By Rev. Fr. John Odey
Geoffrey Chaucer (1342-1400) is a medieval English poet and author who is revered as the Father of English Literature. In the *Prologue* to his book, *The Canterbury Tales,* Chaucer wondered: “If gold rust, what then will iron do? For if a priest be foul in whom we trust, no wonder that a common man should rust. The true example that a priest should give is one of cleanness, how the sheep should live.” Chaucer described the priest in whose mouth he put these words as “a holy-minded man of good renown, who was rich in holy thought and work, who truly knew Christ’s gospel and would preach it devoutly to parishioners, and teach it.” When I read that book some 49 years ago as a student in preparation of my West African School Certificate Examination I did not fully understand the implication of what happens to the iron in a situation where even the gold rusts. But in the course of the years I have come to understand it. And now by retrospection, I want to apply my understanding of it to the current situation of Nigeria, our beloved but traumatized and bewildered country.
Nigeria is currently in a very bad shape because almost all of the gold propping it up and strengthening its base has been battered by corrosive rust. The constitution, the court of law, the judiciary, the army, the police, the DSS are now geared towards serving the selfish interest and the destructive ambition of one man who claimed that it is his turn to become the president whether he won or lost the election and no longer the interest of the nation. We saw it as clear as crystal that he did not win the election. But he is now sitting in Aso Rock as the president of Nigeria. And we are helplessly watching our country tottering to the brink of total collapse.
Some days ago, a young man came out boldly in the social media and declared that it was good that Bola Ahmed Tinubu has happened to Nigeria to let Nigerians learn a great lesson and wake up from their slumber. Among other things, he gave the following as his reason for saying so: It is a blessing for Nigeria for Tinubu to happen to Nigeria this season so that Nigerians will truly discover themselves. Tinubu had to happen to Nigeria so that Nigerians will be able to separate the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Tinubu had to happen to Nigeria to enable Nigerians know how deeply corruption has invaded Nigeria. If Tinubu did not happen to Nigeria, Nigerians would not know the people who are pulling Nigeria backward and the people who are pushing Nigeria forward.
He went on: When Tinubu happened to Festus Keyamo, when Tinubu happened to Femi-Fani Kayode, when Tinubu happened to the INEC, when Tinubu happened to the Nigeria military, when Tinubu happened to the Nigeria police, when Tinubu happened to the DSS, we saw how all of them teamed up with Tinubu to rig the 2023 elections in his favour. We saw how they turned Nigeria into a theatre of war against all who opposed Tinubu’s deadly ambition. When Tinubu happened to Muhammadu Buhari, he was transformed into an unmitigated disaster. All the people that Tinubu are happening to enable Nigerians to understand the institution called Nigeria and how shallow their integrity is. Without Tinubu happening to Nigeria, the Nigerian youths would not have understood that the ethnic and religious hatred they have been harbouring for each other are deliberately and carefully orchestrated by politicians to enable them divide and rule us. They would not have known the level of crimes being aided and abetted by politicians in the country. It will take a long time for Nigeria to recover from the shock of Tinubu having happened to the judiciary
On Wednesday, September 13, 2023, Bola Ahmed Tinubu happened to our renowned Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. On that day Soyinka claimed that Mr. Peter Obi lost the February 25, 2023 Presidential Election. He made the claim in Stellenbosch, South Africa, at an event titled *The Lives of Wole Soyinka: A Dialogue* which was organized by a group called *Africa in the World.* The following are his words: “This recent election, two things happened. First of all, one party took over the labour movement, which is not my favourite movement, and then it became a regional party. Whereas it was a marvelous breach into the established two camps, Peter Obi achieved something remarkable there, that he broke that mould. However, he did not win the election. I can say categorically that Peter Obi’s party came third not even second and the leadership knew it but they want to do what we call in Yoruba ‘ghajue’, that is force of lies.”
It is to be recalled that when the Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Dr. Datti Ahmed said that swearing in Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the president of Nigeria without first of all determining who truly won the presidential election of February 25, 2023 would mark the beginning of the end of democracy in Nigeria, the same revered Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, accused him of recklessness and fascism. For that, he declared: “I never heard anyone threaten the judiciary the way I heard Datti speaking. Blackmailing attitude! Do or die provocation is not what we are struggling for.” He went further: “Datti kept saying the Supreme Court better give his interpretation. This is trying to dictate to the supreme arbiter of the nation. I mean, it is an institution we all revert to, if not today, then tomorrow. If not this election, then the next election! But Datti kept saying ‘No, the Supreme Court, in its wisdom, has to agree with me.’ This is what is known as fascistic language; it is not acceptable.”
If our revered Professor ever told Tinubu that it is equally a fascistic language for him to threaten the judiciary that there would be chaos and anarchy in the country if he was removed as the president of Nigeria as a result of his failure to score 25% votes in Abuja as clearly stated by the law I have no idea. On the other hand, if he failed to see anything wrong with that threat, then he should examine his conscience. If gold can rust, then the iron is damned. Secondly, before the election, after he had disgraced the black race with his awful performance in the Chatham House in London Tinubu gathered his thugs there and told them: “Political power is not going to be served in a restaurant. They don’t serve it a la carte. At all cost, fight for it, grab it and run with it.” During the election, we saw and heard about those trained hooligans breaking all the electoral laws, snatching and burning ballot boxes, violently disfranchising millions of people, terrorizing people from a particular part of the country where Peter Obi comes from to ensure that they did not cast their votes, and killing people to ensure Tinubu’s *victory.* All of these and more happened in the broad daylight. But none of them was bad enough to attract the wrath of Wole Soyinka and make him to denounce the fascistic actions.
