Soyinka: Enough Of The Hubris!
By Kennedy Emetulu
In all honesty, I’m getting quite pissed with all this attempt at beatifying Professor Wole Soyinka after his clearly insulting comments he’s now trying to pass off as some sagely talk. Soyinka has happily, but thoughtlessly concocted an acidic porridge of words and language to belittle, undermine and deride young people who’ve genuinely questioned his tone-deaf comment. He’s been at it for a while. I think he needs a moment of sober reflection. He needs to climb down from his Mount Olympus, discard his oracular false airs and think deeply about what’s going on with him right now. Sure, he’s our great Nobel laureate, our pride; but how many Nobel laureates in our world has he seen getting into these types of unseemly entanglements he now regularly gets into with young people whenever he opens his mouth? Not even the irascible wahala-magnet, V.S. Naipaul, was this toxic when he was alive. I wonder what Soyinka thinks his legacy would really look like with these latter-day smears on himself.
The counters against those rightfully criticizing him have been blindingly abysmal and so too, to a far lesser extent though, have been some of the counters against him. For instance, some say he went to prison for Biafra and so cannot possibly be an ethnic bigot. Some say he is only talking about Datti Baba-Ahmed’s comment that seemed to indicate he wouldn’t accept the verdict of the courts that do not favour them and so on. They defend his use of the term “fascistic” to describe Baba-Ahmed’s comment and the term “fascism” to describe the criticisms he’s receiving from the Obidients as okay, as though we have all suddenly become clueless about exactly what these words mean and what they connote as a language of politics.
Amongst those countering him, we have had some go off on a tangent making it a case of who is better between Soyinka, their new devil and Chinua Achebe, their revered hero. But this is not a literary contest between Achebe and Soyinka and it is not even a political contest. Achebe is long gone. He’s not part of this discussion. As literary persons, both were not in competition as they are masters of different genres where both did well and received national and international acclaim. As regards politics, Achebe was not a politician or a political activist by any stretch of the imagination. Though he did recognize the moral burden he carried as a writer and social conscience, he was a very private man who once in a while voiced his incandescent opinion in a manner compelling authority. The most political we had ever seen him was when he was talking Biafra – views he’s expressed in There Was A Country.
Please, you all should take a rest. Soyinka was not an ethnic bigot when he dishonestly supported Muhammadu Buhari in 2015 with his atrocious attacks against Goodluck Jonathan and his wife. Some of us took him on when we realized what he was doing with an intellectual sleight of hand; but, as usual, he escaped closer scrutiny because he’s a full card-carrying member of the Nigerian sacred cow fraternity. In 2019, he was fully onboard with his new crowd. Whether he was supporting them because of his Yoruba friends led by Bola Tinubu in the leadership group of the APC or not was irrelevant. We knew that there was no elegant way for him to go back to slurp up his vomit, which he did. In 2007, he wrote a screed that vehemently condemned Buhari and any idea of him seeking to contest for a public office. But in 2015, he was asking Nigerians to forgive the same Buhari. In 2019, he was well-positioned in the high tables of his new friends who’d returned to power after stealing the election of that year and, now, in 2023, he is raising as alibi the fact he was not in the country when all he ought to raise his voice against happened. As he tried to explain it, you would think he was clamped up in a place where he couldn’t get the news or reach people in Nigeria in this 21st century.
Rather than speak earnestly about the grand atrocity we just witnessed in the name of election, Soyinka went on a selective binge against a comment made by Datti Baba-Ahmed and the conduct of some Obidients he’s using now as stereotypes. And when the world descended on him for his obvious hypocrisy, he wants to drag out Baba-Ahmed for a public debate about what is not really up for debate.
