Wole Soyinka at 85, uncommon critic of fascism

Wole Soyinka at 85, uncommon critic of fascism

By Ayodele Fagbohun
“The murderers are among us.  Let no one be in doubt – they sit among us, right within this sombre gathering that honours the passage of a hero.  They are the unwitting collaborators whose blind politics brought this moment to be.  Whose primitive notions of contestation offered up this lamb on the sacrificial platter”.

Excerpt from text of Professor Wole Soyinka’s tribute during the lying-in-state of Chief Ajibola Ige (SAN) the slain Federal Attorney-General and Minister of Justice at the Liberty stadium, Ibadan, Oyo State.

The above short passage and the whole text if perused reveals a remarkable figure, complex in his writings but straight to the point; a swashbuckler however imbued with uncanny nationalistic fevour, great passion for his countrymen and women from time immemorial.

That is Prof. Wole Akinwande Soyinka, CFR, a man made of sterner stuff who turns 85years regardless of his self-imposed daring socio-political adventures, exploits and vicissitudes.

Prof. Wole Soyinka, a poet, actor and social critic spoke with candour, with heart of steel called off the cant and the humbugs for what they are. His was not a political demagoguery but a damning verdict against the powers-that-were for culpability in the political assassination of Uncle Bola Ige who could hardly hurt a fly but a stormy petrel in the realms of ideas, of debate, in the skills or organization and the ability to lead and aspire men and women, even children.

A contemporary of Prof. Soyinka and one-time president of the Institute of Chartered Accountant of Nigeria (ICAN), Basorun J.K Randle said Soyinka in his younger days paid heavy price for his confrontation with politicians. He condemned the government of Western Region which tended towards fascism and considered illegitimate. His reward was imprisonment.

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Wole Soyinka as an actor and Play Wright disguised in a mask with shotgun, invaded the radio, Western Nigeria Broadcasting Station (WNBS) and announce the seizure of the Samuel Ladoke Akintola led UPP factional administration. The dramatic episode no doubt a sad ugly commentary and giant step backward in our progressive march to good governance in the West. Already compiled in authoritative book entitled “a mystery of Gunman” by no less a jurist of his accomplishment and probity, retired Justice Kayode Eso, of blessed memory who saw it all.

It should be noted when the special adviser to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo and later minister of Aviation, Mr Femi Fanikayode crossed swords with the First African winner of Nobel Laureate in Literature, Prof Wole Soyinka, this somewhat face-off degenerated into reckless exchange of words and near alteration which was totally uncalled for. If there is discipline and mutual respect for elders, the present political set-up especially amongst the latter day politicians of Yoruba extraction.

The reader should be informed and not forget that Femi Fanikayode is the scion of the late Chief Remilekun Fanikayode A.K.A Fani-power, deputy premier to Chief Akintola’s illegal government whose nefarious activities ignited tremendous waves of political bloodbath in Western Nigeria; spread across the country and abruptly terminated spread across the country and abruptly terminated the First Republic politics.

Hence, the beginning and ascendancy of iron curtain military dictatorship with attendant trouble and the harrowing intractable security breaches staring the country in the face.

Lest I forget whilst the unfortunate face off lasted, Professor Soyinka did not fail to refer younger Fanikayode to the inglorious and sanguinary day of “Wild, Wild West” masterminded by his father and his boss, Akintola and he fought his father to a standstill in old Oyo.

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Nonetheless, Soyinka evinced rare courage, boldness, patriotism and tenacity of purpose for good governance severely and unserious deficit amongst the present generation of politicians and the numerous amorphous rights’ activists hankering after filthy lucre.

Unrepentant antagonist of military rule in Nigeria, a precursor to fascism, Soyinka deployed his academic and intellectual prowers in excavating pressure on international community about the danger inherent in military rule in Nigeria. On self-imposed exile in Britain, Ghana and America as visiting processors in his chosen field of drama and comparative literature in some respectable universities he did not relent in championing the cause of liberal democracy and purposefully government around the world.

In 1967, Nigeria drifted into inevitable but unavoidable internecine civil war, Soyinka was convinced that the war was misguided and needless. He went for handshake across the Niger to negotiate for truce with Lt. Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, military governor of Eastern Region.

Prof. Wole Soyinka was arrested and detained during the war by the Gowon military administration, 1967-1969. He later wrote “The man died,” prison note; about the enormity and bestiality of military rule, sheer inhumanity to man. A renown journalist on assignment was mown down by a soldier at a public square in Ibadan (1967) and the people kept silent in the face of the tyranny and the man died.

A man of implacable, ingenious and revolutionary outlook who remorselessly and gallantly fought military rule to exit with ignominy, Soyinka organized his own prodemocracy :NALICON” and returned to the trenches.

In close contacts with like minds like sagacious Dr. John Kayode Fayemi, PhD in War Studies now elected governor of Ekiti State; floated “Radio Kudirat” which finally blew the vestiges of military oligarchy, feudalism and fascism to smithereens as a prelude to the return of democracy.

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Soyinka was a pioneering chairman, Oyo state Road Safety Corps popularly known as “Majamaja” 1980-1983; Chairman, Federal Road Safety Commission 1988-1991 to halt the carnage and normalcy on our highways. Thus, we can see Prof. Wole Soyinka as a man of prodigious talent and skills in the selfless and unalloyed service to humanity that could neither be compared nor quantified.

As a founder/grand patron, National Association of Seadogs (Pyrate Confraternity) in his undergraduate days in the university college Ibadan in 1952. Initially there was a general misconception that pyrate confraternity was a secret cult to be avoided by students and be proscribed outright. Thanks for the tenacity of purpose earlier alluded to as one of the sterling qualities of the founder and celebrator. Let me quickly and humbly suggest that we of the Yoruba nation can canalize the value of Pyrate confraternity as a way forward to stem the illtide of security palaver in the south west geo political zone where incidentally the organization originated. A stitch in time saves nine!

Akin to the foregoing and to make the 85th anniversary an embodiment of celebration of eventful life right at its evening, it stands to reason therefore that the murder of uncle Bola Ige as Soulmate of Soyinka and mainly as the dynamo of Yoruba politics must be revisited. At least, the sponsor of the cowardly, Leinous and gruesome murder must be unmasked for the whole wide world to see.

Chief Ige’s protégé, Second Republic Senator in old Ondo State, and Chairman Elders’ Forum, All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Ondo State chapter, Senator Olorunimbe Farukanmi also a critic of military  incursion in the nation’s politics constantly asks the nagging question, who kills Uncle Bola Ige?

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