The Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, is a living literary legend. He is revered all around the world for his literary greatness and singular accomplishment of being the only African that has won the Nobel prize for literature. A great scholar and master of prose Kongi commands global respect and attention for his soundness and greatness of mind and his contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the world. Indeed, he is one of our best and brightest in his chosen field of endeavour, a savant whose books and essays are rich contributions to the global struggle against ignorance and analphabetism.
The Donald Trump’s stunning victory in the US presidential poll has had repercussions all around the world. The renowned prognosticators were damn wrong on this one! Before the election could hold on November 8 Prof. Soyinka was in the news saying that in the event of a Trump presidency dawning on us he would be tearing up his Green Card and relocating from America. Kongi is obviously anti-Trump and he saw no need living in the free world with this notorious business mogul.
Like Prophet TB Joshua he never saw the Trump triumph coming. While the Synagogue man of God predicted that a woman would definitely be the next US President prior to the polls Soyinka must have been convinced by the pundits and opinion polls that deceived all of us. But now that what we feared most had happened (the Trump victory) do we knock our heads against the wall in frustration and disappointment? Or commit suicide? No! We must live by the American people’s verdict! It is worth recalling that it’s not the first time the spiritual pontificator in Synagogue had failed to prove that he was in direct communication with God as he had claimed times without number!
However, while the verdict ought to be accepted by all and sundry in the spirit of democratic majesty one wonders aloud why the American democratic tradition is imbued with the Electoral College system. Technically speaking the votes of the American people do not directly elect the President! That was why Hillary Clinton scored much more votes than Trump yet the latter emerged victorious! This nebulous system is too cumbersome for any layman to understand easily.
Faced with some online vituperative outbursts after the shocking electoral decision Soyinka snapped. He wrote a lengthy essay entitled: RED CARD, GREEN CARD – Notes Towards The Management Of Hysteria saying that his critics should mind their business and give him time to fulfill his promise of shredding his green card. And in South Africa upon inquiries he declared that he had thrown his Carter Card away and relocated to his native country. But some faceless critics were not satisfied with this declaration of execution of a pledge; they wanted proof or evidence of action arguing that something thrown away in a dust-bin could be recuperated anytime! Behold Kongi has had enough! He was visibly incensed by the continued umbrage over his personal vow to undo his US citizenship.
Just days after the opposition (led by Adama Barrow) achieved a great historic feat by unseating the incumbent rogue President (Yahya Jammeh) in a presidential election Soyinka had issued a statement in a hurry condemning the Nigerian government for congratulating the Gambian people for the peaceful conduct of the presidential poll. Without any valid information regarding the epochal outcome Kongi took to the keyboard lambasting the Buhari administration for tolerating the presumed re-election of the dictator in Banjul. When it became clear to him that he had goofed he retracted the statement by saluting the Gambians for doing what had hitherto been considered an impossibility.
Some Nigerians saw reason with him by saying that any mortal could make a ‘mistake’ as Prof. did but others were alluding to his advanced age and some uncharitable ones were even talking about “senility” setting in or impetuosity taking hold of him. Impetuosity could be ascribed to him as a radical but senility, no! The old Wole, though an octogenarian, is still intellectually strong and active and he can still hold out for some time to come. His politico-social activism would definitely endure much after his departure.
His acerbic intervention against his online traducers showed that his wit is still as ferocious as ever. But he sounded hubristic, petulant and god-like (omnipotent and omniscience!) exposing his other side that detested criticism and tolerated little of same. When we take pleasure in criticising others we should be criticised whether objectively or subjectively. Acting otherwise belittles our social crusading status and reduces our public standing. Faced with unavoidable provocations of the irreverent generation we must maintain our cool-headedness lest we be demystified.
According to the old Professor emeritus: “Our common sense is totally lost. I am embarrassed sometimes that I occupy the same nation space with some people. …Where is the arrogance coming from? What right do they have to tell me that I have no right to take a decision in a particular way? I never took orders from (the late) Sani Abacha, why should I take orders from you? Let us have a little respect and spirit of tolerance. I can decide whether to use a garden shell or scissors for my green card. What is the business of any Nigerian to challenge me on my decision? Green card is even more important than human beings. Barbarians have taken over the country, using the anonymity of the Internet. They sit somewhere, writing about me, questioning the right of me to express myself.”