The truth is people change and Soyinka has changed. The Soyinka of the sixties and seventies had, by the eighties and nineties started changing. He had become part of the fascist military establishment lending them his credibility because they were cunningly celebrating him, especially since after he won the Nobel. He had a cover for his jaunts with them with his gig as the Federal Road Safety Corps chief under General Ibrahim Babangida. But soon Sani Abacha woke him up from his slumber on their military bed and he returned to his activist best while on the run in exile. But, that was short-lived. Once Abacha perished and Abdulsalami Abubakar harbingered the Fourth Republic, Soyinka joined his friends in power to clink crystals and enjoy the nationwide privilege of being feted by them. His children and relations got into government by appointment in the AD, ACN and APC political assembly lines. By 2014, he had been wheeled out as the intellectual juggernaut fronting for the Buhari-Tinubu group with his vicious attacks against Jonathan and his wife. Well, we got his Buhari twice and now they’re trying to force-feed us their Tinubu. Soyinka who has obviously lost his voice and moral clarity for more than a decade now has presently been reduced to the Cerberus programmed to attack those they consider threats to the establishment of a stolen Tinubu presidency. If anybody doubted where his loyalties lie, we saw him bare his teeth against his fellow confraternity members who, in exercise of their political clear-headedness, made a sarcastic commentary about Tinubu’s age and evident frailties through a song. Soyinka would have none of it! He would have no one mocking his favourite presidential candidate! That episode told Nigerians the extent he could go to protect Tinubu, his friend.
What we know is actually hidden in plain sight – Soyinka is the intellectual strongman of today’s fascists masquerading as democrats. He is using the well-worn psychological tactic of projection by describing others as fascists so as to deflect attention from himself. And I’m not saying this lightly. It’s a fact. We see it writ-large in the insult-fest of a statement he issued titled, “FASCISM ON COURSE.” The evidence litters the whole piece, but we can just take a look at two grouses of his.
“That aspirant’s alleged gaffe cuts no ice with me. Far more alarming was the grotesque fantasy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disguised as a wheelchair, zooming off in space to a secret meeting with other parties of the conflict. On its own, that is sufficiently scary.”
It’s clear what Soyinka is doing here describing as “grotesque fantasy” the genuine concerns of Nigerians who woke up to hear that the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Olukayode Ariwoola was in London at a time Tinubu was travelling to London, even though he first flew to France. Granted that the initial press reports were a little wishy-washy, but the facts undisputed are troubling enough! I mean, why the jittery headless-chicken press release made by the Supreme Court spokesperson to explain his travel? Why was it that they’re claiming he went for a medical procedure only for him to furtively return back after the reports of him being in London became public without him undergoing any medical procedure? What says he couldn’t have met with Tinubu secretly in London even as the claim was being made that Tinubu was in France? Tinubu could have left his plane in France and sneaked into London to see him! Of course, whether he did so or not is not known as a fact, but the possibility was clearly there!
Why should the Chief Justice of the nation put himself in that type of seemingly compromising situation, especially after he’s been caught publicly supporting the G5 in their fight against Atiku Abubakar when we now know the G5 were Tinubu’s agents in the PDP? Soyinka must be told that it is no “grotesque fantasy” for Nigerians who’ve lost all hope in the judiciary to smell a rat and it is not unreasonable for Datti Baba-Ahmed to insist that justice must be done, even with an underlying idea that Nigerians will not lie down and die if justice is not done. Yes, Datti Baba-Ahmed said swearing in Tinubu on May 29 without resolving the matter in court may be the end of democracy in Nigeria, but, really, democracy is on its deathbed already. The poison fed it on the 25th of February is a summon for the undertakers to get ready. Anyway, the SSS, have said they have no reason to arrest Dr Datti Baba-Ahmed because they have not seen any concrete evidence to do so. Soyinka may go present the evidence he has to them, rather than lobby for a useless debate. We recognize clearly what he’s doing here with that comment on the Chief Justice in London. He’s trying to make Nigerians who have seen what they have begin to doubt their sanity.
“I choose my methods of intervention without the permission of social media border patrols, so where you find a gap, just pick up the baton where last deposited and stop whining and belly-aching – “he stopped talking all this while, why now?” etc etc ad nauseum. Flat, easy disposable lies that gain traction by repetition. However, even more importantly, they remain irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of ongoing material issue. Sadly, these virtue vigilantes succeed with the ignorant and susceptible – especially among the younger, confused generation. The consequence is that the nation is plagued by fake CVs compiled by all kinds of amateur commentators, still wet behind the ears, who have too few truths to build on before they are corralled into positions of No-Retreat. Nowhere has this been more evident than in the effrontery of attempts to place the present contention on the same podium as the twenty-year old anti-Abacha struggle! This gross abuse of historic licence actually provides smug satisfaction for rookie activists. I advise them to seek out the school of survivors where pertinent lessons still exist for those with sufficient humility to LEARN before MOUTHING! Otherwise their world of false mythologies will collapse under their feet, and leave them dangling in the void.”
