Soyinka And Trump’s Illegitimate Kids, By Louis Odion
This must be a depressing hour indeed for the man who “fashioned the drama of existence” and first black Nobel prize winner in Literature, Professor Wole Soyinka. A comment uttered in what could only be a protest against the willful trampling on the dignity of African immigrants and other “underdogs” has, alas, been twisted out of its moral joint and now forms the singsong of some idle parrots, the horde of little minds, barricading the social media.
Ahead of the now historic November 8 US polls, Soyinka told a gathering of students in the United Kingdom
that in the event that that loose-cannon Donald Trump won, he would not wait to be reminded before ripping his Green Card apart and evacuating the acclaimed God’s own country, his present station.
Asked again by The Interview (Nigeria’s wave-making monthly magazine), amid the widespread shockwave that trailed the news of the Republican candidate’s victory, the literary giant neither quibbled nor wavered.
But that did not seem to impress the cyber stalkers who, akin to the typical lynch mob lurking within Nigeria’s urban centres forever itching for a chance to festoon someone with a burning tyre, cannot wait to see the much esteemed octogenarian descend into the obscenity of publicly shredding what many would lie, if not die, to possess.
But this is beside the point. For me, I think the real tragedy is two-fold. For “the hysterical” not to see the Trump rise clearly as an urgent invitation to debate Nigeria’s place in a putative new world order defined by a man that can technically be certified as a mad man and, instead, be more obsessed with the banality of watching Soyinka physically tear his Green Card is very, very alarming indeed.
Second is the possibility at all that a generation of Nigerian Pharisees now exist and are so blissfully ignorant of the history of their own fatherland to, even for a drunken moment, ever doubt Soyinka’s words once the issue borders on the defense of human dignity.
So, as we can now see, it is not only America whose moral capital seems on the decline on account of Trump’s thunderous disavowal of all the lofty values the rest of the world had associated with her in the last half a century; same ethical atrophy is clearly discernible in contemporary Nigeria with the rise of youth with neither a sense of history nor a social conscience, but more conversant with even the minutest details of, say, the soccer celebrities of European soccer leagues.
If they had bothered to read and understand their nation’s history, they would not have easily forgotten that Soyinka had in the 90s cast away the coveted national honour – Commander of the Federal Republic (CFR) – medal earlier bestowed on him in 1986 by General Ibrahim Babangida in protest of the June 12 annulment and the subsequent clampdown on dissent. He later risked death in leading a global campaign against Abacha’s despotism – having actually been sentenced to death in absentia – until democracy was restored in Nigeria in 1999.
So, could anyone have forgotten so quickly the legend of “the mystery gun-man” who stormed a public radio station in 1965 and forced the presenter to play a pre-recorded statement censoring the ruling party over the perceived repression of the opposition? Again, when it was most dangerous, someone visited the Biafran enclave from the campus of University of Ibadan with a view to persuading the secessionists to return to the peace process.
For this, he was clamped into solitary confinement by the Gowon regime for more than two years. The title of his prison memoirs The Man Died was inspired by the revolutionary George Magaski, who in his own “Letter To Compatriots”, memorably declared, “The man dies in him who keeps silence in the face of tyranny.”
So, to the cowards who today luxuriate in the anonymity of the cyber space, against the aforementioned heritage of uncommon sacrifice in pursuit and defense of noble values and honour, how much weight does a mere American Green Card carry?
Today, these spoilt brats sired in philistinism, immersed in cheap intoxicants of ignorance, seem least troubled by the farrago of nasty things Trump said about vulnerable African immigrants, especially Nigerians.
But all decent people like Soyinka, who treasure their own dignity as members of the human race, should be appalled. Racial integration, though irreversibly cemented in US on account of the Obama ascendancy eight years ago, is what is invariably called to question by Trump’s tantrums.
Kongi would then seem to find it exceedingly hard continuing to inhabit a space, however alluring, where a bare-faced racist holds court. Ordinarily, given his world celebrity status, Soyinka would not have needed to beg or lie to get visa into America. His offer to rip his Green Card once the US falls under Trump’s shadow should, therefore, be properly seen as a symbolic gesture of protest on behalf of his nameless compatriots among other vulnerable categories about to be meted undeserved humiliation.
Now, as the rest of the world braces for an uncertain future, it is most logical that we first attempt to locate the trigger to the present meltdown. A prophesy, made two decades ago by Samuel Huntington in his seminal book, The Clash of Civilisations, on the perils of globalisation is coming to pass with chilling accuracy.
Obsession, as he put it, of the triumphalist West, upon the collapse of the old Soviet Union and the socialist/communist tradition in China and elsewhere, to export and implant its cultures and values around the universe with little or no regard for local sensibilities in other civilisations, meant the battlefield would inevitably shift from old geographical borders to the temples of faith and the shrines of ethnic nationalism.
As a corollary to Brexit which shook Europe four months ago, Trump’s triumph was undoubtedly fueled by the rising tide of ethnic nationalism. The hell-raising far-right rabble are also already out in Hungary, Poland, France and Germany, baying for blood. The aborigines of affluent Western nations are simply no longer willing to accept massive immigration into their countries as part of the price for globalisation. Hence, the new battle cry – “Lets Take back our country!”
