Opinion: Domestic appendage – Wole Soyinka should recede from frontline politics

by Corlenius Segun-Ojo


Culturally, it is indisputable that our society does not condone assault of any kind on womanhood. When a family brawls and the elders wade in, the man always take the bashings for being so ‘poor and disgraceful’ to engage the wife in a public ‘show of shame’. As a school boy, I also can vividly recall that the greatest offence you can commit in school was to beat up a girl, to which punishment of a hard labour sufficed. Beyond Nigeria, almost everywhere, no society condones the type of attack WS gleefully visited on the First Lady.

 ‘The people to fear are not those who disagree with you, but those who disagree with you and are too cowardly to let you know’ (Napoleon Bonaparte)

In 2006, I authored a piece titled: Gani Fawehinmi: A Reappraisal. I warned the chief that he risked his hard earned integrity over his emotional support for Nuhu Ribadu’s nonsensical anti-corruption war. Though I feared some cosmetic supporters of the chief might resort to the now prevalent ‘eebu tins’ (verbal abuse), but I went ahead believing that as a Gani’s disciple, I was qualified to say something. As we all can see, I was vindicated, as the ‘smart alec’ Ribadu joined the train he hitherto condemned.

Currently, I find myself in the same situation, joining issues with Professor Wole Soyinka, WS for short. He was one of those credible people I dangerously followed during the military era and whose leadership at the time strengthened the resolve of hundreds of Nigerian youths who believed him to confront state agents, even in the face of death. Unlike in Fawehinmi’s case, I surely expect ‘eebu tins’ this time, because a section of our society would see WS as the proverbial king who does no wrong, even when the king tramples on the society.

Before now, I had wanted to comment on WS’s disparaging remarks on fellow humans, the recent being the interview granted the abrasive online medium – Sahara Reporters on Achebe’s death. I was appalled to read WS dismiss those he considered lesser in knowledge with unkind words. Lashing out at those who felt Achebe was a ‘father of African Literature’, he described them as ‘silly’ and being of ‘parlous knowledge’. Dismissing Adewale Maja-Pearce’s work in particular, WS branded him an ‘inept hustler’ and a ‘sterile literary aspirant.’

WS can only find time to read Nigerian literature on ‘Lagos Traffic’ and most times tempted to ‘toss some out of his car window’. I concluded that WS being a giant could go away with his angry diatribe – that is what it means to be a giant – look down on others. But again, I felt that while younger writers may never measure up to WS’s standards, great teachers I believe, don’t throw away the works of others but encourage them through constructive criticism. I wonder how many students will not drop out of WS’s hell of a class, where students have to shift through the bin to collect their works instead of a constructive feedback.

Barely forgetting that episode, another issue, more embarrassing to WS compelled me to pick up my pen. It was at a press briefing in Lagos recently where WS took the First Lady to the cleaners on the altar of Nigeria’s ‘roforofo’ (muddy) politics. Among other unscrupulous tirades, WS described Mrs. Patience Jonathan as a ‘mere domestic appendage of power’. I was horrified that such a retrogressive remark came from WS at a time efforts are being made globally to perish the thought that a woman is worth not more than a domestic assistant. Though I started writing to express my dismay, I had to abandon the journey, fearing the ‘eebu tins’. However, the courage to return to the issue arose when again, WS called the First Lady ‘Madam Shepopotamus’.

Thus, with the latest dirty lexicon, I concluded that WS breached public etiquette (The Yoruba culture frowns seriously at abusing somebody with his/her attribute/s – eebu ara). I reckoned that even if the ‘golden boy’ Amaechi is WS’s son, the fact that he is born of a woman and that that woman must surely resemble Mrs. Jonathan, was enough for WS to show passion. Again, the fact that Mrs. Jonathan is a mother to some children meant she shouldn’t have been so debased and humiliated for political reasons. More importantly, that she is the wife of the president was compelling enough for WS to respect the society she and the president represent.