Soyinka has managed to pack a lot of gratuitous junk into this paragraph, which, arguably, is his most important message or defence. He defiantly declares he chooses his own methods of intervention “without the permission of social media border patrols” as a response to those who question his silence when the nation was being stolen by his friends and, in the same breath, he declares such questions to be flat, easy disposable lies “that gain traction by repetition.” So, which is it? Is it that he was truly silent because he only intervenes when he likes and as he chooses or is it that those who say he was silent are lying?
Of course, knowing he cannot address the question above credibly, in a desperate obfuscatory gambit, he declares that the more important thing is that “they remain irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of ongoing material issue.” Well, they are not irrelevant to the rights and wrongs of ongoing material issue; in fact, they are part and parcel of the ongoing material issue! I mean, why has Wole Soyinka suddenly now found his voice and why is he avoiding talking about the big elephant in the room? Why has he instead decided to pursue rats and cockroaches while our Rome burns? Why is he choosing to attack a party in the election for what seems like a minor ‘crime’, while ignoring the great atrocity of his friends who have stolen Nigeria in broad daylight?
Soyinka derisively calls those questioning him “virtue vigilantes,” but at this point in our nation’s history, we should wear that as a badge of honour. In fact, we should be proudly hashtagging it – #WeAreAllVirtueVigilantes
Seriously, Soyinka knows deep down that he suffers a huge moral minus in this matter, which is why he considers those that courageously call him out on it virtue vigilantes. He thinks this will make his tormentors scamper away. They won’t! He’s twisted the lion’s tail! His attempt to virtue-shame young people he considers “ignorant and susceptible,” the same people he calls a “confused generation,” has only succeeded in bringing him down a notch. The more he does this, the more he’d be taken down a peg because young people are educated enough to see through him. Young people know that you don’t have to be a professional commentator to speak freely as a citizen. They do not have to buy the “truths” of a Soyinka. They live and feel their own truths daily in the harsh national environment created by Soyinka’s heartless friends and they’ll continue to speak those truths, despite Soyinka’s shameless attempt to undermine the pain of the moment by claiming that the young people questioning him have “the effrontery of attempts to place the present contention on the same podium as the twenty-year old anti-Abacha struggle!” What an insult!
If anyone is in doubt that Soyinka is a fascist, this right there is the stone-cold evidence. Only a fascist would tell flesh and blood Nigerians that stealing an election with INEC and the backing of state authority and all state instruments of violence is not as bad as Abacha entrenching himself in office against the popular will. He jauntily claims those making an analogy between today and the Abacha days are involved in a gross abuse of historical licence, but which history is he talking about? Is it the same history he has roundly distorted since he found accommodation in his dark moral orbit for his fascist friends and their costly antics against Nigeria and Nigerians?
He calls those making the analogy “rookie activists,” but at least they are true to their belief, unlike him who’s made a career of being changeling in less than two decades. Soyinka should know that this is today’s young people’s Abacha moment. The fight Nigerians are involved in right now against the Buhari government, INEC and the APC is a pro-democracy fight. The difference with Abacha is that with him, we knew what we were getting. He did not pretend to be a democrat. He proudly wore his uniform and jackboots and hunted us down in the streets. These fascists with Soyinka as their mouthpiece also hunted the people with guns and knives at the polling boots, but, more consequentially, they have stolen the peoples mandate and are waiting for the courts to legitimize their audacious thievery. The courts of Abacha’s days did not kowtow to the googled crook, but we are not sure of the courts of today. In fact, that the courts have said nothing since the petitions of Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar were filed at the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal up till now is foreboding, but Nigerians are patiently waiting. Nigerians are not the ones on trial; it’s the courts themselves at the highest levels that are on trial.
Soyinka and his thieving wards can keep on celebrating in expectation of what they think is the inevitable legitimation of their crimes against Nigeria and Nigerians by the courts, but I can assure him that he and his criminal friends will not have the last laugh. Where we are right now, even our corpses will guffaw from the grave.
By Toyin Falola
“Idán no dey read but Idán de pass.”
“Idán no dey work but Idán dey eat.”
