Soyinka Lied: Rust Isn’t Ripeness
By Nduka Uzuakpundu
In a lucent case of a stubbornly opaque, intentional fallacy, Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, still talks and writes to the effect that the ripest fruit is, after all, not the saddest. One grants that, at eighty, Soyinka – the literary giant – is constitutionally entitled to say, within the limits of decency and honesty, his say. One grants, besides, that Soyinka’s famously, visible silver hair, is, indeed, a sign of wisdom and mental alertness; the one of a quill whose mind and brain are still stubbornly whet. And so, far from being ripe and sad, Soyinka is stubbornly green. Those who may disagree with Soyinka would point, for political reason, to the second coming of street-wise, ruggedly bent and mercurial Mr. Ayodele Fayose, the standard-bearer of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) as the governor of Ekiti State. By his stunning victory on June 21, 2014, Fayose seems to be telling Soyinka, rather stubbornly, that “in vain” his impeachment, many fulgent moons and destructive deluge ago, by political thugs and dirty pigs who were, shamelessly, Baba’s errand boys. Soyinka, in his perspicacious best, argues that Fayose’s second coming, was prophesied by Brother Jero, is quite heartening for some reasons.
The first is that it was Soyinka’s sometimes wily, sometimes nakedly ambitious, with devious intents, creation – Brother Jero – that prophesied Fayose’s second coming. Therefore, Soyinka thinks he can predict, correctly, who’ll succeed Fayose. The second reason is that, for Soyinka, Fayose is a solid representation of political rascality, tenacity, ruggedness, unbendingness and, more than anything else, constructive and much-applauded political stubbornness – a la Uncle Kongi. There is a third reason, and it is this: Fayose – as Soyinka told some of his closest associates, including Professor Femi Osofisan, a playwright, and Mr. Odia Ofeimum, alias Shakespearian Cinna – eighty minutes after Fayose was declared the winner of Ekiti gubernatorial race – is a promising, welcome addition to the class of the politically-stubborn in Nigeria’s Fourth Republic. And so, somewhat unwittingly, both Soyinka’s opaque quill and Brother Jero were instrumental in fashioning, Fayose, who now promises to be, for the foreseeable future, a stubbornly recurring, influential decimal in Ekiti politics; in vain any malicious intent to impeach him, for the second time.
Soyinka is visibly sad, though, that a politically-stubborn Fayose is not a top member of the Progressive Front for People’s Federation (PFPF). Were governor-designate Fayose an operative of the PFPF, Soyinka, Osofisan and Ofeimun calculate that his victory would have had a distinguished, long-lasting shift in the paradigm of the politics of the South-West. Fayose, as a PFPF governor, Soyinka thinks, would have signalled a stubborn intention of a squad of exceptionally gifted, wild, revolutionary pigs – about 1,934 of them, all frighteningly armed with machine guns and AK-95 rifles – to invade and occupy all radio stations, seats of government and legislative houses in the South-West in 2015. In the course of all that, the lawless pigs would demolish every newspaper house, harass supposedly stubborn journalists and, in extreme instances, such journalists, who think they know too much, would be shackled and held for, at least 1,934 seconds in Tartarus, in obedience to orders from above. In that event, Soyinka told Osofisan and Ofeimun, rather cooingly, “our gloriously peaceful party would have been transformed to Progressive Pig-head Front for Pigs Federation (PPFPF)”. Sad, indeed, that all that sounds poetically in vain. Sad, still, that a reverent Fayose has sent a text message to Soyinka to the effect that he would have no business with the apostles of conservative, cerebral politics – as opposed to politics of rascality and “service to the good people of Ekiti state who voted for me”. Quote he: “Nigeria is not ripe – as ripe as the opaque quill at four score – for a brand of politics that would be skippered solely by a literary titan; the kind of opaque politics that would be played in the image and likeness of a certain lawless idiot who prides himself – with a stubborn touch – in invading and occupying radio stations like an exceptionally gifted, wild revolutionary pig, so that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) would be held, in a stubbornly firm leash, from announcing false gubernatorial election results.” And, if one may ask, what is Soyinka’s business with an electoral body that elects to announce false election results? Why is Soyinka so morbidly obsessed with electoral rectitude? Besides, can he win cleanly in his ward, in Abeokuta – in the event of an energy-sapping race for the chairman of his local government? Truth is that Soyinka is so unpopular in his over-crowded ward that he’s sure to lose, abysmally, in such a race – even if decides to snatch the ballot box in an unconstitutional and criminal attempt to rig the vote. And given the character that Soyinka is, he’s the kind that would go to the Electoral Tribunal – in the company of Osofisan and Ofeimun – to contest the results of the ward election all because he, too, wants to be the honourable chairman of a local government.
