Autobiography: You've murdered sleep, Soyinka tells Obasanjo

SUN Newspaper- Chris Iwarah

The challenges be­setting former President Oluse­gun Obasanjo over the public presen­tation of his autobiogra­phy, My Watch, appear to be worsening.

Just days after the for­mer president was con­victed by Justice Valen­tine Ashi for disobeying a court order restraining him from going ahead with the launch of the book, Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soy­inka, has served him notice to ready for a long-drawn battle over “his (Obasan­jo’s) recent ‘literary’ intru­sion on my peace.”

In a reaction entitled: “Watch and Pray, Watch and Prey!” Soyinka said though he had since ac­cepted Obasanjo as a pain that must be endured, the former president’s recent book had shown that his capacity for mischief was ceaseless.

His words: “I had fully attuned myself to the fact that our Owu retiree sol­dier and prolific author is an infliction that those of us who share the same era and nation space must learn to endure. However, it does appear that there is no end to this individual’s capacity for infantile mis­chief, and for needless, mind-boggling provoca­tions, such as his recent ‘literary’ intrusion on my peace…

“I had a cordial ex­change with Obasanjo over the phone recently – engineered by himself, his ground staff and/or a chance visitor – when I had cause to visit his Presi­dential Laundromat for the first time ever.

“During that exchange, I complemented him on making some quite posi­tive use of landed property that was acquired under morally dubious circum­stances, and blatantly de­veloped through a process that I denounced as ‘exec­utive extortionism’. That obscene proceeding has certainly set a competitive precedent for impunity in President Jonathan’s recent fund-raising shin­dig…

“I went so far as to en­gage him in light banter, stating that some of his lesser sins would be for­given him for that creative conversion of the land­scape – a conversation that he shortly afterwards delightedly shared with at least three mutual ac­quaintances. I promised a follow-up visit to view some mysterious rock script whose existence, he informed me, was un­covered by workers dur­ing ground clearing. The exchange was, in short, as good as ‘malice towards none’ that any polemicist could hope to contribute to the ongoing season of peace and goodwill. Ob­viously that visit will not now take place, any more than the pursuit of vague notions of some creative collaboration with his centre that began to play around my mind.”

Alluding to interven­tions by mutual acquain­tances to smoothen his re­lationship with Obasanjo, Soyinka said the former president had, however, proved “incorrigible.”

He added: “The change in weather conditions sits quite well with me how­ever, since we are both ac­quainted with the Yoruba proverb that goes: the child that swears his mother will not sleep must also prepare for a prolonged, sleepless infancy. So let it be with Okikiola, the overgrown child of circumstance.”

Saying he was restrain­ing himself from mak­ing full comments on My Watch because of the court order that had affected its accessibility, Soyinka, however, referred to a por­tion of the book allegedly attributed to him, describ­ing Obasanjo as a career liar.

He said: “For now, let me single out just one of the most glaring instances of this man’s compulsive career of lying, one sample that the media can readily check upon and use as a touchstone – if they do need one – in assessing our author’s multifaceted claims and commentaries on people and events. I refer here to the grotesque and personally insulting statement that he has at­tributed to me for some in­scrutable but obviously di­versionary reasons. In the process, this past Master of Mendacity brazenly im­plicates an innocent young man, Akin Osuntokun, who once served him as a special adviser. Instead of conferring dignity on a direct rebuttal of an ig­noble fabrication, I shall simply make a personal, all-embracing attestation: I despise that species of humanity whose stock-in-trade is to concoct lies simply to score a point, win an argument, puff up his or her own ego, deni­grate or attempt to destroy a fellow being. However, even within such deplor­able species, a special pit of universal opprobrium is surely reserved for those who even lack the cour­age of their own lies, but must foist them on others. When an old man stuffs a lie into the throat of an age-mate of his own chil­dren – omo inu e! – We can only pity an irredeemable egomaniac whose dotage is headed for twilight dis­grace.”

He added: “Could he have mistaken the Chris­tian exhortation –Watch and Pray’ for his private inclination to ‘Watch and Prey’? This is a sea­soned predator on others’ achievements – he preys on their names, their char­acters, their motivations, their true lives, preys on gossip and preys on facts, preys on contributions to collective undertakings… even preys on their identi­ties, substituting his own where possible.”


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