Alleged unfair slander against the Igbos by Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, in a speech was already causing wide spread legitimate c o n d e m n a t i o n s before he denied it and the medium that popularized the allegation apologized, calming frayed nerves as captured in this report by Adjekpagbon Blessed Mudiaga
The uncomplimentary comments allegedly credited to the Nobel Laureate and foremost social critic, Wole Soyinka, has generated reactions. However, Soyinka has since denied the comments insisting that whoever believes that he made such comments must be a moron. Following this, the source, The Cable Network, an online publication, has apologized. Even so, the reactions that followed the alleged unfair slander was already trending before the apologies and denials calmed frayed nerves.
The Cable’s Original story:
Nobel Laureate and foremost social critic, Wole Soyinka, is of the opinion that Nigerians of Igbo extractions are the only people in the country who can be predicted accurately. Delivering a lecture titled ‘Predicting Nigeria, Electoral Ironies’ at the Harvard University Hutchins Centre for African & African American Research, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, the revered scholar described people from that part of the country as “greedy”.
“Igbos remained unrepentant and resolute towards their strategic objective of secession at worst; or a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction at best,” he said at the lecture, which held on April 29. “The climax of MASSOB’s war against the Nigerian state was the call for sit-ins and civil disobedience that shut down markets and public services, as Igbos stayed at home in a symbolic gesture to assert Biafran independence. Governors in the two principal Ibo states honoured the call, though without fanfare.
“The Igbos are probably the only group of Nigerians that you can predict with great accuracy whom they will vote for in an election, because they tend to put their votes where their stomachs take them; suffering as it were, from incurable money-mindedness, as they would stop at nothing in their quest for personal financial gain.”
Commenting on the result of Nigeria’s presidential election, Soyinka said the re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan would have been “disastrous”, as Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria’s president-elect, is better option. “Muhammadu Buhari, was the better of the two evils as the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan had been an unmitigated disaster and failure,” he said. “It was a painful decision to tell people to vote Buhari, but the country needed a new beginning.
I was more against Jonathan, than I was pro-Buhari. “Nothing is more unworthy of leadership than to degrade a system by which one attains fulfillment, and this is what the nation witnessed time and time again under Jonathan, who was increasingly becoming intolerant of opposition in an escalating streak of impunity and authoritarian madness, which was most blatant and unconscionable.
“The ‘militricians’ – soldiers turned politicians in power – aren’t looking for excellence; their civilian cohorts are worse. Short cuts and how to circum circumvent the system for the profit of a few are the norm of governance. Those who do honest work are derided as lacking the skill to fit it. Ironically, things haven’t quite changed a bit after 16 years of democracy in the country.”
Aka Ikenga, Others Reacts:
Aka Ikenga, the think tank of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has berated Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, for allegedly demonising Ndigbo in a recent lecture at Harvard University in the United States of America. The group in a statement issued on Wednesday in Lagos and signed by its President, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, “noted with dismay the demonisation of Ndigbo by a group of people who have nothing positive to contribute to the peaceful conclusion of the Presidential election.”
Continuing, Aka Ikenga said, “Ndigbo voted freely and without any fear or favour. To attribute it to greed or stomach infrastructure or even love of money is to carry on this malicious stigmatisation to a ridiculous level. “Ekiti voted for PDP and it was called stomach infrastructure but not Osun that voted APC. Amaechi of Rivers and close friend of Prof. Wole Soyinka lost his state and all South-East and South- South states and we are all categorised as people who put their votes where their stomach is and are suffering from incurable money mindedness.
“The statement from Soyinka is a sign that the quality of gun totting Wole of Ibadan has gone into oblivion! It is now replaced by that of a man who must speak even when he has nothing to say. Truly, the quality has died and is now replaced by something else. Wole Soyinka of old would have campaigned for people to vote freely.
“How come Ndigbo are the only people singled out by Soyinka? There are over 400 tribes in Nigeria but Soyinka did not single out any of them except Ndigbo for vilification in US. The election is over but we urge the purveyors of disunity to let peace reign.” Commenting on the statement, a social commentator, Henry Otulle Eke said, “I respect Professor Soyinka’s brilliancy, but I wonder how he intentionally failed to address the aspiration of the much-needed referendum of the Easterners to determine whether or not to remain in the state of Nigeria.
“The erudite professor talked about the unrepentant Igbo Nation, but failed to address the conspiracy theory against Igbo’s interest in Nigeria polity. He did not address the rampant killing of Igbo people in the Northern Nigeria and explained the rationale on why Igbo people should continue to remain in Nigeria.”
