Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Noble Leaurent in Literature, has slammed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s record labelling the latter’s eleven years as leader of Nigeria – as military head of state and civilian president – as a “sumptuous spectacular failures”.
Professor Soyinka’s assessment of the former leader is contained in the preface to his 148-page book, “Intervention VIII: Gani’s Unfinished Business”.
He described Obasanjo as having a phobia for education and intellectualism.
According to Soyinka, Obasanjo’s records in office are clothed with lies, deceptions, misrepresentations, distortions and denigration of others.
Noting Obasanjo’s genuine attachment to the nation, Soyinka said it would be most unjust to label him an outright failure, notwithstanding that Obasanjo readily does so to his predecessors and successors in office.
He said: “However, to state starkly that he has recorded sumptuous, spectacular failures in the total of 11 years of managing the Nigerian real estate is to stay within arguable borders, and that is where we choose to pitch our tent, daring even the most devoted of his apologists to dispute such an obvious assessment.”
The Nobel laureate said it would be the highest form of moral dereliction to fail to present a glimpse of a dark, sinister side of such “a paternalistic, caring figure”.
“This is a recurring decimal which now presents itself as a dedicated, even passionate rescue miss omer for a nation that is unarguably in need of a moral compass and competent leadership.”
Soyinka faulted Obasanjo’s “seductive pretensions of ease and benign, protective assurance among school pupils”, noting that even Adolf Hitler loved children so much that “he created a Nazi Youth Brigade, a mind bending induction from which a subsequent leadership generation still strives, remorsefully, to dissociate itself”.
The poet said: “Not for moment does one intend a comparison with that universal criminal, Adolf Hitler. We merely propose that cultivating the image of a committed child educationist in one’s dotage does not obliterate certain records, such as that instance when, as Head of State our subject ordered that mothers, on their way to handover a letter of protest at the incineration of their children on the tarmac of Port Harcourt airport, should be stopped by all means…
“Compared to such a spectacle of infanticidal horror and executive callousness, the educational phobia that led to a policy of rabid anti-intellectualism under his watch may be deemed mere trivia. Yet the damage done to a nation through such an unhindered detestaion of educational institutions as the stamp of his ruling mandate remains to plague the nation.
“And there are other acts of anti-intellectualism provable against our born-again educationist and developer of youthful minds, implemented at a time when it crucially mattered- under His Watch! This crafted images of childhood love constitute an obscenity, and remain offensive to any people of memory and discernment.
“Even the crassest of such petulant deeds of misgovernance, born of insecurity, can however be mitigated, even amnestied by a late life penitence, and willingness to abuse the hypocrisy of self-exculpation.
“Such mitigation cannot however be conceded if our subject persists in burnishing his rulership records with the ragged cloth of lies, deceptions, misrepresentations, distortions and persistent denigration of others – including non Nigerians, some of whose records in their zones of responsibilities, objectively leave his self attributed achievement open to dispute, and even outright dismissal.
“Mitigation cannot be rationally considered if the nation’s present condition of intra-religious hospitality of the most blood curdling dimensions can be traced all the way back to his policy of appeasement when forces against national cohesion through religious fundamentalism first unfurled its banner.”
Soyinka wrote on the much publicized “bid” by Obasanjo for a third term – an allegation the former President denied. He said if he had wanted a third term he would have asked God who would have given it to him .
Soyinka said: “There can be no amnesty for a leader who lavished bribe on legislators in his attempt to subvert the constitution and foist himself on the nation as civilian dictator for life, yet continues to deny it. Such denials are insultingly offered in the face of robust, documented and repeated affirmation of this treasonable conduct, including by a number who collected his money and ran.
“The denials continue from this practised obscurantist, depart open admission by those who were co-conspirators against democracy. The opportunism of image laundering in a season of popular discontent is a further denigration of the public capacity for objective discernment.
“And yet, despite such glaring crimes of both commission and dismissive contempt, Nigerians are a people of almost hyper-naturally gifted for bypassing the past, cauterising their memories even to the point of collective perdition, determined to move into the future.”
The playwright condemned Obasanjo’s efforts at building a nationwide coalition for a new leadership. He said: “When, however, such an individual under the lens moves yet again to insert himself into a process of national recovery, attempts to hijack both tested and untested efforts, frustrate new energies, recruits and recycles jaded and equally compromised figures, the a gauntlet had been thrown at the feet of those who ‘watch the watchmen’, and a renewed battle line is drawn against any such Coalition of the Corrupt and its Convener.”
Continuing, Soyinka said Obasanjo, who is the subject of the “Interventions”, “strikes one as being tormented by a hidden past, probably experiences the urge to make amends- don’t we all? I would not dare encroach on the province of psychologists but, with my limited deductions from a lifetime of literary engagement, I would diagnose, in this leading character, symptoms of a child at heart.
“Alas, it is of that confused precocious that seeks to be relived, through exposure, of the burden of hidden malfeasances, in order to deserve notice, acceptance, and restoration to parental love through correction, even punishment, however painful.
“In adult life, as the child grows increasingly confronted by mortality, the expression changes to- a search for redemption. The path taken in pursuit of such a benign closure however reveals which of the many emotions have triumphed over the rest.
“Summatively, it is the precocious child of malice that prevails. Three ponderous volumes of creative mendacity in a supposed autobiography- “My Watch”- attest to this, evoking that anguished cry from one of the celebrated creations of unrelieved malice of the theatrical world. In a moment of absolute spiritual nakedness and moral confrontation, he exclaimed: “Evil, be thought my good!”
“So has it been with the aspiring mongoose known as Bros Shege, raised and bred in the sinister hatcheries of Otta Farm.”
Obasanjo is yet to react to Soyinka’s comments.