“Idán no dey stress himself.”
“Idán no dey talk but na idán dey make sense pass.”
“Idán fit dey sick, but idán no go die.“
“Idán no dey watch car for road, na cars dey respect Idán. “
Surfing through the internet in the past few days, you might have come across the various uses of Idán by the youth in Nigeria, especially my boys and girls on street corners, my adopted home. Idán would directly mean mystical magic and its adaptation to describe a person’s position as an extraordinary, outstanding, non-conformist in some instances, outliers or other forms of descriptions that the Nigerian youth use to eulogize themselves.
“Idán ni Toyin, Baba Toyin
Falola Idán gangan! “
Recently, the internet has seen different waves and versions of Idán. From the Idanship on the streets to the crowned Idáns in the four walls of any institution and the silent Idáns making moves and strategies like Sabinus. The Idáns are truly sabi and have proven to be the uncrowned Kings in their games over time. A masterpiece of their idanship is multifaceted as it cuts across borders into different spheres. It would have been interesting to see these sets of individuals line up to get awards or recognitions, but that would go against the creed and the essence of the sayings. After all, Idán no dey find awards, na awards dey find Idán. Curiosity might pick one interest in understanding how and why this term became attributed to define Nigerian youth’s doggedness and resilient spirit. Nigerians and Nigerian youths are Idáns; everyone needs to start acknowledging that.
The role of the youth in the country’s development and its projections and potential cannot be underestimated. With over 57 million youths and the Idán potential each of them possesses, Nigeria could be on the path of regaining its position as the heartbeat of the continent and setting the standard for many other nations in the world. Hence, while we discuss the degeneration of many African countries and the level of development and then consider the potential of the African and Nigerian youth, there is a confidence that with the right channels and explorations, the nation and the continent might be the global focus of development.
Nigerian youth are idáns largely because of their ability to survive any situation and still become outliers when the odds dictate possible failures. Hence, they have managed to successfully, against all odds, to keep the country in the limelight. Their abilities to survive make them the very adventurous Idáns that put them in direct competition with other youths of other countries they have found themselves, despite the limitations of being in a foreign land and policies that favor home countries. In 2017, the Nigerian government stated that the population of Nigerians in the diaspora is not less than 17 million. That was 6 years ago. In March 2023, the National Identity Management Commission stated that the Nigerians in the diaspora had an increase in the number of NIN by 563.57%. Jápa is idán; to survive in Chicago is idán!
There is a projection of a massive increase in the number because of the high influx of Nigerians into other countries in the past four years. Most Nigerians in the diaspora are youthful, and there is a high tendency that most old folks got in their respective countries at a young age. Nigerians are in virtually all countries, so, country wey Nigerian Idáns no dey, no dey, or e no get level. Na idán dey run things, dey make am get levels. The Nigerian Idáns do not mind if the country is a conflicted region or the negativities predominant there; they adapt and seize available opportunities no matter the hardship. Idán no dey run from challenges, na challenges dey run from Idán.
It is no news that despite being Africa’s largest economy, the Nigerian economy’s reflection on the Nigerian youth has been problematic. The high poverty rate, weakness of the Naira, infrastructural challenges, poor social service delivery, limited job opportunities, ethnic conflicts, terrorism, and other social troubles have created great challenges to the nation’s growth. These shortcomings have continued to deal a blow to the country’s different aspects of human and material growth. Hence, to have large numbers of mediocre, less dynamic, and unenterprising youths in such a society in the face of these challenges would not be surprising. I mean, there are readily available excuses. Despite this, a very encouraging percentage has outworked and outwitted the system to create a meaningful life for themselves. So, when we talk about their triumphs in other nations, you must know that there are millions of Idáns back home than positive outliers in the face of de-capacitating challenges. They have grown to be experts and skillful fellows that have drawn the international markets, hence, the comfort of national development. The idâns can be found across all fields doing what they know best and surviving in even things they do not know.
