Posted by By Reuben Abati on
My dear friend, Femi Fani-Kayode has done it again, helping President Olusegun Obasanjo to intimidate, abuse and tongue-lash anyone who expresses a contrary opinion about the Obasanjo Presidency. He always manages to do this in the fashion of a well-fed attack dog.
My dear friend, Femi Fani-Kayode has done it again, helping President Olusegun Obasanjo to intimidate, abuse and tongue-lash anyone who expresses a contrary opinion about the Obasanjo Presidency. He always manages to do this in the fashion of a well-fed attack dog. If I were President of Nigeria, I would also give Femi Fani-Kayode a job. He seems to have a ready answer for every occasion. Every President needs a well-trained and loyal Rottweiler who can go after unwanted guests and tear them to pieces.
In his latest public outing however, namely his attack on Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Femi, in trying to put down the international statesman raised a number of issues which are totally beside the point, thoroughly offensive in their lack of logic, and which ought to be unravelled as being of no significance other than the exposure of the intolerance of the Obasanjo Presidency, and the kind of inadvertent damage that attack dogs in the corridors of power can cause.
For record purposes, it should be remembered that in 1999, President Olusegun Obasanjo had started out as "a good friend" of Professor Wole Soyinka and the pro-democracy community. The President had only just returned from prison. He was a victim of the misrule by General Sani Abacha and his agents. The community of progressives wanted to give him a chance. Well-schooled in the rhetoric of democracy and good governance, Obasanjo looked in the earlier days like the Moses of the Nigerian dream. And so, virtually everyone in civil society supported him with the notable exception though, of Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly and other skeptics who have now proved to be prescient.
Obasanjo in those days had also tried to reach out to virtually every important political family in Nigeria. He gave positions to the sons and daughters of this and that especially in those circumstances where the fathers or the mothers could not take up the positions personally. Even the Wole Soyinka family was a beneficiary of this Fathers, Sons and Daughters Ltd arrangement; Obasanjo appointed a Soyinka daughter as a Special Assistant. Professor Soyinka has since denied any form of involvement in this. And if this was meant to be a Greek gift, the tactics obviously failed.
When it became clear that the Obasanjo government was beginning to flounder, Professor Wole Soyinka did not hesitate to speak up. He wrote a letter to President Obasanjo to warn him about how his government was beginning to derail focusing on the shameless "dancing on Ige's grave", the Anambra debacle, and the misconduct of the ruling PDP. This was meant to be an innocent well-meaning advice but somehow the material was leaked to the press, and President Obasanjo felt obliged to issue a response. He did. And for the following weeks, both the President and the Nobel Laureate fought a battle of wits on the pages of The Punch which had initially brought the feud to public attention.
Last year, at the public presentation of The Whole Truth, a collection of editorials by The Guardian, Soyinka as presenter of the book, had made a speech in which he called on concerned Nigerians that the time had come for a return to the trenches in defence of democracy and the public order. The Obasanjo government had failed, and Soyinka wanted Nigeria to be rescued. In subsequent public appearances, since then Soyinka has continued to expound on this theme. He is opposed to the abuse of due process and the criminality involved in the impeachment of Governor Ladoja of Oyo state, and he has said so publicly. In the past month, he has addressed at least two press conferences in which he again summoned all men and women of conscience to rise against the dictatorship being imposed on Nigeria. He has advised the President to resign and salvage whatever remains of his honour.
This latest offensive by Professor Soyinka prompted Fani-Kayode's attack. Fani-Kayode speaks for the President. He is the man's public communication strategist. And so Fani-Kayode responds condescendingly: "I did not read it myself. My special assistant read it and briefed me on his comments..." (You see, Femi is too busy to read newspapers himself. He is a Special Assistant to the President. But he too depends on a Special Assistant who reports major developments to him... I bet this Special Assistant also has his own Special Assistants. But no matter, Femi listens to his own Special Assistant, and he immediately offers detailed opinion on something that he has not read. So he says: "I think we have already given Prof. Soyinka far more attention than he deserves (Really? How? ). We have absolutely no further comment about him and we have nothing more to say to him.
"Whoever he spends his time insulting for his own personal and self-serving reasons, is his own business...At this stage in the life of our nation, constructive criticisms and meaningful contributions are what are needed and not the expression of bitter, retrograde and self-serving commentaries. In any case, it is always very difficult to reason, debate or have any form of meaningful discussion or dialogue with any person that does not believe in God. The truth is that regardless of what people like Soyinka would have you believe, God is blessing Nigeria and our belief is that He will continue to do so...."
