Obasanjo 3 Soyinka 0

Obasanjo 3 Soyinka 0

Obasanjo 3 Soyinka 0

The bickering between Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka and ex-President Gen Olusegun Obasanjo (Rtd) continues. Sometimes simmering, sometimes crackling, it will never cease. There is no love lost between the two men. Obasanjo is the hedgehog and Soyinka is the fox if one uses Isaiah Berlin’s understanding of great characters. However, the bickering in question is over the contents of the memoir “My Watch” by Obasanjo, which has seen Soyinka caught out with a hat trick; Obasanjo 3 Soyinka 0!


The bickering is accusations of lies cast between both men’ Soyinka a Pyrate and Obasanjo a Kegite. When an artist lies, it is because he is corrupt, the value of the artist is in his or her incorruptibility and their sincerity to their art. When a politician lies, he is just doing his job. We find the value of a politician in his or her election victories. And the success of the policies they espouse. Both Soyinka and Obasanjo know this.

Calling a politician a liar is a futile exercise and such a claim, if proven, would not change any reality. Calling an artist a liar is an assault. And, if proven, will bring his or her art into question. Wole Soyinka lost that one.

Obasanjo is wicked to suggest Soyinka is Nigeria’s leading ‘connoisseur’ of wine. It is a sheer wicked tongue lashing. Such is bad for a man like Soyinka who assiduously wants to be the face of all things decent in Nigeria. To be reduced as an expert on a highly thought of European alcoholic beverage that is neither made nor widely appreciated in Nigeria. This is tantamount to what the Americans would call an “Uncle Tom.” Or South Asians would call a “Brown Sahib”. Taken further, it tells of a man who has no place on the ground in Nigeria. But lives in a European make-belief land superimposed on the Nigerian experience.

Hunting quail is not a Nigerian aristocratic sport or pastime. We firmly associate hunting too with privilege and aristocracies in Europe and the Americas. Hunting is for the poor in Nigeria is a means “killing meat,” for subsistence survival. So when Obasanjo says Soyinka is good at quail hunting again, it is a jab. His way of “Wole, you are so out of touch with the Nigerian reality”. But Obasanjo does not want to wake Wole up. Wole Soyinka lost that one too.

As for Wole Soyinka being a political illiterate, I seriously doubt it. At least, he has ambitions to be the president of Nigeria. Obasanjo won two general elections. The party Soyinka leads is or was the Democratic Front for a People’s Federation. A customarily right-wing name for a progressive’s party was not too good a nomenclature. Soyinka should have found a better name for the party. The man is a master of the English language! Let us not even go into the fortunes of the political party that would have made Wole Soyinka President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Calling Obasanjo an ‘economic illiterate’ is weak. Love him or hate him. Obasanjo is a neoliberal. Most Nigerian economists do not agree with neoliberalism. However, it is the dominant economic paradigm today in the world. And as a military leader, Obasanjo was an African pioneer in embracing its policies. Any man or woman who has been head of state of a country for several years becomes a de facto economist in his or her own right. Well, since the political economy becomes his central governance domain. Calling Obasanjo an economic illiterate because some professor he disagreed with said so is so weak. Wole Soyinka once again lost that one, too.

We may appreciate that Obasanjo is an intelligent man and was an exemplary student. In his WAEC, he achieved aggregate six (scored over 70 or 75 per cent in his best six subjects). Unconfirmed reports tell of an Obasanjo who was a ‘straight A’ student at every level he engaged. What if Obasanjo had gone into academia and not the military? He would have easily made professor and would have still been a good politician. Some may dismiss such as mere counterfactuals, but it nicely adds up. Wole Soyinka’s genius and works need no re-introduction. But he wrote My Watch, a good book, too.

Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s most famous intellectual, can live with a lashing from Obasanjo in a thrilling and famous ‘battle of wits’. After all, Obasanjo training in the army include strategy and tactics. Wole Soyinka is a master of self-reinvention and showmanship and would love the ‘moment’ abundantly.

For now it is not a 1  – 1 goalless draw outcome. It is Obasanjo 3 Soyinka 0.

Grimot Nane

Leave a Reply