himself to “a cheap tool in the hands of some cowardly alien masquerades itching to rape the scared grove of peace that is Osun State.” According to the governor, Soyinka seemed to have so surrendered to the whims, caprices and the manipulative tendencies of “his (Soyinka’s) desperate friends in Lagos” the proverbial wisdom synonymous with old age that he now tends to know “Oyo more than Oloyo.” Hear ‘Lagun’, my governor: “I know the grey hair of an elder is the visual reminder that wisdom flows in every vein that supplies blood to his brain.” Oyinlola then literally detonated the grenade: “I have spent my entire 57years trying to emulate Christ in conduct and in words. I will not allow anyone who loathes the Christian ethos of decorum to destroy my faith.”

It is because of, especially, this last statement that I have taken it upon my unpriestly self to shed some light on my governor’s diatribes, or tantrums, lest some people make a mountain out of a molehill. Of course, as a responsible citizen of Nigeria and, as an indigene of Osun State, it is one of my inalienable duties to stand by – and even defend - my governor whenever and wherever the need arises. After all, responsible sons and daughters of the State of the Living God cannot – and will not – sit down comfortably and watch helplessly as some ‘enemies of progress’ and ‘mischief-makers’ insult their leader’s intelligence. To start with, in “trying to emulate Christ”, my governor must not only distinguish between ‘works in the hands of God’ and ‘believers’; and between ‘creatures of God’ and ‘children of God’; he must also bear in mind that Jesus was – and, still, is – regularly opposed to the factions and frictions of religion. Rather, He was regularly anti-establishment, teaching a way of life, certainly, contrary to the accepted norms of His day. For instance, Jesus compressed the ten commandments into two: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”; and “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22: 37 – 40). He also “overthrew the tables of the money changers and the seats of them that sold doves” as opposed to the government of the day (Mark 11: 15 - 17). Again, the case of the sick man “at the country of the Gadarenes” (Luke 8: 26 – 39) speaks volume of the difference between Jesus Christ and those who say that they have been emulating Him. Maybe my governor did not find time to study his Bible. And, he can be excused on this. After all, the task of running (the affairs of) my state can at times be too onerous. Otherwise, he would have realized that, at not time did Jesus wreak any what-ought-nots in order to acquire what-oughts. For example, He neither foisted nor forced Himself, or His mission, on anybody as the Great Prophet, Teacher and Healer; He never induced anyone - not even any of His earthly parents, or disciples - to accept Him as the Consolation of Israel.

Even when He commissioned His disciples to “go out and preach the kingdom of God”, He only admonished them: “whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave them. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them.” And, to the other seventy two, He charged: “when you enter a house, say ‘peace to this house” If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.” For a better understanding of this charge, my governor needs to properly study Luke, Chapters 9 and 10. On several occasions, Jesus was provoked, mocked, rejected and even tortured. All through these trials, even when He was undoubtedly the Chief Security Officer of His disciples and His followers; and even when He has an unfettered access to His Father who unquestionably remains the Supreme Commander of all the armies, whether in heaven or on earth, Jesus Christ neither fomented nor promoted terror or destruction on His persecutors and He never invited any army garrison or battalion under any untenable pretext, or pretence, of helping to quell a riotous crowd, not to talk of crushing his enemies, real or perceived. For instance, during His arrest, when “suddenly one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant to the high priest and cut off his ear”, Jesus immediately instructed the ‘defender’ in question to “put up again his sword in his place: for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or, do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26: 51-53). He then “touched his ear and healed him” (Luke 22: 51). Even, at the point of death on the Cross of Calvary, rather than rebuke His persecutors, Jesus only prayed (to) His Father to “forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”(Luke 23:34).Or have we forgotten the denial of Jesus Christ by Peter three times before the cock crew? (Luke 22: 54 – 62) Still, Jesus neither disowned nor discarded Peter. He neither expelled him from His party nor worked towards his being imprisoned.