It does not matter what Fani-Kayode and his master say. Their angry point about "bitter, retrograde, and self-serving commentaries" does not change anything about the reality which "people like Soyinka" are drawing attention to, namely that our democracy is tottering and the reason it is doing so is because the Presidency is aiding and abetting the abuse of the rule of law. We have a Presidency that is larger than life and that has its hands in every problematic pie on the landscape, from Anambra to Niger Delta to Plateau and Oyo state. Is it too much for concerned citizens to sound a note of warning, to remind the President in particular of the obligations of government to the people?
When the Presidency keeps itself busy responding to every line of criticism, what it is saying invariably is that it has no respect for public opinion or the right of others to hold a different view. Under such circumstances, the Presidency expresses its preference for dictatorship. Such conduct is at variance with the democratic principle. There is nothing that Professor Wole Soyinka has said about this government that is not being said by virtually every Nigerian. The onus is on government to listen and make amends if it can still do so. The resort to arrogance, abusive, fighting words, and hot temper merely deepens public angst, and exposes alack of civility.
Fani-Kayode says Professor Soyinka does not believe in God. What has that got to do with anything? Is a man less of a citizen because he is an atheist or agnostic? Fani-Kayode is an officer of the law, so he probably need not be reminded that the Nigerian Constitution recognizes the right of every one to enjoy the freedom of religion, freedom of belief or faith, and that no man can be discriminated against on that basis. Nigeria has no state religion, so how do you dismiss a man as unworthy of attention because he "does not believe in God?" When did believing in God become a qualification for participating in public debates? And who told Fani-Kayode that Soyinka does not believe in God? Who has ever seen God? Who knows what it means to have faith in God? Soyinka by his own admission is an Ogun devotee, a humanist, and a believer in the existence of a Supreme Being, a transcendental force, called by whatever name, and a sworn enemy of religious hypocrisy.
Explaining the substance of this as Soyinka himself has done in many writings may sound like an apology which is totally unnecessary. I don't care whether a man worships a stone or a snake. It is not my business whether he believes in God or not. My position has always been that the religion of God is to be reconciled to the religion of man, and vice versa. The problem we have in this country is that there are too many people who use references to God as a kind of shield. They have turned God into an alibi. They only need to invoke the name of God to put an end to any argument. Once they label a man Godless, they expect everyone to look at the person differently.
In the last six years, government officials have been busy referring to God but that has not translated into any concrete development, because they merely mouth the name of God without knowing Him. Who is a person of God really? The late Tai Solarin publicly denounced God, and advertised himself as an atheist. He lived long. He enjoyed the Grace of God. He founded Mayflower School Ikenne, which in 50 years has produced many prominent Nigerians in different fields of human endeavour. Solarin was known as a good man and a blessing to his community.
Friedrich Nietszche wrote about "The Death of God"; yet he is one of the greatest thinkers in living memory, and a major influence on the modern world. Galileo Galeli was called a Godless man and tied to the stakes for daring to express the opinion that the world was round and not flat as was hitherto thought. He has since been proven right. Moliere, leading French writer of the 17th Century was denied Christian burial because he "did not believe in God". His accusers have long been forgotten, he lives on as a major writer and thinker. Some of the greatest technological breakthroughs of our world came from men who, by the standards of President Obasanjo and his spokesman, did not "believe in God".
The standards of God are clearly different from those of persons who use His name to play politics. The world is sustained by men and women who are willing to do unto their neighbours as they would rather do unto themselves, persons who without claiming to be Christians or Moslems are nevertheless committed to a vision of the common good and are willing to make sacrifices so that the rest of humanity may survive and grow. It is not all those who call God at every convenient opportunity that believe in Him. There are more persons of God outside places of religious worship than there are within. Jim Jones of Guyana was supposed to be a man of God but he led hundreds of persons to commit suicide. There are similar end-time Pastors in Nigeria today who are busy deceiving and misleading the innocent. It is not what people claim that matters. It is what they do. "By their fruits ye shall know them..." This is the eternal truth.
Every government official parades himself or herself as Godly. They make a big show of their religiousity and claim to know the mind of God. They who believe in God, let them show Godliness in the things they do. When Alamiyeseigha jumped bail in England and suddenly showed up in Bayelsa, he said it was God that did it. When Goodluck Jonathan took over from him as Governor of Bayelsa, he too said it was God that brought him to that position. Every day in Government House, our rulers troop to the church or the mosque. Every official statement is littered with references to God. In God's name, they rig elections and steal public funds. In His name, they kill their political opponents or professional rivals. In His name, they commit evil against constituted authority and break the laws of the land. One of these days, God is going to get angry with all the people in this country who call His name in vain.
Fani-Kayode says Professor Soyinka is getting far more attention than he deserves. Of what use is Presidential attention to Wole Soyinka? He is one of the greatest writers in world literature. Even without the Nobel Prize, his place in world literature was already assured for all times. Femi is either talking politics or he needs to do a little more reading
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