Wole Soyinka is wrong and wronged

Dear Readers

From KISS to Chaos.

In 2023, we are at a place where in the name of Keeping It Simple and Stupid as a mode of persuasion for the purpose of selling and recruiting we have ended up creating a conversational universe dominated by soundbites and headlines but worse still, inhabited and controlled by millions for whom text in context, detail and logic are tedious and unnecessary, facts and principles subject to personal positions and observed actors and interests.

In this conversational universe, where everyone in any conversation is primarily a sales person with one zero sum agenda, or the other, eager to persuade and to sell a position or an idea, it is easy to see why most members of the KISS conversational universe are warriors with little interest in or time to learn, understand or reason. Given that most of these warriors are neither professional sales people nor trained public speakers let alone rhetoricians, it is easy to understand how the KISS conversational universe eventually descended into Chaos. Yes, a complex system with too many actors displaying unregulated, hence random, and uncoordinated reactions to inputs. It is a world in which I have seen comments on social media that has made me wonder, in the past, if it is possible for people to have learnt to write without going through the process of learning to read. I say in the past because we now know that we are dealing with mostly untrained sales people eager to sell and untrained warriors eager conquer. Mind you, all these considerations have little to do with the goodness of their hearts or the nobility their convictions, we are simply dealing here with their mode of assimilating and expressing information. Of course, some are good whilst other are bad, many are manipulated whilst others are manipulators, some are beneficiaries and paid operators whilst others are believers and passionate.

It is in this context of KISS to Chaos that we must situate the ongoing controversy that sees the revered and globally acclaimed activist, poet, playwright, teacher, writer and leader of thought, Prof Wole Soyinka, who is closer to 90 than to 88 years old. My apologies to the informed and the initiated, yes, I could have just mentioned his name without further qualifications like I normally do or, or just say Kongi, like we normally do or just said Nobel Laurate in Literature but these are peculiar times we live in. Clearly, repeatedly and with emphasis, is the way we consult the gods for the deaf. No one is deafer or blinder than those who for interests or convictions refuse to listen or see…

In a series of public intervention that are now very shared and highly commented but hardly analysed, Prof Wole Soyinka denounced what he sees as the fascist tendencies of the Obidient movement. He pointed the flaws of the members of the movement who seem allergic to correction, divergent views, complex positions and suggestions. Prof Soyinka also denounced what in his own view was wrong with the statement made by presidential running mate of the Obidient movement ticket, which he described as threatening, intimidating and blackmailing. He also denounced violence and many other things but that was lost in translation and this is part of where WS is wronged.

Lest we become guilty of what we accuse of others, it is important to clearly point out where I disagree with Kongi and where I think he is wrong. For the records, I think Obidients are extremely partisan very unruly, intemperate and with a vexatious sense of self-righteousness but I disagree with WS when he describes Obidients’ as the most repulsive, off-putting concoctions ever encountered in the political arena. It can be rightly argued that WS was referring to term “Obidient”, not the essence of the “Obidient Movement”, but most people did not see that difference; what most people understood is that he thinks the Obidient movement is the most repulsive, off-putting concoctions ever encountered in the political arena. Why blame WS and not those that misunderstood or choose to misunderstand him? I do so because he is a teacher and he should take his time to be understood in matters of national concern where the audience are not just the lettered part of the population. Prof Soyinka is neither a struggling local teacher nor a Nollywood producer or writer known for self-published works, he is an international figure that is known and that knows the world of today and the past. In terms of designation, “stomach infrastructure” coined in 2014 is worse than Obidient, the “Chop I Chop group” of 1964 is worse than the Obidient movement, the Fronte Uomo Qualunque, (UQ) of 1946 is worse than the Obidient movement. In terms of action and factually speaking, insolent as they are, the Obidents have not been so far indicted or suspected of a single act of violence. In terms of mode of operation, the violent ways of the NNDP of the first republic was clearly worse than what Obidents have dared so far, the blatant corruption and abuse of power of the NPN in the second republic is clearly worse than what Obidents have dared so far, and till we get media or individual report there is nowhere Obidents have been accused of violence or voters’ intimidation.

It seems to me that Prof Soyinka did not take time to distinguish between Obidents and Obicracy.

Obidents (movement) is a motley collection of disgruntled Nigerians (mostly but not only young) that are unhappy with the status quo especially the two major parties. They are children of anger that grew up from the transition from KISS to Chaos. They don’t know how to say “I disagree”, they tend to say “shut up, you stupid fool”. They express themselves mostly namelessly and facelessly in the cyber space and they have convinced themselves that anonymity shields from responsibility and the care of empathy or duty of logic and facts.

Too many times, even they cannot express their anger and pain but if you take time to listen to them you will readily see that they feel like eagles trapped in the bodies and lives of chickens by bad leadership in an unfulfilling land. True or false, many of them have tales of seeing those less capable than them do better than them not because of what they know but because of who they know, they have seen political thugs ride luxurious cars past them whilst they with their hard-earned certificates in hand struggle to get into overcrowded buses on their way to meetings with miserable prospects. They have mental picture of those paid to manage their health system go abroad for health care, they see children of those who have destroyed their state education send their children to private and foreign schools.

These children of anger have no regard for institutions nor trust in the state because they consider their country a place where the wind of the good God does not blow because it is too busy fanning those with air conditioners. They have no respect for the older generations because they think the older ones failed them by allowing things to go this bad.

It is not the way in our (Yoruba) culture for the young to correct the old but I strongly believe and humbly submit to Prof Soyinka that I think a teacher and a father should spend more time understanding and educating rather than and attacking those in pain and in need of knowledge. They need care understating and hope.

Obicracy is the management of the Obident movement, their origin is mostly in the third force movement that was in the making before the arrival of Peter Obi from the PDP. The Labour Party (LP) on which they presented themselves for the 2023 electoral contest is a party to which they have neither ideological nor historical link, it is just a means to an end. While they have been strong on propaganda, these Obicrats (Obidient managers) have turned to be mediocre administrators, incapable of reading the nuances of the country and unable to field candidates in every possible position let alone deploy polling agents in every polling booth. They have reaped more than they have planted, their strength lies in the discontent of the people not their own ideas or organisational skills. They can talk and sell illusions but they are weak at doing. I think it is wrong to spend time fighting or labelling them.

Prof Soyinka is also wronged because his views were oversimplified by the media and those that used his statement as a validation of their position. Shame on all those who rushed to insult this old respected, knowledgeable and accomplished man. That unfortunately is the kind of politics we have chosen to play today. Too many of us have become partisan fanatics that cannot handle complex or complete thoughts anymore so I will not be surprised if some people genuinely think saying “Soyinka is wrong and wronged” is hard to understand or simply “fencsist”. Time will tell…

Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.

*Anthony Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos. www.ciaps.org. He is a regular contributor to The Frontier.




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