ColumnsDon OkoloNigeriaOpinionWole Soyinka’s trending gaffe  – when old men lie

Avatar PilotnewsSeptember 17, 2023
“Even at ninety, the man had to crawl with the cockroaches in the darkest of niches to grab a crumb from the filthy pie Tinubu was dangling before him.”


Good morning, sir, but screw you! My God, Wole, you are ninety, maybe senile, out of fashion, staled, and probably used up to utter those almost sacrilegious, according to Okey Ndibe, cologne-sprayed, amala and akara amalgam crap still looking for a way out from your small intestines. But I know that you are not crazy and that you carry your age with the same deportment of a Sage at thirty, and that you are as savvy as they come.

 WTF went wrong, sir? In that most gorgeous, traditional, Black American dialect; “Is you compromised, bitch?”  Was that not you that chewed and spat at the eyes of young boys and girls for following blindly those they know are stealing from them…those they know are making their lives a living hell? How could you have gone from that stateliness to ply in the dumpster where sons and daughters of a lesser god are scratching out their daily victuals? How could you have jumped off that motorized, slow-motion pageantry of incredible majesty, with flugelhorns, trumpets, and pennywhistles blaring, heralding your entrance? Did you not know that you were a god before you mistook the vintage Chinese porcelain bowl where your dinner would be served for a toilet bowl and passed that loud gas and feces in it…dining with royalty? Did you not know that everybody in that decrepit, comatose nation, Nigeria, worshipped you? Would you knowingly step down to a lower stead, and lose a greater piece of the moral garb because an offer you couldn’t refuse was made to you? AND YOU, TOO WOLE!


January 1991, I was waiting to board a Nigerian Airways flight to London. I looked down and saw this man coming down to find his own sitting among those of us waiting for Call Time. I knew it was Wole Soyinka moseying on; white shirt on white pants, and that vintage, head-full-of-grayed hair and grayed goatee he wears so well. My eyes widened like a pair of demitasses spoons. Like a rocket leaving its pod, I jumped up and approached…stopping in his face. He smiled. And as I said my hello, he knew I was Igbo, and immediately greeted me in Igbo. “Kedu”, he said. The moment, for me, was surreal…hallowed, because I was standing before the man, I knew beat out everyone else in the world the year he won the Nobel. Inside of that craziness of whirlwind pushing through my veins, I reached for my passport and gave it to him to sign. “Your passport?” He asked. I nodded. He went ahead and signed it. We shook hands. The passport is still with me. I was hoping that one day it would be worth a pretty penny. And just last year, I was passing through Asaba airport and saw the book: ‘You Must Set Forth At Dawn…Memoirs’. I paid thirty-five thousand Naira for it. No, I am not going to throw it away. I’ll keep it, just as I would the passport, for posterity.

Now I know how despairingly Julius Caesar must have looked at his homeboy, Brutus. With Jesus Christ, he knew what Judas would do and did not wallow anytime, during and through His agony, thinking about Judas and why the man from Ish Kerriot had betrayed Him. And so, it is with Wole Soyinka. Even at ninety, the man had to crawl with the cockroaches in the darkest of niches to grab a crumb from the filthy pie (money) Tinubu was dangling before him. ‘You must sell your soul to me if you want your last days to be memorable. And if you want to go out with a loud bang, and smell like freaking Rose, take this money and tell them Peter Obi came third. The people are too dumb to figure out the strategy in this narrative.’ Three hundred million, maybe five hundred million Naira may have been tied to a string, swaying in a back-and-forth motion for a considerable while to douse his eyes and sensibilities with an arctic kind of froth. His eyes, I was told, got heavy, ladened by the inane drivel of an Ijebu man’s wizardry in the hypnotic game. But sleep didn’t come: What came was the copious drooling of a heifer wanting a male. And because Wole Soyinka is an atheist, he had nothing to lose; “I have sat down with these Igbo people at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and not one among them had me figured out’.  He is right; we never and couldn’t figure him out. Like Julius Caesar, the Igbos are staring at him wearily and agonizingly, wondering how corruption could have pierced through that body armor to corrupt his soul. Was he not the same man who put a gun to a radio disc jockey’s head demanding to blow the man’s brains out if he didn’t get his way?

The mess in Nigeria is a formless cesspool with a skunk-like stench.

Somehow, I wish I could take flight, just like the birds do, and leave this God-forsaken land behind to heal herself. The mess in Nigeria is a formless cesspool with a skunk-like stench. What that means is that no one man could dare to clean the gunk up. It is not doable. Time after time, I have said that Nigeria is dead…and each time I said that I get patriots ramming me in the rear without the benefit of a reach-around. If only the rest of you would grow similar wings and join me in this seductive flight; we would vacate this abomination, this violation where a notable public coffers looter was allowed to make a come-back to steal some more. Those of you that are of non-Igbo extraction, should think seriously about the Igbo man’s agitation. Together, we will force these mutts to live alone, spend their stolen billions with no one around to envy them, even dread and curse them with the same vehemence as one spewing prime fiery vituperation on the devil. We will let these gavel-headed men dine alone, sleep alone with no one around to wake them or serve them. Wouldn’t you love to see these crass gentries of subpar, soulless beings dwell as hermits in the land of plenty with no one around to see them showing off, and/or riding in the back seats of their fancy, expensive automobiles? There ought not to be anyone around they could brag to or make snide remarks about. Goddammit! Let them cheer one another in their boisterous frolic. And when they are sick and bloated, let their minds desert them, too. Not done here! When death is imminent, these men will not remember The Father in Heaven they had abandoned…the Allah, in whose face they had spat. AMEN? Yeah, Amen!

♦ Don Okolo, Professor and filmmaker, is on the Editorial Board of the West African Pilot News. He is the author of many books.

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