Mark Odu, another respondent posited that, “This is a candid picture which Ndigbo are bound to ruminate upon for a long time. Taking lessons from Wole to change our condition is an undeniable imperative. “We are covetous and wild with seeking benefits from every situation even where it hurts our community’s psyche.
We Ndigbo must return to our community’s love and social responsibility for one another. That is the only way we shall return to respectability among Nigerians and other nations.” Moreover, Folarin Mitchell Dare, a social commentator said, “I am Yoruba. The Igbo are the brightest people around. There are two things that are dragging the ship of this great people backward. First, is the anchor of the past civil war; unless the Igbo learned about forgetting about the past, the anchor of the civil war will continue to drag this mighty ship backward.
The Igbo are intelligent as individuals but not intelligent as a people. There is no way one can be better than two. Until you sacrifice personal gain for collective one, you can never reach your optimal value. “If you can come together as a people, there is nothing you want that you will not achieve. You will attain your leadership status in Africa forever. You almost monopolised the political landscape in Nigeria. The strength of North is unity and nothing else.
Please wake up, sleeping giant.” A political analyst, Methuselah Brozz, said “You said the Igbo are not united, yet they delivered over 95 per cent of their votes to PDP. Compare that with Southwest that gave APC less than 60 per cent and PDP 40 per cent.
“Wole Soyinka was alleged to have said that ‘Igbo are predictable. They voted for monetary gains.’ The Igbo believe in the rightness of the cause they pursue. Our ideas and opinion may be different but that does not confer on one the right to judge the others.” Ropo Juls Alaba, another social commentator said, “I respect Wole Soyinka for his brilliancy and constant personal engagements and interest to sustain the Nigeria project. But he needs to do more by organising people of like minds across the length and breadth of Nigeria, get a youth wing of that national organisation and carry them in preparation towards becoming a social political movement with onerous aim to become a political phenomenon on which we would march to power.
“Nigeria has everything it takes to emerge as a very strong nation if only we can just organise and confine the present crop of leaders into the dust bins of history.” Johnny Oraefo, in his view said, “In as much as I have great respect for Professor Wole Sonyinka, I’m a little bit disappointed for certain remarks he allegedly made about Ndigbo. Yes, Ndigbo love money and they work for it. By the way, who does not like money? There’s nothing wrong with people working hard to get wealth. What is wrong, is people worshipping money as their “god.” “He also failed to mention all the atrocities committed against Ndigbo time without number, including marginalisation.
I hope the President-elect, General Buhari will pilot the ship of change in Nigeria with the fear of God, honesty and integrity. I personally believe that the president-elect has a genuine desire to move Nigeria forward. Only time will tell.” In the view of Michael Oduntan, a respondent in defense of Soyinka ar gues that, “I think what Professor Wole Soyinka was saying is that people should not let money be the driving force in everything they do as people. Sometimes, we have to put the benefit to the larger society over money or profit.
“The Igbo are as intelligent and resourceful as any race on the earth. So, it baffles so many people why they are contented to developing other communities instead of investing their hard earned resources in their own community in the Southeast for the benefit of their own people.” Christopher Johnson, another respondent said the allegation against Soyinka as comment that might have originated from an unsettled brain if it was truly said by the Literature giant.
Professor Wole Soyinka, has denied comments attributed to him concerning the voting pattern of the Igbo in the March 28 presidential election. The report, published by TheCable, alleged that he accused the Igbo of voting according to their “stomachs”. In an angry response to the story, Soyinka said in a statement: “I have just read a statement attributed to me on something called The CABLE, a news outlet, evidently one of the Internet infestations.
My lecture at the Hutchins Centre, Harvard University, was video recorded. “Anyone who believes what I am alleged to have said must be a moron – repeat, a moron. It is demeaning, sickening and boring to have to deal with these cowards who cannot fight their own battles but must fasten their imbecilic pronouncements on others. “Only the mentally retarded will credit this comment attributed to me regarding the Ndigbo voting pattern in the last elections. I strongly suspect the author of this despicable concoction, and may make a further statement, once the source is verified.”
The Cable’s Apology:
The management of Cable Newspaper Ltd, publishers of TheCable, would like to make the following statement concerning our report on the lecture by Professor Wole Soyinka, at the Harvard University Hutchins Centre for African and African American Research. Soyinka was quoted to have made derogatory remarks about the Igbo over their voting pattern in the March 28 presidential election. He has since denied the offensive quotes attributed to him.
After an in-house investigation, we have come to the conclusion that the story misrepresented the views expressed by Soyinka in the question-and-answer session after his lecture.
We take full responsibility for the inaccuracy and promise that we will continue to strive to improve our standards. Also, we wish to reiterate that we take our professional responsibilities very seriously, as our readers can attest to. We hereby offer an unreserved apology to Soyinka, Ndigbo