Culturally, it is indisputable that our society does not condone assault of any kind on womanhood. When a family brawls and the elders wade in, the man always take the bashings for being so ‘poor and disgraceful’ to engage the wife in a public ‘show of shame’. As a school boy, I also can vividly recall that the greatest offence you can commit in school was to beat up a girl, to which punishment of a hard labour sufficed. Beyond Nigeria, almost everywhere, no society condones the type of attack WS gleefully visited on the First Lady. It’s all so strange. It’s not because womanhood is faultless, but it is because the woman carries such enormous responsibilities – immeasurable at that, for the society that her failings are treated with caution and decorum whenever correction is inevitable.

In 2011, the British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticised for telling a female parliamentarian to ‘calm down dear’ during a debate in parliament. His sexist remark, commentators say, showed disdain with which women are treated. He quickly apologised. Few weeks back, London Mayor Boris Johnson also came under public fury. The visiting Malaysian President spoke of his admiration for Malaysian women who he claimed accounted for 68 per cent of university enrollment. He was interrupted by the Mayor who derogatorily said the ‘women go to university to find husbands’. His comments drew a sharp public condemnation.

Yet, President Barack Obama was criticised for shielding from the American public, a report showing female soldiers are sexually abused by senior instructors.  The public outcry has led to new proposals by the Congress granting more protection to servicewomen and punishing offenders. From the above arise two issues: on the one hand, womanhood is an object of abuse at every corner of the globe owing to the same WS’s theory which sees the woman as deserving no respect. On the other hand, it is instructive to note that societies around the world do not condone the abuse culture and rail against it.

Sadly in Nigeria, there appears to be a tendency to normalise this culture. I reckon this same WS’s theory might have spurred Senator Yerima that, since the woman amounts to nothing than a ‘domestic appendage’, why not cut the girl child short and enslave her early in life?  Like a conspiracy, the Senate rubber stamped the appalling fantasy of grand-dads sexually assaulting their grand-daughters, then criminally calling them wives. Surely, the world would be mocking us. No thanks to WS.

First ladyship is a political invention that has become a powerful political shareholding the world over. Under Ronald Regan, his wife, Nancy was so powerful that there was a ‘tug of war’ between her and the White House advisers (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2011/feb/3/nancy-reagan-was-a-true-political-partner/?page=all). Hillary Clinton’s influence was never in doubt, and there have been more stories about Cherie Blair’s ‘quirky life’. In fact, the influence wielded by Samantha Cameron, the wife of current UK prime Minister was a subject of a report in the London Evening Standard of Tuesday 16 July, ’13, where she was reported to be the brains behind the gay marriage issue that split the Conservatives, as well as pushing for the military intervention in Syria (http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/comment/melanie-mcdonagh-im-not-fooled-by-the-power-of-samantha-cameron).  In our clime, some of us were not too young to witness how powerful the Maryam Babangidas, the Maryam Abachas, the Stella Obasanjos were. I vividly can recall many horrendous convoys of Stella Obasanjo in Lagos. Ordinarily, it is politically unwise for a governor to tango with the wife of the president, more so when the woman is an indigene of your state. It is most illogical. A politically savvy governor would see that as an asset to him and his government rather that war-war with her.

On political ambition, while Governor Amaechi has the right to aspire, his aspiration when in conflict with his party becomes politically inchoate. But when you go further to undermine your party with a view to helping the opposition, it’s like donating your head to smash a coconut, you surely won’t partake in the eating. Aftermath of the successes recorded at the 2012 Olympics, the UK press was promoting the London Mayor Boris Johnson as a prime ministerial candidate. Initially, he was dancing to the lyrics but along the line, he probably saw the yellow card and backtracked. He addressed the Conservative Conference where he not only buried his ambition, but praised the prime minister and pledged loyalty . I am sure Governor Amaechi understands better.