He added: “I am not an entertainer. Why should I entertain you on that? I am a dramatist. When I say I have done something, Ogun (the god of iron) is my guiding spirit on it. Maybe I should be exiting Nigeria and not the U.S. People that one dedicated one’s life of struggle to can be so slavish in mentality to query the right of their champions to freedom of expression….If I decide to leave the U.S., it is my personal decision and not that of the millipedes of the Internet. Why do Nigerians weep more than the bereaved? Trump is not really my business. He has been elected. He should do his work. There are born-again humans in all areas, why not in politics? Even the stock exchange reacted to Trump’s election. I also reacted in my own way. There is freedom of expression. We have far too many illiterates in this country….It is a significant decision on my part in response to the stupid melodrama. Exit can take two forms; internal or external. I can stay put in my private Green Belt – the one I have named the Autonomous Republic of Ijegba,’’
We, as self-imposed defenders of the defenseless and the voiceless, namers and shamers et al, consider the aging literary lion of Abeokuta, a son juste valeur evidemment (in its right value evidently), as a world citizen and as such he can elect to live anywhere of his choice in the global village — be it in America, Nigeria, Syria, Libya or Afghanistan. As a special breed he has brought honour and recognition to Nigeria, his motherland. And as he crawls nearer to the last dusty dwelling place of every mortal we urge him to avoid any needless altercation with the new generation of upwardly mobile and discernible folks interested in his every move and intervention.
In this digital age any member of the facebook and twitter generation must live with the tantrums and machinations of netizens. The anonymity associated with the Internet has its advantages and disadvantages. While we understand Soyinka’s frustrations and consequent lamentations we implore him to accommodate the antics of the so-called “morons” and “imbeciles” sharing the same space with him! Kongi has no other choice here unless he wants to go back to the cave as a cave-man — something incompatible with his class and status in the society.
We are all vulnerable, exposed to the information super-highway which no man or institution can ever control. The Internet represents the dawn of a new world, a world of possibilities and opportunities, which never existed before in this planet we know better. The cyber warriors remain unrelenting in their collective quest to change the world as we knew it. Through the instrumentality of the web revolution leaders are now leading relatively well, corruption is constantly being exposed and criminals unmasked. The social media revolution is, therefore, here replacing the traditional street protests and other forms of old-order protestations.
In this social media era in which every topic (to hell with taboo!) finds its way to the public domain it is interesting indeed to comprehend the outburst of Kongi who should know better about the limitless freedom and the uncontrollability of the globally-interconnected network which the world wide web represents. The cross-fertilisation of ideas made easy by the Internet has made the world a better yet more dangerous place to live in — depending on which side of the great divide one belongs. For governments battling against global terrorism the Internet has aided and abetted the global terror network. But for the man or woman who find their lovers via the Internet it is all bliss! To the man who lost his life savings to the online scammers the Internet should be abolished but to the fraudsters life is good with the web!
Going by the implication of his lamentations, Kongi, in the event of ruling the world in fantasyland or Disneyland, could consider decreeing the Internet out of existence or if he found himself in power as President could emulate undemocratic leaders like Yahya Jammeh, Dennis Sassou-Nguesso and Ali Bongo by cutting off the Internet during elections if only to manipulate or control their eventual outcome. But in the end no one has the monopoly of the Internet or the power to dictate to the rest of us how we should use same.
People of all race and pigmentation have found the Internet a fascinating space, an electronic village-square where humans of this world can exchange differing perspectives on any given issue no-hold-barred. Out there the personal narratives of friends, families and acquaintances are a common phenomenon that sometimes question our collective civility and decorum. We recognise that some cyber interactions, however, constitute a rapid descent to primitiveness if not rascality. And impunity is the word!
Yet that was not enough to warrant the winner of the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature to threaten to exit Nigeria and relocate his Foundation to another country. We implore him not to execute the threat! If he has any problems with Nigerians online he has none with Nigeria as an entity. The fact is that the social media has become the new opium of the masses, changing lives and destroying same; making us better humans and bringing out the very beast in some of us!
The cyber heckling that trailed the announcement of Wolexit as an intention before the US presidential poll is unfortunate. But the apparent attempt at demystification of Kongi in the twilight of his eventful life ought to interrogate our collective consciousness. While we believe strongly that Wolexit has indeed happened as promised nobody has the right to dictate to Kongi or stampede him into executing his threat of an exit from the States.
Kongi is an eminent Nigerian and we want him to be in his native country since he is getting closer and closer to the end than the beginning thereof! The opprobrium that will greet his possible relocation from Naija will be deafening enough that his sense of patriotism could be questioned.. We wish him and other Nigerians happy Yuletide holidays!