By Steve Oliyide
We have read with disappointment and mixed feelings some of the uncharitable statements credited to the Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka in Zero Tolerance, a publication of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).
In the said interview, we noticed what has now become character about the respected literary Icon, the disparaging reference to Otunba Gbenga Daniel, former Governor of Ogun State.
We need to state unequivocally that we are disappointed because by training, conduct and culture, a younger man is disadvantaged to respond to elders in this part of the world, and we relate to this statement with mixed feelings because, Professor Soyinka is somebody Otunba Gbenga Daniel holds in high esteem as a great Ambassador of Africa, part of the reason why his 70th birthday was celebrated with pomp and ceremony during the administration of Otunba Daniel.
However we need to set certain records straight on some of the issues raised so that the unsuspecting publics would not continue to be misled and misguided by the misrepresentation of facts on our recent history especially coming from someone of Professor Soyinka’s standing.
[pro_ad_display_adzone id=”10″] 1. Perhaps, Prof needs to be reminded that the police institution had never been, was and is not yet in the hands of any state’s governor to use at his whims and caprices as suggested by Professor Soyinka. For clarification, State police commissioners are appointed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), who in turn is responsible to, and takes his ‘order’ from the President and Commander in Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. So, accusing Otunba Gbenga Daniel of putting the Ogun State House of Assembly under lock with “Mopol guiding it” is totally out of place and reprehensible. It is also instructive to note that Otunba Gbenga Daniel was one of those who believe in the idea of State Police as a veritable way of curbing crime, but the reality is that it is still a Federal Government institution.
2. In case it might also not have crossed the mind of Professor Soyinka, what transpired in the Ogun State House of Assembly in the period under reference was taken to court, before Justice Onamade, and one would wonder what line of argument would Professor advanced had OGD interfered again in an issue which was already taken before another arm of government competent enough to decide on such sensitive matter and contradictions in affairs of government. That judgment has not been appealed by anyone, including Professor Soyinka even after five years.
3. We also need to remind Professor Soyinka that the ruling of the court recognised the Soyemi Coker- led House of Assembly which Prof and some others who took same line of thoughts with him decided to deride and condemned using only ‘abstract’ knowledge to interpret. We are well aware that Professor Soyinka is too intelligent to know that not everything that “looks” morally permissible can be constitutionally right. Except of course, Professor is advocating the abrogation of our secular state for an ecclesiastical style of government where affairs of government will be conducted on spiritual morality. The facts of what transpired in the Ogun State House of Assembly are well documented, including the personal accounts of Otunba Gbenga Daniel in his Autobiography “Daniel in The Lion’s Den”, a follow-up edition which is in due course.
4. We frowned at the ‘selective’ advocacy Professor Soyinka had recently descended to in his version of ‘activism’ as if the whole world should be made to look at political issues ONLY from the ‘selective’ prism and perspective of Professor Soyinka. We think not. The world had moved on with a lot of sophistication which Professor should endeavour to relate to with open minds. We recall that Professor Soyinka, with some known members of the Opposition to our government in 2010 had stormed the Ake Church Cathedral for what they claimed was a “Town Hall Meeting”. We do not want to believe Prof is still smarting from that failed political encounter which was obvious to all discerning minds was politically motivated, ostensibly aimed at promoting the interest of other political parties and interest in which the son of Professor Soyinka was already slated to serve, as follow-up event eventually proved.
5. We would rather think in consonant with age, status and accomplishments and respects which go with all these, Prof should wake up to the reality of the law of diminishing returns and be circumspect in speech and public utterance, especially as he has the latitude of personal intervention on matters of conflict in Ogun State; he could simply call and seek audience with Otunba Gbenga Daniel and or any of the other principal actors involved then to make an unbiased judgment.
6. We have followed the rather condemnable reference to Professor Soyinka by a former President of Nigeria (a member of the same generation with Prof) referring to him in as a “respected wine connoisseur” whose political judgment is suspect. While not subscribing to this derisive comment, it remains for Professor Soyinka to prove this wrong with his well researched and highly informed judgment and comments on issues of politics. He should endeavour to ask what ACTUALLY transpired and Why.
7. We also need to put on record, that despite of the various attempts to demonise the Otunba Gbenga Daniel administration by Professor Soyinka and some others who constituted themselves as Opposition to the government, in contrast to the experience in other parts of the country, while the opposition simulated crisis lasted in Ogun State, no single soul was lost under the watch of His Excellency Otunba Gbenga Daniel and no single act of violence was recorded contrary to the Propaganda they painted to the outside world.
8. We believe that while it lasted, OGD have proven to have a better democratic credentials than most people, especially politicians that Professor Soyinka had chosen not to cristicise in his self-styled social activism.
9. Let us also place on record that President Goodluck Jonathan appointed Otunba Gbenga Daniel as his Campaign Coordinator for the South West in 2011 (and not 2015 as misrepresented) and he delivered overwhelmingly; and despite the strong wind of change and the very unusual circumstances in 2015 Otunba Daniel still delivered his Federal and Senatorial constituencies for President Jonathan.
We implore those who have been so misguided by the orchestrated falsehood, lies and deceits and misrepresentations spurned out to encourage Professor Soyinka to do critical review of the performances of some of the governments and political actors he had promoted, supported and helped installed in relation to the commonwealth and improvements of the living conditions of the average citizens.
*Oliyide is media aide to Otunba Gbenga Daniel,
Governor, Ogun State (2003-2011).