Prof. Wole Soyinka: Why I Shunned ‘One Man, One Vote’ Rally

Friday, April 30, 2010

By Idowu Sowunmi

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka yesterday said he shunned the “one man, one vote” rally organised by Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State because he was uncomfortable in the company of some people present at the event, “who have been stifling democratic development in the country.”

According to him, “in the process of mobilization you cannot elevate to position of prominence those, shall we say, who have cases to answer, having been guilty in the past and even in the present, for continuous violation of that right to electoral volition.”
He said he was very happy to be invited to Edo State to participate in the process of what he hoped would be the first of its series, “but when I got there I found out that I did not very much like the company of those I was supposed to keep, so I had to leave.”

“I had received no inclination beforehand about the company; I thought it was entirely an Edo State affair and I had a special relationship with the state. When I found out that the umbrella had been spread to include these people; sometimes if you don’t have an umbrella and the rain is beating you hard, you will rather be beaten by the rain than share the umbrella with certain people. I would rather be soaked. So, it became a problem for me quite frankly.”

However, the 1986 Nobel laureate commended the Edo State governor for embarking on the sensitization and mobilisation of Nigerians “from electoral coma,” explaining that he would like the initiative to be repeated round the whole nation, state by state and even if possible local government by local government.

Soyinka and other chieftains of Action Congress like Chiefs Bisi Akande and Bola Tinubu, among others opted out of the rally when they learnt that both the Senate President David Mark and former military president, Ibrahim Babangida would be in attendance at the rally.

On the cloud surrounding the state of President Umaru Yar’Adua’s health, the literary icon said: “As a human being, I find it disgusting by the use to which President Yar’Adua is being put by a group that is generally known as the cabal.
“I think they are not faceless, a number of them have been mentioned by the media, and they are very vociferous and good at planting rumours and stories in the media to falsify the situation in Aso Rock right now especially as it concerns the health of the president.”

He descried as “fabrications” the story that the president was recently seen at his desk attending to people, adding that “it is about time that we got to the bottom of the motivation behind this kind of activities and put an end to it.”
He added: “One of the reasons why I’m speaking in my personal capacity is that I’m actually appealing to groups like Save Nigeria Group, Citizen Forum, civil rights organisations and humanitarian organisations to intervene and stop this very dark tragic comedy.”

According to him, “If the man whom I met, Umaru Yar’Adua, was capable of speaking to this nation, he would have done so by now. If he were capable of communicating to this nation and to the world by any means not just phone calls, he would have done so.

Taking the Jonathan government to task, Soyinka said: “We know that we have a very strange constitution which places the burden of primary action in the laps of somebody else, should I say who is supposed to succeed him. I understand it is a very embarrassing situation and from all of this we can see Jonathan’s middle name is “Gentleman” – Goodluck “Gentleman” Jonathan, and I sympathise with him in his dilemma but his cabinet has to understand that they have the constitutional responsibility to do the right thing.”

He said Jonathan has the right to demand to see his boss. “He is acting, he is acting for somebody. I don’t care what the constitution says. We are talking about the meaning of the word in plain good old English, he is acting for somebody. That person is next door. He has a responsibility to both himself, his cabinet, to the legislature and the nation to demand and insist on knowing the condition of Yar’Adua.”


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