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“Birthday Cash Gift”: A huge moral burden for Soyinka


While this 82 million Naira bash may look like a joke compared to the amount looted by Dasuki and co, it still present a huge moral burden for Soyinka.

Recently, the Rivers State Commissioner of Information, Dr. Austin Tam-George, excoriated Prof. Wole Soyinka for accepting a birthday bash of 82 million Naira. Tam-George alleged that a substantial part of the 82million Naira was collected by Soyinka in cash. 

While, inviting the anti-corruption agency, EFCC, to investigate such a reckless expenditure, during a time when salaries of workers were unpaid, the petulant Tam-George vowed to use all necessary means to ensure, that, Soyinka pays back the hefty cash, he collected.

Predictably, many, who are fans of the anti-corruption posture of Soyinka, waited for a statement repudiating the publication as a big-fat-lie. Others were miffed and took to the social media to castigate the well-respected professor, for starving the good people of Rivers State.

Yours truly, was among the group that gave the Nobel Laureate the benefit of the doubt and waited for his answer. With his incessant championing of the poor, distressed and economically strangulated Nigerians, Prof. Wole Soyinka is seen as an anti-corruption hero. 

People were even quick to forgive what many considered his political transgressions or if you may, his mixed messages, such as accepting an appointment to serve as the pioneer Director of Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, when such appointment was made by General Ibrahim Babangida a man he use to criticize a lot.

The image of Soyinka after the acceptance of what many then saw as “purchase-of- silence-appointment” took a nose dive. He was called unsavory names then. His attempts to “explain” were drowned by a torrent of unbridled boos.

While this 82million bash may look like a joke compared to the amount looted by Dasuki and co, it still present a huge moral burden for Soyinka.

 Personally, I expected Soyinka to come out with a blistering repudiation of the allegation, but when he did respond it was a hollow angry message that said practically nothing.  After reading  what is deemed  a response by many, the only thought that came to my mind was a famous view by Shakespeare, on death, …….it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing z( Macbeth: Act 5, Scene 5.).

In his statement entitled, ‘Those who flounder in the sewage of corruption,’ Soyinka, merely invited us the readers to “ignored them.” Claiming that it is not his business to probe into “the catering and logistical implications of the hundreds of institutions and governments all over the world to whom I acknowledge an immense debt of unsolicited recognition over the years.”

Worse still, the great man who deserves respect took an abominable plunge into the cesspool where uncouth rustics reside, by calling Nyesom Wike names, when he referred to the embattled governor as… ‘Insecure’ incumbent of the Rivers State government lodge.

Many were curiously loud as to why he did not out rightly deny receiving a huge amount in cash at the expense of unpaid workers and a judiciary that was under a lockdown due to non-payment of salaries. Others were less charitable and called him names. One social media critic accused Soyinka of “playing god.” Others, especially those from the affected area called him worse names. It is imperative for me to disclose that I received highly credible response that the iconic Soyinka never received any cash, but he needs to publicly say so.

This is coming just after his friend and former president Olusegun Obasanjo in his book “My Watch” claimed that he is Soyinka is a self-serving person that should not be taken seriously on matters of governance:

“I, and I am not alone, find him a misfit as a political analyst, commentator or critic. It is thus good that he did not foray into politics. He is surely a better wine connoisseur and a more successful aparo — hunter than a political critic, not to talk of what he would be as a politician. I take him seriously on almost all issues except on the political, particularly Nigerian politics. ‘See http://www.pmnewsnigeria.com/2014/12/10/obj-bombs-jonathan-soyinka-atiku-tinubu-chukwumerije-alabi-isama/

At this stage in life when the world-acclaimed human right activist, author and literary icon is gradually heading to the departure lounge of life (just like most of us), he should worry more about leaving an unimpeachable name just like Achebe, rather than being accused of such and ignoble act of receiving cash as birthday gift. I join in calling on Prof. Soyinka do us a favor and not only categorically deny it but condemn such wasteful expenditures, and then return any gift or present received to the treasury of Rivers State! Anything short of that will not purge the taint that the allegation has been brushed all over his respected person.

Obi Enweze is the former Secretary of NADECO in USA and CANADA and a Social Justice Crusader.

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