Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has condemned what he described as crudity and vulgar abuse of language that has dominated the electioneering campaigns in the country and blamed the presidency as the major culprit.
Professor Soyinka, who spoke yesterday in Lagos at the public presentation of a book titled “Modern and Tradition Elite in the Politics of Lagos” written by Ambassador Patrick Dele Cole also dismissed former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s book, “My Watch”, as “three tonnes of doctored and self-serving narratives”, concluding that, “a little learning is a dangerous thing.”
According to Professor Soyinka, what the current political actors have done is to take Nigeria to “hitherto imaginable low in the art of public persuasion which – we have a right to imagine – forms the foundation of political life.”
He said never before had Nigerians been so subjected to what he called “sheer venom, crudity and vulgar abuse of language in such prodigal quantities as in this current political exercise”, and accused the Presidency of being “at the centre of this uncultured art of political persuasion”.
His words: “All of us here have passed through the electoral process furnace before now and I suspect we would mostly agree that never before have we been subjected to this level of sheer venom, crudity of and vulgar abuse of language in such prodigal quantities as in this current political exercise.
“The very gift of communication, considered the distinguishing mark of cultured humanity even in polemical situations, has been debased, affecting even thought processes, I often suspect. Speaking as objectively as is possible in such circumstances, I would say that, among the various camps, the most reckless and indecorous has sadly proved the incumbency camp, where restraint has been thrown to the wind with such abandon that even highly privileged spouses have publicly urged supporters to stone any voices raised in opposition to their cause.”
Criticising Chief Obasanjo’s book, “My Watch” he descred it as “three tonnes of doctored and self-serving narratives”.
He, therefore, tasked Dr Dele Cole, who was a former adviser to the former president, to give Obasanjo tutorial on how to write history.
Soyinka further asked Cole to investigate alleged allegations that the Presidency was training some 1000 snipers and write about it. He argued that there were more political murders during the former president’s reign than at any other time, noting that even during Gen. Sani Abacha’s time, he could not boast of 1000 snipers at his disposal.
Soyinka also cautioned Cole for denigrating African religions by calling the practitioners as ‘pagan’ in his book and warned, “any more of that condescending stuff and I shall invoke Ogun, Sango and other Yoruba deities to pay you a re-educational visit and then you‘ll see whether your Christian eponymous patron saint, Saint Patrick, can save you from their corrective can for your profanity.”
Chairman, Editorial Board of The Guardian, Prof. Wale Omole praised Prof. Soyinka for doing a “content-analysis of the book” through the review while asking other book reviewers to take a cue from that formula.
In his review titled “Learning From Yesterday”, Professor Soyinka commended the author, for his efforts which made it possible to “weed out the pretenders in our own time and evaluate the contributions of genuine leaders to the very formulation of both our collective and individual identities such as Herbert Macaulay and Henry Carr, who are captured in Cole’s book.
“Perhaps, the most memorable personae in this work, for instance, are two pivotal figures in the Nigerian nationalist struggle, even though convergence from two contrasting personalities and ideological tendencies, and who emerge as crucial protagonists and luminaries of this history in the making.
It is impossible to think of either without invoking possibilities of what other directions a colonial Nigeria could have taken without the emergence of one or both – I refer here to the flamboyant and tempestuous Herbert Macaulay, and the more reserved, erudite and conservative Henry Carr – rivals, yet collaborators”, he said
The author, in his remarks said, “I have pretensions of being an academic at some point and I was teaching. The book that you have in front of you is, in actual fact, my thesis for my Ph.D in the University of Cambridge. I wrote it in 1974. The thesis itself was presented in 1969. But as Prof. Soyinka has pointed out, nothing much has changed. The only thing that has changed is my singular failure to be able to educate some Egba people on how to write properly.
”And the coming together of the three main classes i.e. the tradition, the then elite, and the educated others… these three groups came together to insist that even the British subject should be treated accordingly. I am glad that Prof. Soyinka had pointed out the highlights. The judiciary had been messing up, and they would continue to do so unless there is change. I will urge you to read the book. Though it is an academic work, but there are quite some interesting moments.