Besides, Fayose does not, for now, intend to associate with Soyinka and the reason is this: Nigeria, according to him, is not ripe for the politic of deafening, opaque rhymes and rhythms, assonance and alliteration, opaque literary style and classical lines; the politics of opaque odes, prize-winning plays and dramatis personae – including vampires and false prophets; the politics of opaque novels, quatorzains and quatrains, iambic pentameter and octometer; opaque sonnets – a la the original W.S – and opaque oeuvre; the opaque politics of a stubborn insistence that Kiswahili should, peremptorily, be adopted as Africa’s lingua franca; the politics of opaque rejection of national honours, punic faith and carpet-crossing; the politics of fake, opaque poetic license; the opaque politics of someone, who, for very strong moral reason, was opposed the genocide against the Igbo people in the Republic of Biafra and the politics of an opaque skull that, more than forty years on, has been curiously shrouded by a dense taiga. Fayose says Soyinka is too opaque for his liking and that he’s less comfortable with the stubbornness and hairless ambition that ring Soyinka’s design to smuggle into the dictionary of Nigerian politics what is clearly a forcefully-contrived, unimpressive cluster of alliterations – as in PFPF. If Soyinka, the opaque neologist, becomes the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, on the platform of the PFPF, he would gladly smuggle what he considers his best literary invention – “soy ink” – into the same political dictionary exquisitely compiled and edited by Osofisan and Ofeimun. In the same dictionary, Fayose would be defined as a person who quarrels with and fights anyone who proves openly irreverent to royalty; a spring of political surprise and electoral upset; a beguiling baby face. For obvious space reason, Soyinka would be defined, appositely, thus: solitary confinement; a stubborn fidus Achates of the African National Congress (ANC) of South Africa; a future president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, who may nullify a popular election – as did the late Leabua Jonathan of the Southern African exclave of Lesotho, in January 1970; a conscientious political animal, who campaigns for the constitutional rights of pigs; a future leader of Nigeria who’d order electricity companies to distribute free electricity to every home every July 13; a president who may send parcel bomb to any journalist who proves too vociferously censorious of his government; a president who would surely gag the press by bringing back, through the back door, Decree No.4; a breaker of the Senate’s mace; a smuggler of toy guns into the sacred chamber of the National Assembly.
The fourth reason for Soyinka’s fixed, broad smile, since Fayose’s stunning electoral victory is this: “it happened on the eve of my birthday,” he told some of his friends recently. “Fayose’s victory, to me, is like a surprisingly, wonderful birthday gift. Fayose has proved that it pays, exceedingly, to be politically stubborn. I hope to be in Ado-Ekiti on October 16, 2014, when he’d be sworn in, to congratulate him.”
Soyinka is immeasurably happy with Fayose for fashioning out a political situation – one with poetic a ring to it – in which an in-coming governor whose surname begins with an “F” will be taking over from an out-going one whose surname also begins with an “F”. Fayose’s second coming reminds Soyinka of the late educationist, Mazi Alvan Ikoku, who, after losing an election to his son, who was popularly known as “S.G”, said he never knew that there was an ample room in Nigerian politics for those who were genuinely rascally.
At eighty, Soyinka is an appealing representation of the poet’s metaphorical object concerning the mysteriously seamless proximity of life and death: a ripe fruit. And yet, it’s no less true that the green, guarding and guiding fruit, long produced by a wild Christian tree, is still waxing, inexorably, hard, in defiance of his favourite subject. He’s more of a great, great, grand-father of a people opposed to corruption, impunity, inexplicable brutality by agents of the state, impoverishment of a majority of Nigerians, soaring youth unemployment and unbridled looting of the country’s brimming treasury. Soyinka seats in a position well befitting an imperial majesty, telling his biological and literary off spring – as would a sire in his twilight years – what is expected of them for the betterment of society. If Soyinka is, today, not the poet’s saddest fruit, it’s understandable: he’s lived a fruitful life. He’s a unique, politically-enterprising quill. He’s a bundle of some political stubbornness that anyone who’s genuinely desirous of Nigeria’s unity, fair distribution of her vast financial resources and more rapid development, than is currently the case, should associate with.