When Prof. Soyinka described Dr. Datti Ahmed as a fascist, I wrote an article, which was published in four series on the social medial with the title: *Wole Soyinka Vs Datti Ahmed: the Making of a Fascist out of a Democrat.* That article constitutes the fourth chapter of my most recent book which is expected to surface any day henceforth with the title: *Go to Court: the Dilemma of a Nation under Political Siege.* Our revered professor’s outburst in far-away South Africa that he can say categorically that Peter Obi’s party came third not even second and that the leadership of the Labour Party knew it but they want to force their lies on Nigerians has compelled me once more to disagree with the man, among few others, for whom I reserve my highest regard as far as the struggle for a better Nigeria is concerned.
My admiration for Prof. Wole Soyinka started when I was in the secondary school – St. Augustine’s Junior Seminary, Ezzangbo. We read one of his books, *The Lion and the Jewel,* for the West African School Certificate Examination. Literature and English Language were my favourite subjects in the school. Mathematics was my enemy. It made me look more stupid than I am naturally. I loved that book and everything about it. Without knowing who the author was in person, I practically transferred the love I had for his book to him, Wole Soyinka. I am still living with that love because he is great by all means. And his greatness, which keeps reverberating in every nook and cranny of the globe, has gone a long way in restoring the dignity and the good opinion of the black race which were lost to our colonial and slave masters of the yesteryears.
Nevertheless, the silence of this great man over the atrocities committed by Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his cohorts and his unbecoming utterances about Mr. Peter, Dr. Datti Ahmed and the Labour Party, have cast a big doubt in the minds of many Nigerians about him. That the world renowned winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and the Pride of the entire black race could allow his support for Bola Ahmed Tinubu to make him blind to the danger that Tinubu poses for democracy in Nigeria is a national disaster. For a great man who has attained so high and so respectful a status that whatever he says virtually becomes law to descend to that level is a clear proof that Nigeria is at the crossroads. For a great man who is known to be a bulwark against injustice, corruption, dictatorship and the suppression of the people’s legitimate aspiration to play the ostrich in the face of Tinubu’s determination to deface Nigeria’s sense of right and wrong and impose the blind and ruthless law of the survival of the fittest on us should make patriotic Nigerians to weep. It calls for a sober reflection.
That a great man who, in the words of Martin Luther King Junior, has risen to the laudable height of being a Drum Major for truth, for justice, for righteousness, for good governance and for peace to have descended to the level of ignoring what the whole world knows about the February 25, 2023 presidential election to uphold Tinubu’s electoral savagery is a declaration of war against our younger generation. That an intellectual dwarf like me and many others have been compelled to summon the courage to criticize our celebrated Wole Soyinka publicly, not out of envy, hatred, mischief or recklessness, but because he has wittingly or unwittingly descended too low, is a sign that Nigeria has been thrown to the vultures. Where is the future for our children and the generations after them? Here comes Chaucer again: If gold rust, when then can iron do? Who will bail the cat?
Among other things, Soyinka’s grouse with or against Peter Obi is that his party took over the labour movement and turned it into a regional party. If my perception is anything to go by, the revered Professor simply came short of saying that Peter Obi took over the labour movement and turned it into Igbo party. That was a case of giving the dog a bad name so that it can be killed without any repercussion. Whichever way it is, it is mischievous for anybody to say that the Labour Party revolution that shook every nook and cranny of this country ended up as a regional party. The Labour Party under Mr. Peter Obi and Dr. Datti Ahmed demystified the scourge of religious intolerance and ethnic hatred which have remained Nigeria’s most devastating endemic plague. The youths of Nigeria, drawn from all walks of life, from all shades of opinion, from all the different religions and from all the different ethnic groups, put their artificial differences aside and rallied behind Peter Obi and Datti Ahmed because the duo demonstrated their deep understanding of the root causes of the problem with Nigeria and how to tackle that problem.
It defies all logic that a man who, in 1965, at the age of 31 years, invaded a radio station in Ibadan and at gunpoint stopped the announcement of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akintola as the winner of an election in his attempt to change the evil system in the politics of those days will today, at the age of 89 years, turn round to castigate the present Nigerian youths who are trying in a lawful and peaceful manner to change the same evil system that has multiplied many times, turning Nigeria into a living hell. One wonders what Soyinka would have said or done if any of the youths who have been clamouring for Peter Obi and truly voted for him had gone to Prof. Mahmood Yakubu before he clandestinely announced that Tinubu won the presidential election and, with a gun stuck to his head, compelled him to announce that Peter Obi truly won the election.
Born on July 13, 1934, Wole Soyinka is now 89 years old. He has reached the summit of his achievement and fame, the fame that has made all of us proud because he attained it on merit. He can well fit into the following stupendous tribute given to Nelson Mandela some years back by former President Bill Clinton: “Every time Nelson Mandela walks into a room we all feel a little bigger, we all want to stand up, we all want to cheer, because we would like to be him on our best of day.” As far as the achievement of one’s life ambition is concerned, it will not be an overstatement to say that every Nigerian would love to be Wole Soyinka on his/her best of day. On the other hand, Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s date of birth is as mysterious as every other information about him. He claims to be 71 years old this year. But by mere looking at him, it is obvious that he cannot be less than 85 years old. That apart, he has got more money than he needs to remain human, the money he allegedly got by hook and by crook. What more do both of them want? Why must these two grandfathers team up to constitute a stumbling block to the present generation of Nigerian youths? Since they certainly have fewer years to spend here on earth than the younger generation, do they want to destroy Nigeria and go only to leave the youths permanently stranded? The world is watching.
*To Be Continued in part 2*