A walk around markets like Alaba, Onitsha, Ladipo, Ariaria, Computer Village, Katangua, Balogun, Osodi, Dugbe, Bódìjà, Oil Mill, Kasuwar Kwari, Sabo n’Geri, and Zaki Biam Yam markets, one would see the hustling spirit, creativity, the resourcefulness and Idán moments of the Nigeria youths. For instance, the Alaba and Computer Village markets in Lagos State have gained an international reputation as they stand as the home of solutions to all electronics and electrical problems. Thirteen young Idáns established Alaba, becoming a huge international space for performing Idán. The computer village, largely populated by youth, has become Africa’s version of the Silicon Valley. These markets have become the country’s starting points for many millionaire Idáns.
Politically, the youths have also demonstrated the tough spirit to withstand pressure and spearhead a movement that campaigns against corruption, bad government policies, and mismanagement of public authorities and funds. The early post-Covid period brought together a movement that changed the course of the country’s political voyage. The movement started amidst the cry for a reform that would lay the foundation for a new Nigeria as was hoped. Despite the fallout at the initial stage, an offshoot of this movement became apparent months before the just concluded general elections. A political movement that many never expected could last rose to threaten the ranks of opposition parties in the country. Even in defeat, as it later turned out, the exploits within two years affirmed to many Nigerians that change was possible. The Idáns of the no-structure party convinced Nigerians that the youths truly are a force to reckon with. The EndSARS movement also brought about reforms that have started the foundation for youthful participation in politics and manners of governmental relationships with the people. Now, the youths have dared to contest and have started occupying public positions as elected officials; they are also gradually becoming the pillars of the political determination of the nation. These feats would have remained a fairy tale if strong-hearted ones had not taken the initiative. Idán no dey tire, Idan presses on!
Another famous show of Idanship in Nigeria by the youths could be attributed to the excellent dispositions towards the entertainment and hospitality industries. Young Nigerian musicians, actors, writers, and even chefs have plied the path of greatness in their careers, beating all marks to achieve greatness and setting the nation on reputable global maps. These laudable acts became possible due to the multifaceted factors employed. Through its divisions, including film, music, comedy, fashion, and literature, the industry explored the borders of creativity well by encompassing innovations with rich African history to promote their Craft. The need for a digital revolution and the use of social media has helped bridge the goals between local audiences and their international counterparts.
These, coupled with partnerships with existing industries from other parts of the world, raw talents, creativity, and individual perseverance, have propelled it to a global powerhouse. The industry can boast confidently of young enterprising entertainers with numerous awards to their names and international reputation. The face of global music has been changing with the promotion of Afrobeats and the adoption of African music cultures. Tems, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Sikiru Adepoju, Jenn Nkiru, and others in the diaspora like Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel (Seal), Helen Folasade Adu (Sade Adu), Lekan Babalola, Hakeem Seriki (Chamillionaire), and Kevin Olusola have all won the Grammy Awards with several others having been nominated. Several of them have performed on international stages with tens and hundreds of thousands of audience, even more than local musicians in those countries could pull.
Davido’s live performance at Fifa World Cup, Tiwa Savages’ King Charles III Coronation performance, and several other songs from Nigerian artists have become some of the most streamed globally. Aside from these musicians, performing artists like Lateef Adedimeji, Kunle Afolayan, Mr. Macaroni, and Taooma are Nigerian entertainers who have broken the mark in their trade, adding to the long list of those making the continent proud. Most importantly, these Idáns are influencing cultures across the world. I must also commend the achievements of Nigerian sportsmen and athletes like Victor Osimhen, Asisat Oshoale, and Tobi Amusan in contemporary global sport, without forgetting those that have set the marks in the past.
One might have wondered what fate Nigerians have in the academic world. Have the youth been able to go against all odds despite failing systems and challenges like the ASUU strike? Nigerians keep setting the standard among their counterparts around the world, and there are various reports of their possibilities of doing well when they get to the midst of students from other parts of the world. “Idán too sabi”
However, before you fall for phrases like “Idán no dey read but Idán de pass,” “Idán no dey work but Idán dey eat,” “Idán no dey stress himself,” “Idán this,” and “Idán that,” you must know that what characterizes these Idáns is their hard work and low-key efforts that have made them stand out. While those statements might just be comic expressions by the youth, they are understatements of Idán’s huge efforts to disguise. Else, you run the risk of becoming Àdánwò.