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Is it therefore any wonder that the same Peter eventually became the Rock on which the Church of God was built? Pity! My governor seemed to have got himself into the spiritual cul de sac when he demanded, or deserved, “some respect from anyone who craves same from” him “even if that person is 74years old.” He has forgotten that he does not have to seek to be respected; it is his work that will confer respect on him. It is unChristlike to ask for appreciation; a man is naturally appreciated. It is unChristian to demand greatness; it is subject to God’s decision. After all, “… promotion cometh neither from the West nor from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge. He putteth down one, and setteth up another.” (Psalm 75: 6 & 7). Likewise, a Christian will never attempt to make a fool of either the state or the country that in the first place made him [a] hero; and a hero will never contemplate dying in office especially when he knows that he has outlived his relevance in office. Besides, no matter how offended or insulted He was while His mission on earth lasted, Jesus Christ never made unprintable remarks about elders because He knew that ‘the young shall grow.’ Or, has ‘Lagun’ forgotten the interpretations of Exodus 20: 12? Frankly speaking, ‘Lagun’ deserves garlands for reminding us of the difference between ‘Centre’ and ‘Institute’, which, to him, was what ‘Kongi’ missed. However, even if Soyinka failed to rationalise the difference(s) between ‘Centre’ and ‘Institute’, why did my governor not remember that, even if attack remains the best form of defence, subscribing to violence in any form is also unChristlike? And, on the issue of the better, or best, religion, which my governor clandestinely, or theatrically, addressed in a ‘conversion campaign’ fashion, while I am not in anyway subscribing – and will never subscribe - to Soyinka’s kind of religious beliefs, or inclinations, or indoctrinations, may it be clear to my governor that it might even be easier for the atheist in the late Tai Solarin’s soul to find peace than it would be for most of our ardent-yet-strident believers. Oyinlola’s insinuation that Soyinka’s attack on him is being initiated, fueled and sustained from Lagos is not new in our socio-political lexicon. Here, we blame others for our own misfortunes and mistakes. Curiously, too, we not only shift blames, we also shift responsibilities. Nigeria’s ‘Five Majors’ blamed, primarily, the ten percenters for the first-yet-unforgettable insult on our national psyche; while Yakubu Gowon and his band blandly blamed Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi for what eventually befell his (Aguiyi-Ironsi’s) gang. Obasanjo blamed the ‘Unknown Soldiers’ for the murder of Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti and, when he again failed as president, he simply asked us to take our case to God. When Olusegun Agagu lost as Governor of Ondo State at the Elections Petitions Tribunal, even, as an integral part of the ruling clique, he still attributed his failure to the handiwork of some invisible hands, especially, the ones in government.

And Femi Fani-Kayode is blaming the Umar Yar’Adua-led administration for his hard-earned prosecution on corruption-related charges. Even, the masses are not any better: a woman who willingly conceals narcotics in her private part will blame the devil if she is caught in the act as if it is the devil who would spend the money had she been successful in the first place. Again, this phenomenon is not new: Adam blamed Eve for eating “of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden” (Genesis 3: 8- 12); and Eve blamed the serpent for deceiving her (Genesis 3: 13). Patriarch Isaac blamed Rebecca for swapping Esau’s blessing with Jacob’s (Genesis 27); and Esau blamed faintness for the mortgage of his birthright (Genesis 25: 29-34). Judas Iscariot blamed the Sanhedrin for “betraying the innocent blood” (Matthew 27: 3 – 5); and the Sanhedrin refused to put the money back into the treasury because, to them, it was [now] “the price of blood” and would rather use it to purchase the “Field of Blood” for the burial of strangers (Matthew 27: 6 - 7; Mark 14: 62 - 63; Luke 27: 70 – 71; John 18: 31). Over and above all, since human beings have different ways of learning and relearning, I am of the conviction that my governor would have since the publication of his article come to terms with some home truths on how to truly emulate Jesus Christ. In this wise, Nigerians should learn how to forgive and forget. In other words, they should (learn how) not to hold Oyinlola responsible for the conspicuous ambiguities, or discrepancies, contained in the said rejoinder. Without doubt, speechwriters are a funny breed. Oftentimes, they not only write things that are at variance with the wishes of their bosses, or masters, but also do so to soothe the caprices of their ‘ogas’ who incidentally pay, or reward, them from our commonweal. Maybe Governor Oyinlola was too busy with matters of state to have been able to make out time for proofreading, or vetting, a draft ‘of such little or no public importance.’ Or, just like the way former President Obasanjo willingly-yet-unwittingly surrendered Bakassi Peninsula to Cameroon, my governor chose to willingly cede to his speechwriters (some of) the essential aspects of his official responsibilities. Again, who knows whether the article in question was assigned to a mere Personal Assistant to a Special Assistant who in turn was ‘specially assisting’ a Senior Special Assistant to a Special Adviser who, in his official capacity, was only ‘specially advising’ a Senior Special Adviser to, probably, a Commissioner. Otherwise, since the Ministry of Christ was never characterized either by the twists of prebendal politicking or the turns of the politics of exclusivity, how then could my governor, even in his wildest imagination, misconstrue religion with Christianity by attributing his current style of governance to Christ’s? Leadership, it is often said, is an exercise in continuum. However, in our own clime, especially, in my state where “a man of the glorious” today is in total control, ours has been a leadership that is paralyzed by the weal of guilt, policy myopia, blind materialism, pretended supremacy and the woes of grandiose suplicatory religiosity, all which have in turn resulted in the failure of statecraft. Think of it: the huge sums of money that have since Oyinlola’s adventure in power accrued to my state from the Federation Account become an open sore when one compares same with the accompanying level of development of my state. In fact, we are in crisis of backwardness. The funniest part of it all is that while Babatunde Fasola, Oyinlola’s colleague in Lagos State, is busy planting flowers and trees all over available as well as created spaces as if ‘greening’ is synonymous with ‘feeding’, the only parable we have been treated to by my governor has been how he was orphaned at the age of nine. That, in my own view, is also unChristlike. And Jesus said: “… Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic …” (Luke 6: 27-31). So, on behalf of my governor, I rest my case! KOMOLAFE writes in from 020, Okenisa Street, Ijebu-Jesa, Osun State. ([email protected]) ABIODUN KOMOLAFE 020, OKENISA STREET PO BOX 153 IJEBU-JESA, OSUN STATE NIGERIA.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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