Disagreeing with Soyinka
USA-based writer, literary critic, and public intellectual, Ikhide R. Ikheloa, has stirred controversy with a scathing critique of Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, regarding the latter’s recent comments on the outcome of the last presidential elections in Nigeria. In a social media post from his verified X (former Twitter) handle, @ikhide, Ikheloa expressed his disagreement with Soyinka’s perspective and touched upon the complexities of Nigerian politics and regionalism.
In his strongly worded statement, Ikheloa began by asserting that the grassroots movement supporting Peter Obi, known as the #PeterObi movement, represents a nationwide sentiment that far surpasses the reach of the pro-democracy movements of the 1990s. He argued that the 1990s pro-democracy movement, which counted figures like Tinubu and Soyinka among its leaders, was primarily driven by Yoruba interests, rather than being a truly national initiative.
Fighting for Democracy, Regardless of Ethnicity
Ikheloa, who was involved in various organisations supporting the pro-democracy movement at the time, emphasised that the struggle was a collective effort by Nigerians from diverse backgrounds, regardless of their ethnicity. He acknowledged the flaws of MKO Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential election, but maintained that justice demanded he take office due to the fairness of that election.
“The 90s pro-democracy movement led by Yoruba intellectuals like Soyinka was in reality not a national initiative,” Ikhide wrote. “I would know, I was one of the very few young Turks that did not have a Yoruba name. It did not matter to those of us non-Yoruba, it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. This was our struggle as Nigerians, and no matter how flawed MKO Abiola was (he sure was, read up on him) fair was fair, he deserved the seat he had won in perhaps the freest and fairest election in Nigeria’s history.”
Accuses Southwest of Being Dishonest
“But from the beginning, it was a tribal war,” Ikhide, who is a veteran of controversies continued. “A flawed Yoruba chieftain had won the elections and he had been denied his victory by military thugs. That did not matter to us. I was the scribe of several organisations that were hurriedly set up to fight this injustice. Many people saw Soyinka and Abiola as flawed proxies for democracy – and they spoke up. It was definitely complicated but we stood by the pro-democracy movement to the end.”
He went on to accuse Soyinka of dismissing the youth movement supporting Peter Obi as merely a tribal affair. Ikheloa argued that while many Southwest intellectuals, including Soyinka, advocate for power devolution to regions or satellites, they have failed to implement structures to realise this vision effectively.
Ikheloa accused Southwest intellectuals of being disingenuous about their commitment to regional power devolution, suggesting that their support for figures like Tinubu does not necessarily translate into progress for the Yoruba people as a whole. He concluded by asserting that Nigeria’s future looks bleak due to the intellectual elite’s inconsistency and lack of commitment to addressing the nation’s structural challenges.
Early Reactions by Social Media Users
Though still just four hours old, Ikhide’s post has gotten over 17,000 views and over 200 reposts. The controversial post has sparked diverse reactions on social media, with some users expressing support for Ikheloa’s perspective. One user, identified as Obinna, praised Ikheloa’s balanced viewpoint and shared insights into historical events related to the pro-democracy movement. Obinna also criticised certain Nigerian intellectuals for their willingness to compromise their principles for political gain.
However, not all responses were favourable to Ikheloa’s stance. Some users accused him of being motivated by financial interests or questioned his understanding of Nigerian politics, suggesting that he wasn’t in Nigeria during the 1990s.
Ikhide R. Ikheloa, known for his strong opinions on literature and politics, has made significant contributions to African literature and advocated for the use of digital technology to advance African literary works. His latest critique of Professor Wole Soyinka adds to his reputation as a thought-provoking figure in the literary and political landscape.
Wole Soyinka, the renowned Nigerian playwright and activist, had expressed strong views on Peter Obi’s election in the 2023 polls. Soyinka stated that the Labour Party (LP) leadership was aware that Obi had lost the 2023 presidential election. He accused them of attempting to deceive the Nigerian public with false information regarding the election results.
Soyinka’s statements suggest a level of scepticism regarding the legitimacy of Peter Obi’s claim of victory in the 2023 presidential election. It’s important to note that these statements should be considered within the context of Nigeria’s complex political landscape.
In respect of Ikhide’s comments, it is unclear whether Prof Soyinka is likely to issue a statement to counter the claims. The Nobel laureate has publicly said he does not have any social media handle and so issues his statements by email.