My Country Our Country Called Nigeria
By Tony Afejuku
My country called Nigeria which is your country their country our country is an extraordinary country of evasions. We don’t need to prove or disprove this as the fact everywhere on the ground, in the sky and on and in the waters and on the underground carefully and easily formulate this claim that is more than a claim. The position or truth of the matter of my claim is that my thought and mind and head and heart are on a common platform with the movement of what you might or should accept as a point of view that is a point of view that is obviously and really more than a point of view yearning for a revolution. And do I really mean a revolution? And to what end and purpose is the revolution? To prove that Nigeria does not belong to the bigwigs, the top bureaucrats, the Aso Rockists, the presidencynologists and the rest of the exploiters and oppressors of the people, the masses, the middle classes, the academics, professors, teachers, students and workers of all shades and colours generally.
When I saw what I saw and which you definitely and probably saw a few days ago on telly, our blood, your blood and my blood, certainly boiled and craved for the blood of our oppressors and deceivers – all of them. Of course, I am referring to the spectacle of the inauguration of the new president, yes, of the new president, the sixteenth president or President the 16th, of Nigeria. The Abuja Eagle Square event beamed live in our rich television stations showed our elegant oppressors in their rich and real measure of oppressive and exploitative value. And your blood was pierced and wounded to the extent that you wanted immediately counter-measures of the severest and worst kind to take over your country from the decadent personages of decadence, who have ruined and are still ruining your country my country and our country they desperately want to own as their personal country and property.
My spirit of populism rebelled against itself and its allied spirits when the deceiver and dissembler of a military general of Daura was being given his final respect as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria that were significantly armed warriors against the people and masses in a manner that confounded even their sensibilities and sanity. The general was getting his final military salute and was leaving us to rot and perish in our annihilated states after a presidential election that our exquisite justices are now presiding over on the grounds or no grounds of petitions of petitioners from APC’s rival political parties and their presidential candidates.
Buhari was nothing but a killjoy. His regime in the main was a call to arms and decadence and hatred. Man against man. People against people. Ethnic group against ethnic group. Section against section. Clan against clan. Rank against rank. Brother against brother. “Class against class” – as Jean-Paul Sartre would put it. Under Buhari there was quarrel everywhere. There was warfare everywhere. “With a patient, mortal enemy, no quarter can be given: it is kill or be killed, there is no middle way. And no time for sleep.” I remember this quote which I am lifting from Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay on Paul Nizan. Buhari rekindles this in my mind that is thumbing through articles and essays and books of all regimes of decadence and of tyrannical tyranny and despotic despotism which Buhari is an exquisite essence of. May Buhari and his kind of flatulence never see the light of day again in our land – this land of lands and lands that must remain our own forever and forever. I call upon all of us who are ready to formulate now a forever programme of populists and populism to keep us on the alert and programme of populists and populism to keep us on the alert and stimulate our streaks and vitality of dissent any time any day anyone with the propensities of Buhari and his team of crushers dares to emerge again in my country your country our country which they do not own because it is not theirs to own.
Our ethical and moral populists must be prepared to plant in themselves deliberate hardness against the strongest inclinations that will compel any future president of Nigeria to trample on the autotherapy of any Nigerian. It is important to stress this point. Each populist must be prepared as never before to challenge any negative and anti-people policy and feature in the physical and mental make-up of our president, this president or any other president.
In his inaugural speech on Monday, May 29, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose presidential fate and destiny are still distinctly un-settled and unstable dared the people with his arrogant declaration that oil “subsidy is gone.” At the time of my doing this column in the deep night of Tuesday, May 30, 2023, the negative effect of the declaration had already sent wrong or malicious signals about his less than one-day presidency everywhere in the land. The Jagaban must not be a killjoy like the Daura personage of malicious hatred for the generality of the people of our country. If I was in his shoes (but I won’t because I can’t because of my calling), I would have garlanded myself in the wish to be soothed by the people by, for instance, warming towards our university egg-heads by releasing to them their seized salaries of eight months or so on account of their legitimately legitimate strike. President Tinubu must realise that the people and masses up to now still feel a profound mistrust of him and his political party following what Buhari did to them and the way and manner INEC conducted the presidential election and declared Tinubu the winner. The Jagaban must give thought to this. By the way, I have in my possession his 11th January, 2012 well thought-out essay when ex-President Jonathan dared to excise oil subsidy. Let me quote the Jagaban: “By this sly piece of paper, the federal government breached the social contract with the people. This government, which owes its existence to the people’s desire to be governed by someone more humble than elitist, has turned its back on the collective will. By bureaucratic fiat, government made the most fateful economic decision any administration has made since the inception of the Fourth Republic and it has done so with an arrogant wave of the hand as if issuing a minor regulation.” The point I am making here is that he who has become our sixteenth president must encourage the people and masses not to lack enthusiasm in his presidency no matter how short or how long it may be. And our acceptance of him must be based on his shining presidential policy that must not be short of patriotism that should give us recuperative strength and powers.
