May 14, 2019

Soyinka pays tributes to Leah, compares her to Mandela

Virtual celebrations for Soyinka @ 86 today

Wole Soyinka

By Sam Eyoboka

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has lambasted the United States for the delay in designating Boko Haram a terror group, paying glowing tributes to Leah Sharibu in an ode to Leah and Chibok girls.

hardtalk, Wole Soyinka

Festival consultant Professor Wole Soyinka delivers a speech during the opening of the fourth edition of African drum festival at the Abeokuta city centre amphitheatre in Ogun State, southwest Nigeria, on April 25, 2019. – The fourth edition of African drum festival with theme “Drumming for Futureî has opened with international workshops by culture scholars and performances by troupes from various regions across the world in Abeokuta, southwest Nigeria. (Photo AFP)

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Soyinka, who spoke at Georgetown University, Washington, also likened Leah Sharibu to iconic human rights champion, the late Dr. Nelson Mandela of South Africa.

“We must celebrate the exception who said ‘no’ as it reminded me of Mandela who refused conditional release,” Soyinka said.

Reciting the ode, entitled Mandela comes to Leah, Soyinka said: “Faith is not of compulsion…her torch undimmed in the den of zealots.”

Professor Soyinka said he could only recite excerpts from the ode because he broke down the last time he had tried to read it, even as he did an epic takedown of a Georgetown professor’s claim that poverty and desperation were behind Boko Haram.

According to Soyinka, it was rather ideological bordering on the meta-physical and “we should not underestimate it.”

“We’re dealing with something much deeper,” he said and recalled the son of a former Chief Justice of Nigeria who was upper middle class, but who disappeared with his family to join ISIS abroad.

According to him, “there’s a will to deny the possibility of horror and evil. We have reached a point where we have to go beyond the material analysis of this phenomenon. It goes beyond poverty and marginalisation. The ideology of sheer morbidity.”

Soyinka deplored the 20 American intellectuals who wrote, protesting the proposal to designate Boko Haram as a foreign terrorist organisation, FTO, pointing out it would interfere with their “scholarly research”.

“It took my breath away. Some were my friends, (but) there they were in all seriousness simply because they had a very wrong analytical approach to this problem.

“We must simply jettison the language of political correctness. Political correctness is turning African continent into the graveyard of freedom and liberty if we don’t call things by their proper names.

“We’re dealing now with the toxin of power which barely manifests itself under the cloak of religion.”

Also on the panel with Soyinka was the ambassador who belatedly announced Obama’s decision to designate Boko Haram as an FTO as then top US diplomat for Africa, Assistant Secretary of State, Linda Greenfield.

Greenfield pleaded impotency in responding to the Chibok abductions due to denials by many as to what happened, which she said was her biggest challenge.

“I had this feeling of impotency— a superpower who couldn’t do anything…I still feel it…there’s no more frustration to be in and I felt frustrated,” Soyinka quoted her as saying.

She also mentioned a recent attack in Nigeria where girls were taken the previous week.

Greenfield paid tribute to some of the girls whom she had met as being strong, saying she was traumatised just watching the drama “Chibok: Our Story” which preceded the panel discussion.