Guest blogger, Opeyemi Adediran shares his thoughts on the controversy surrounding erudite scholar and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, and his pre-election statement regarding the possibility of a Trump presidency. Ope is a social critic and occasional writer who holds a Phd in Meat Science and Animal Products from the University of Ibadan. He enjoys reading and tackling trivia questions.
After Donald Trump’s shock win in the recently concluded American Presidential elections, a lot of backlash has been generated. Especially from and about those who didn’t give him any real chance of emerging the next POTUS, and who probably stuck out their necks too far in opposing Trump’s ambition due to his controversial and unconventional campaign style.
One of the personalities experiencing such backlash is Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s only Nobel Laureate. He had said in an interview prior to the elections that he would cut/destroy his US green card (which entitles him to permanent residency in the US) should Trump emerge president.
Since Trump has been declared winner having garnered sufficient electoral college votes, many people have called on Prof. Soyinka to fulfill his promise. Though it must be mentioned that the manner in which some of these calls were made was disrespectful of Prof. Soyinka’s age and achievements. Because in Africa, and especially among the Yorubas (which Prof. Soyinka is an extraction of) respect for one’s elders is taken as very important.
However, paradoxically there has been another coalition of persons holding brief for Prof. Soyinka, defending him (sometimes with insults) against those asking him to abide by his words, display integrity and destroy his US green card as he stated before the elections. Some of his defenders have claimed he was only speaking sarcastically/metaphorically in the interview.
Yoruba culture, undoubtedly rich, contains some aspects which I believe should be reviewed to make it richer. For example in Yoruba culture, it is believed that an elder cannot lie, especially when s/he is involved in an issue with a younger person. It is also believed that sometimes an elderly person can take advantage of a younger person without repercussion on account of being elderly. It is also a taboo to use one’s left hand to give money or anything to someone else, such that some parents forcefully converted their children who were naturally left-handed to become right-handed (occasionally with weighty ramifications for such forcefully converted children).
Being a Yoruba boy myself, I believe the rationale of most people defending Prof. Soyinka is most likely predicated on the first two examples on aspects of Yoruba culture mentioned above or any other closely related one(s).
Personally, having watched a clip of the interview where the remark was made, where he even made reference to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s public tearing of his party membership card, I believe Prof. Soyinka should stand by his words, act with integrity and do what he said he would do if Trump won. A man’s word is his bond. He is a role model to many people, and he might be passing an undesirable message across that it’s okay not to honour your words if you don’t get a desired outcome.
And if Prof. Soyinka has changed his mind about it, he should say so and it is allowed especially since he is an elder.
In conclusion, I’d like to state a cautionary reminder to people not to make dares or promises that would be hard for them to fulfill out of excitement or bandwagonism especially as regards events which odds do not favour to happen, because we’re not in absolute control of the odds.
After all, it wasn’t that long ago when Gary Lineker had to present a TV broadcast of BBC match of the day wearing only his underwear because he had made a bet about it, thinking Leicester City FC would never win the 2015/16 BPL because the odds were overwhelmingly against them at 5000:1.
The world as we see it, particularly in recent times has become too unpredictable for anyone to stick out their neck over matters that are subject to the vagaries of life.