The Populist Movement consisting of selfless veterans and non-veterans of the same selfless hue is absolutely alive. Nigeria must remain your country my country our country in the true spirit of your country my country our country. In this wise our pleasure must be full of patriotic perplexity. And we must luxuriate in the intoxication of this perplexity. The expectedly measured grace of the new landscape which you must lead and inspire us to recreate must be part of the substance of it – and should extend beyond that. The rest will be captured in my fresh patriotic poetry in the making.
Afejuku can be reached via +2348055213059.
Remembering The Aworeni Clan Of Ile Ife: Connecting Educational Experiment And A Philanthropic Spirit
By Tunji Olaopa
This piece, for me, is an exercise in hagiographic historical reconstruction, as well as a celebration of friendship. There are so many gaps in our sociocultural histories and trajectories that require intellectual attention and cultural curiosity in ways that increasingly fill out the history of ideas, figures and issues in our social history. I believe the Aworeni clan of Ile-Ife constitutes one of these critical points of history that require filling out. And with most sociocultural histories, one can only keep putting the puzzles together without ever achieving a perfect and coherent fit. One can only hope that a significant dimension of the objectives of journalism and media reporting in Nigeria will be diverted to the excavation of such histories that serve as the foundation of a people’s sense of self and of cultural knowledge.
Anyone familiar with the educational trajectory of the 1970s and 1980s in the Southwest would immediately remember the name of the ‘notorious’ Chief Johnson Adedapo Aworeni of the Adesola High School fame. I came into the knowledge of his notoriety as a student of Awe High School, where Chief Aworeni was once a principal. Chief Aworeni, as I will narrate in a moment, was an educationist and philanthropist of the sort whose activities had a most unintended consequences that seemed to undermine his objectives of allowing so many children to achieve educational advancement. This endeavor cast Chief Aworeni in a bad light as someone who bastardized the essence of education, something that the Awe people—from many of my pieces about my hometown—take very seriously as a sacred issue.
Chief Johnson Adedapo Aworeni
And so, in 1989, while I was at the Lagos State directorate of the Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), I met one Abimbola Aworeni at the Thorburn Avenue, Yaba office. When he introduced himself as “Bimbo Aworeni,” that last name struck a historical chord immediately. I was quick to pose the next logical question: “Are you related to the Chief Aworeni of the Adesola High School, Ibadan fame?” Of course, he was! He was one of the sons of the great and “notorious” chief. And in a typical lively and jovial manner that I would grow used to, Abimbola owned up and made fun of the extreme qualities of his father. But then, he celebrated him as “a unique philanthropist and a kindhearted lover of the downtrodden who will give all to give others a better life.”
My curiosity about Abimbola’s father eventually led both of us into a lifelong relationship that ensured that we always were readily available to attend to each other’s need when the occasion arose. The past tense I have used for Abimbola Aworeni is indicative and tragic: he passed away on the 15th of May, 2023, and quite so untimely. This news is painful because no one should ever lose a dear one—Abimbola was a brother and a friend after my heart; and one of my regrets is that I was not able to keep up with his joyful philosophy of existence and relationship given that I was too taken in by the necessity of juggling critical professional and research responsibilities that prevented me from socializing and keeping up with equally critical relationships. And what best way to celebrate my friend than to begin a preliminary historical protocol of excavating the significance of the Aworeni family in the history of the educational and philanthropic dynamics of the Southwest.