But the great paradox is that it is all a self-inflicted pain. There is no way the immigration flood largely from Syria recorded at the borders of recognisable western nations in the past two years can be isolated from the miscalculations a decade-and-a-half earlier by the allied powers with the frenzy of “regime change” after September 11 in 2001. For instance, rogue Saddam Hussein was hurriedly uprooted from Iraq in 2003 in pursuit of a phantom weapon of mass destruction (WMD) without a coherent contingency plan to manage the aftermath in the highly combustible Middle East.
Eight years later, the social media, a powerful tool brought by globalisation, helped stoke the fire of the Arab Spring which paved the way for eccentric Muammar Ghaddafi – a stabilising influential North Africa and parts of the Arab world – to be bludgeoned to death on the street of Tripoli.
In neighbouring Syria, Bashar Assad has managed to survive the Arab Spring for six years, but at a horrific human toll.
Now, the lethal arsenal Ghaddafi left behind has been harvested by Hussein’s demobilised fighters who form the core of ISIS, which straddles a chunk of Iraq and a swath of Syria.
What then seems utterly insufferable to Soyinka and other men and women of conscience around the world today is the unwillingness of the resurgent nativists as privileged members of the western establishment to accept that intolerance from the outset of others’ values and faiths is at the root of the moral crisis that has engulfed the world community in the past decade, of which Donald Trump is the latest mutation.
Of the tonnes of messages that have been pouring into the iconic Trump Towers since Donald Trump trumped Hillary Clinton last week, that of former Nigerian president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, sounded most ludicrous, if not self-ridiculing. On the heels of President Buhari, OBJ penned his “readiness to work with” the man who takes over from President Barack Obama on January 20, 2017.
While no one can deny the Ota chicken farmer his right to hustle for photo op with Trump, the man of the moment, he however urgently needs to be forewarned on the perils of gatecrashing the procession of genuine statesmen and truly democratic voices. If one may ask: in what capacity was OBJ issuing his sour message – “Co-President” or “emeritus President of Nigeria”? Or, as “President of West Africa or Africa?” Or is he the new “Mandela of Africa”?
There must be a limit to provincial hubris, this shameless groveling before the new man of power in the US.
Read what Trump once said of African leaders: “It is shameful for African leaders to seek exit from ICC. In my view, these leaders want to have all the freedom to oppress their poor people without anyone asking them a question. I think there is no shortcut to maturity and in my view, Africa should be recolonised because Africans are still under slavery.
“Look at how those African leaders change constitutions in their favour so that they can be life presidents. They are all greedy and do not care about the common people.”
Now, before he carries his circus to the United States at the earliest opportunity, not minding the risk of getting “deported”, OBJ needs be reminded that when Trump railed against “rogue leaders” in Africa who have mismanaged their countries, he could not be referring to anyone outside the circle where the Balogun of Owu is accorded a front-row seat.
Rather than seeking to rejoice more than the Trump family at this hour, people like OBJ ought to hide their heads in shame that they, despite golden opportunities and abundant resources, had failed over the years to transform Africa to a livable place, such that their people had to migrate en mass in search of greener pasture, willingly accepting enslaving jobs and now risking being deported back home with ignominy.
Trump might look ugly; but the world is now left to live with that monstrosity as a product of the American institutions outlined by the constitution. But in Nigeria, someone attempted to pee on our own constitution between 2005 and 2006 by trying to rig a “third term”.
Following that misadventure, he supervised a sham presidential election in 2007, so brazen in breath, so shallow in depth, that the beneficiary, the eventual custodian of the stolen victory, could not but admit later that something was just not right.
Sadly, these are the squalid credentials OBJ flaunts today in seeking to “work with” Trump.
Dasuki: The Ghost of 1986
Doubtless, deposed Sokoto sultan, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, died heartbroken on Monday. Not that his age 93 was not ripe enough, but the thought of not having by his side as he was gradually moving towards drawing his last breath, arguably his most illustrious son – though now a discredited former National Security Adviser – Sambo Dasuki, must have been hurtful indeed.
But there is something about the august transition of last Monday that eerily evokes the dark memories of 1986. Then freshly overthrown, General Muhammadu Buhari was being held in solitary confinement in Benin City by erstwhile Army chief, General Ibrahim Babangida. In that new dispensation, Sambo Dasuki was an influential player.
Soon, Buhari lost his aged mother. Against the instinctive dictates of human compassion and all entreaties from members of the public, IBB coldly refused to allow his erstwhile comrade freedom, even if temporary, to pay last respects to his mother before her remains were lowered in their native Daura.
Thirty years on, the junior Dasuki found himself in the difficult shoes earlier forced on Buhari. Expectations that he would attend his dad’s funeral Tuesday, even if on temporary freedom, turned out fruitless. Well, no one is saying Dasuki’s sins (including the alleged theft of a staggering $15 billion) are not weighty enough. Those who had made such plea only acted out of a sense of compassion.
However, it is comforting to hear that the bereaved actually turned down an offer to be by his dad’s deathbed and another to be taken home throughout the mourning period.
According to the Interior Minister, Lt. General Abdulrahman Dambazau (rtd), the junior Dasuki on both occasions declined, preferring to pray in detention for his late dad.
If true, by that singular gesture, Buhari would have, in no small measure, shown a sense of humanity deeper than that of his jailers thirty years ago. Assuming the law of the nation had forbidden that, there must be a space in natural law that allows such.
An eye for an eye, as Mahatma Gandhi told us, only makes the world go blind.
Louis Odion is a Fellow of the Nigerian Guild of Editors (FNGE).