Finally, WS will do better by concentrating on the penkelemesi (peculiar messes – to use late Adelabu Adegoke’s phrase) in his backyard than travel to Rivers. That will be in breach of the principle of proximity. Why isn’t WS complaining about the Lagos excesses: the Tinubu’s birthday which paralysed a section of Lagos and where elected governors were mounting the podium one after another to pay homage; the alleged billions of tax payers being siphoned under the guise of consultancy; the imposition of his daughter as the Iyaloja-General, the winner takes all and the repression of the opposition in elections so far in Lagos; the unconstitutional and dehumanising deportations of fellow Nigerians within their own country and the incessant bloodshed in Ekiti to mention just a few, all make WS’s foray into Rivers look like covering one’s own anomalies. In conclusion, and with all sense of responsibility, I think WS should recede from frontline politics.


Read this article in the ThisDay Newspapers


Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (6)

  1. I want to ask the writer a question,do u no the role played by the same wole soyinka when musa yara Adua was in sick bed,well if u forget so soon is the same wole soyinka that voice out in protest to make his vice (jonathan) acting president,was he trying to go into politice then? Honestly we need people like wole soyinka who will see spade and call it a spade, not lik our religious leaders.

  2. Segun ojo or what r u called ? Ur article is thoroughly flawed ! WS shud be commended for standing up for the embattled gov of River state ! Is madam shepopotamus not a mere appendage of power as rightly pointed out by WS ? Is she elected to that office via any known election ? What ur madam umblela knows how to do best is to court problem for her husband right from when her husband was VP of this country ! Hw many time has she clashed with Turai ? Let her take a cue from Stella Obasanjo that’ll rather try to make a peace btw OBJ and his political enemy or att times shut up rather than creating more problem for husband .

  3. @Emmanuel go and study your history my brother. Should he be rubbing her head and pleading to her. Even in the military regime this could never have happen. FYI WS ha been a role model and will continue to be one. This is not political bigotry. I was in the dark myself until I read ‘We must set forth at dawn” by WS. WS is a Nigerian and can talk on issues concerning any state. he has been jailed for being brave and patriotic; almost killed several times by military regimes. So to insult her person and office is because he has earned the right no politician that know his history can dispute that.

  4. I love this write up, may GOD bless you as you continue to enlightened the so call elite on there romance with dirty politics. It is really shameful to people like WS who are supposed to be role models to we the youths to be caught up so cheap because of dirty politics.
    Edwin clark an elder statesman publicly apologies to Gov. Lamido of Jigawa state, therefore, for WS to regain his respect in the in general, he has to publicly apologies to Nigerians, to women folks in general, to the office of the first lady of Nigeria, to the family of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria & finally to her excellency, the wife of the president of the federal republic of Nigeria, Dame Patience Goodluck Jonathan.

  5. So are you saying erratic women should be shielded from attacks just because they are women? When Patience decided to throw away decorum and decency and even constitutionality by taking on an elected governor of a state, what did she expect? Politics is a dirty game. Patience has been playing very dirty. She got what she deserves. My take on this article is that it is silly and being of parlous knowledge.

  6. Your article reeks sentiment. Call. A spade a spade. I don’t think you know the history of Wole Soyinka’s stance in Nigeria. Even before independence Sir. The Presidents Wife acted out of line and continued to, We needed someone like WS with no political ambition to call her to order. Did you hear what she did in River state for 11 days. This country cannot continue to enforce backyard pilitiic style. So because she’s first lady she out of reach for correction and insult? It is people like you that give women the latitude to misbehave and just say leave her she is a woman. If yyou preach equality you shouldn’t cry murder when a female politician gets into the line of fire. So if it was a man WS can speak more freely? And about WS’s comment on Achebe it is rightly true. Achebe’s last book was unbalanced and incomplete. If not why did he not include WS’s impact before the war…Which got WS in jailed for over a year. No mention of the Third army WS formed along with Victor Banjo. To maintain balance. Such an incomplete book it was obvious Achebe was still upset about the War.

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