Let me complete the story of Abimbola’s renowned father. Chief Aworeni was practically a self-made man who started climbing the educational ladder with distinction from a very early age. The doggedness that saw him through secondary school equally kept him pursuing distinction all through a first degree in economics, a second degree in history, a postgraduate diploma in education, and a law degree all from the Universities of London and Ibadan. We will probably not know what turned Chief Aworeni’s attention to education, but he not only made the rounds of the most famous secondary schools in the southwest—Ibadan Boys High School, Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, MacJob Grammar School, Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode Grammar School, Awe High School, Awe, etc.—as a teacher and principal, he also probably picked up, along the way, his populist orientation that made him one of the most influential philanthropists in the Southwest in his days.
The Aworeni Scholarship came to signify the emergence of a spirit of unrestrained giving that was tied to the Ile Ife root of the Aworeni, but that transcended that cultural boundary to encompass all indigent students who qualified by simply demonstrating a need to learn. He demonstrated a cultural patriotism that was determined to lift all indigenes of Ile Ife beyond the limitations of ignorance into the sublimity of education and enlightenment. And his open-minded philanthropic philosophy would ensure that he threw wide the net of empowerment to as many as would be willing to learn. And it was only logical that Chief Aworeni would eventually establish a school to accelerate the realization of his desire to encourage many less privileged candidates to pick up a pen and get an educational foundation. The Adesola High School, Ibadan was the institutional embodiment of the Aworeni scholarship and the philosophy of empowerment that he stood for.
And this is where the zeal to shine the light of enlightenment on many dark minds led to the opening of the floodgates that would burden quality education with the deadening quantity of overloaded classrooms. Chief Aworeni was not careful to measure his populist philanthropy with the realistic assessment that one school cannot take all comers. And this is not just about the available infrastructures; it was also about the quality of education such students can be provided with. A perceptive reader would have made the connection between Chief Aworeni’s educational experiment and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s free education project. Unlike the former, the latter was founded on a well-laid out educational policy that also involved taxation to achieve a level of required funding that made the project a success. Chief Aworeni’s enthusiasm was simply borne aloft by his populist eagerness. It was as if Chief Aworeni was too impatient to countenance any hindrance—including educational planning—to his ultimate goal of adding values to people’s lives, especially the underprivileged whom the state had abandoned to themselves, and to a life of indistinction.
This is where Chief Aworeni’s educational philosophy and philanthropic spirit should first be applauded. Azim Premji, the Indian businessman, aptly summarizes Chief Aworeni’s philanthropic sense: “The responsibility of philanthropy rests with us. The wealthier we are, the more powerful we get. We cannot put the entire onus on the government.” Philanthropy complements the efforts of the government in transforming the lives of the citizens; and hence, this made Chief Aworeni a significant part of the rendering of the educational history of the Southwest. Unfortunately, populist philanthropy does not always serve the objective of an education that is functional and optimal, especially the type that a citizen requires to become a good member of society. It would seem that this was the point at which people of Awe took exception to the educational “philosophy” of the great man.
But then, maybe Chief Aworeni was just not well understood. This was definitely a man that was deeply motivated to domesticate his philanthropic spirit to the service of his community. That, all by itself, is a worthy contribution to the well-being of the community members, and makes the initiator of the community service programme an ambassador to note. It would seem however that the weight of attention has been focused more on the negative side of Aworeni’s populist philanthropy rather than on the larger picture of what he did and why he did it. We only have the collective appreciation of those who scaled through the overload of the Adesola High School, and the many others who benefitted from the Aworeni Scholarship, to thank for representing the success of the unsung philanthropist.
At a deeper level, Chief Aworeni calls into play the relationship between education and philanthropy, especially in a postcolonial context like Nigeria where the state seems to have abdicated its responsibility towards the creative harnessing of the human capital that could be deployed towards communal and national development. It likely will be a difficult research endeavor to determine the extent to which the beneficiaries of the Aworeni scholarship and goodwill have contributed to the developmental dynamics of the Southwest. But there is no denying the fact that he did the best that he could within the constraints of his time and context, as well as the limited resources he had which he distributed with all joy to the needy.
No wonder my departed friend—his son—Abimbola Aworeni, who goes by such nicknames as Bambo and Skolobi could be very proud of his “notorious” but unique father who damned every consequence to be relevant in his own way. He loved his cultural root; and he loved people even more, wherever they could be found who needed help to make their ways in life. And that was what he directed his entire life attending to. I am glad I met the scion of such a large heart. May the gentle soul of my dear friend, Bimbo, rest in peace.
. Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and Professor of Public Administration.
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