Soyinka, one suspects, is far from happy that the forced exit of Republic of Biafra was the product of international conspiracy. He’s gratified, though, that, in place of being held in solitary confinement, he was allowed to circulate, unrestrainedly, such that he attended the funeral of Dim Chukwemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu – the leader of the Republic of Biafra. On that occasion, it’s on record, Soyinka delivered his finest, opaque epicedium.
But because of the peculiar constitution and conflicting tastes of the Nigerian society, Soyinka ought to be celebrated at all tiers of government for his contributory, heroic struggle, which made possible the birth of the Fourth Republic. Soyinka is surprisingly sprightly as an octogenarian. For such sprightliness, it may be asked: where‘s rust and ripeness? Do they – as contra-distinctive representatives of the fixed, numerous pigmentations of life’s nearest, if mysteriously faceless, neighbour – lie elsewhere, in deference to the titan in Soyinka? Still, it’s as if he has been in a stubborn controversy with each year that has lapsed, since his most glorious moment in Oslo – when he conquered the literary Everest. Many thanks, he once told this writer, to Jesus Iscariot for standing faithfully by him. It’s no less many thanks to the same Jesus Iscariot that all the serpentine, treacherous roads that Soyinka has travelled since his adventurous days as an implacable enemy of press freedom – as demonstrated by his failed attempt to gag the mike – were not famished! While the man who was held behind rusty bars, for some debts unpaid, has long died, Soyinka soldiers on. What’s the magic? For his sprightliness, Soyinka is a sure gold medalist in a marathon race that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is rumoured to organise for Nobel Prize winners on July 13, 2015. After the race it would be said, in fulfilment of the prophecy according to Brother Jero, that Soyinka – the Pheidepedes of the 21st Century – actually cheated in the Leeds marathon race, which he won in a record time of 2.19.34 hours, by using banned, opaque steroid – a la Lance Armstrong. Soyinka would not only be compelled to return his gold medal, he would also be dragged to the World-Anti Doping Agency (WADA) for appropriate punishment.
And yet, as a crushing majority of Nigerians felicitate with Soyinka, praying that may he, in Christ’s name, remain unripe, in the next two decades, only one man – ex-petroleum and education minister, Professor Jubril Aminu – thinks differently. Said he: “There’s nothing to celebrate about Soyinka scaling the Biblical three score and ten. Soyinka is a bundle of political rascality and directionless meddlesomeness”. Aminu told this writer that, not so long ago, Soyinka, it was, who went about telling lies in North America, the European Union and Russia that he was killing harmless pigs and their Christian owners in the north of the country – in a manner reminiscent of the carnage that led to the Biafra war. Soyinka, he said, was the one who went to The Hague and lied that “my campaign against pigs, which was for health reason, was akin to a crime against humanity and for which I should be kidnapped and smuggled to The Hague for trial.
Soyinka should consider himself lucky that he’s in circulation today to celebrate his birthday. Well before now, there was a plan to kidnap and keep him in solitary confinement in a sty for his many sins against innocent ewes and sows, amongst which was slaughtering and consuming them like a lion that he claims he is. And that’s the same Soyinka whose utmost ambition is to be Nigeria’s second president of South-West extraction; a president that will spend his days at the Presidential Villa devouring pigs without gastronomic options. May I request that you go to Soyinka’s house, which is located at a squalid and irritatingly noisy area of Abeokuta and tell him that he should bear in mind that Nigeria is not ready to have an unrepentant enemy of innocent pigs as a tenant at Aso Rock. Tell Soyinka, besides, that he should call as many as eighty barbers to clear the opaque forest he spots. This is because such barbers have a constitutional right to feed fat from his rich purse. Soyinka is eminently qualified to be the president of PEN International, not Nigeria”. Aminu concluded by saying that, at eighty, Soyinka is the oldest and most notorious pig that has ever lived.
•Uzuakpundu is a Lagos-based journalist.