By Osa Mbonu-Amadi
Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka’s 8th intervention series, Quis Custodiet Ipsos Custodes? (Who keeps watch over the watchman?) Gani’s Unfinished Business is published to address the lies, sins, maligning, and provocations of former president Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo against him, Gani Fawehmi, Femi Falana, and others.
The book was launched last Thursday, August 2 at the Freedom Park, Lagos. It was also a forum which Soyinka used to warn Nigerians to be wary of Obasanjo:
“Obasanjo is not a stupid man,” Soyinka told the audience. “He reads the wind; he tests the wind, and then swoops in. I didn’t even know this before (but when I did) I said this man is about to hijack an existing movement; it’s just been confirmed. And I am warning the people to watch this man. He knows how to hijack. Don’t let it happen again.”
Amongst various other issues, Professor Wole Soyinka minced no words in accusing Obasanjo of building his Presidential Library in Abeaokuta with fraud: “That structure in Abeokuta remains a moral eyesore….When we were school pulpils, one of our illustrated reading texts was one titled: This is the house that Jack built. Today, and forevermore, generations will point to that thing which I have daubed the Presidential Laundromat and say: This is the house that Fraud built.”
One pertinent question, and to which not a few among the audience identified with was asked by Seun Okinbaloye of Channels TV. “Obasanjo appears to have the good fortune or sense to stand on the good side of history….. About the open letters he wrote to Buhari, a lot of people have said, ‘look, take away the messenger and look (dispassionately) at the message.’ Are you afraid that this time again, Obasanjo is going to be on the good side of political history?
To that heavy-laden question, Soyinka replied: “I don’t understand that question at all. I agreed to give this lecture in memory of Gani Fawehimi, and I chose this title because of a certain provocation that this man we are talking about, in a 3-volume biography of his life; all his achievement, he took time, and said that Wole Soyinka said to a young man that he does what he does only to make sure he is not outshone by his colleagues in the struggle.
Could any title be more appropriate; could any topic be more appropriate, on a memorial occasion of one or two of the 3 rival activists? It struck to me as singularly appropriate moment to choose that title and in the process, address a 3-volume compilation of what I consider lies, mostly.
“He (Obasanjo) fought Gani Fawehimin. He maligned Femi Falana. He fought me. He maligned me. What other topic would be suitable on an occasion honoring one of the three of all criminals. It is a very small pamphlet in response to that, but taking into consideration also the possibility that this man might come back to mislead the people once again.
And when you talk about predicting Jonathan’s fall, it is not by any effort of Obasanjo that I am aware. Obasanjo is not a stupid man. He reads the wind; he tests the wind, and then swoops in. I didn’t even know this before (but when I did) I said this man is about to hijack an existing movement; it has just been confirmed. And I am warning the people to watch this man. He knows how to hijack. Don’t let it happen again.
Professor Wole Soyinka however, gave it to Obasanjo, saying he is free to form a political party to oppose anybody or promote anything if he wants, “but I will not be what I am, or who I am if I watch the (tissues) of life being spurned (without saying anything).”
He accused obasanjo of playing roles to truncate the actualization of June 12. Soyinka also said Obasanjo is welcome if he wants to reform himself: “And I think the process has begun. In this book I said: “Get thee to a monastery. May be he has taken good advice, that’s why he has appeared in the robe of a monk’.
I don’t give up on him. And believe you me; you will be astonished how often I have wished him well when he recently inaugurated his Presidential Library. I was all ready to go and celebrate with him. At last moment I said, ‘If I show my presence (there) this man will annoy me physically. He will make some outrageous statement to which I will have to reply.
And at the last moment I decided to leave him alone to enjoy his (day), and I wrote him a letter and said: ‘when you are celebrating something uncomplicated; a real achievement of your own, I will be there. Ask him, he will show you the letter.
“Instead of just accepting my letter, he started abusing me again, saying that I deprived him with grammar of the Secretary Generalship of the world. I thought I was saving the world from perdition, and he was thinking of his own personal ambition. What more can a man do?”
Soyinka lashes out at Buhari too
Neither did the Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka spare President Muhammadu Buahri and his APC government. “It has become essential,” Soyinka told the audience and the press, “that grounds be cleared to pave way for a new generation of rulers in this nation, but that the former President, Dr. Olusegun Obasanjo should not be allowed to lead or hijack any movement organized for the purpose such intervention. Asked whether he has had “moments of doubts, alarms and repulse about Nigeria lately, Soyinka replied:
“Oh yes, frequently, all of the above, and more. Even now, I have clearer grievous act of mis-governance around us under this regime. Errors and forced errors all which I consider being stupid; failures to secure lives, language of self excusing, which we condemn; which have condemned in the past, but now are resurfacing all over again; the glossing over degrees of intolerable bloodshed, as if it is just a casual event happening by accident; failure to exert authority when and immediately as due which has led to the escalation of killings of impunity right, left and centre, and one police commissioner calls it communal clashes.”
The Nobel Laureate decried what he described as present cheapening of life of Nigerians: “There’s a cheapening of life. The value of life in the last one year or so is such that we have not witnessed for a very long time. This is why it has become essential that we all do a lot of ground clearing to pave the way for a new generation of rulers in this nation.
“To make sure that in the process we don’t go back to what we are getting ourselves out of: one of the most unconscionable act we can be held guilty by coming generation. Between now and 2019, an opportunity still exists that can be reformed; there can be total overturn, whatever it takes to secure the nation and give us a new sense of dignity.”
Asked whether Obasanjo has not done any good thing whatsoever, Soyinka said “First of all, there is no question whatsoever; I do not know any human being who has not done some good at one point or the other. It is very difficult to find one. It is just that I can’t remember one which Obasanjo has done. But we know it is there, it has got to be there.
“Some people have been going to see Obasanjo and when they leave they come to see me in Abeokuta and we discuss. And that is why I am incensed that any attempt to hijack possible movement; and I have seen that attempted hijack take place. At the beginning for instance the first group that came out was Agbakoba’s intervention group in which Oby Ezekwsili was a member.
And the next thing I hear; the same terminology that was used before was “Ota”, and I said, what on earth is going on? Why can’t young, new blood be allowed to do this without (Obasanjo)?. Present at the event were JP Clark, Sam Omaseye, Kunle Ajibade, Human Rights lawyer, Femi Falana and other dignitaries.