Undisputedly, if there is one statement, I agree with Wole Soyinka, in his recent post-election interventions, it is that Nigeria “has become near terminally soul-searing … first, we must rid ourselves of the tyranny of the ignorant and the opportunism of time-servers … There is of course, always the possibility of a Revolution, with a clarity of purpose and acceptance of all attendant risks, including costly errors.” Unfortunately, we do not have the same premises on this “terminally soul-searing.” And as such, my version of riding “ourselves of the tyranny of the ignorant and the opportunism of time-servers” differs.
His vituperation attacks what he sees as a creeping growth of Fascism within the Nigerian state and especially within the 3rd Force – the Obidient movement – that he had helped to build, over time. On April 3 and April 5, 2023, he had interviews with Ladi Akeredolu-Ale on Channel TV (Roadmap 2023), and with Ayo Mairo-Ese and Reuben Abati on Arise News (The Morning Show), respectively. On April 4 and April 8, 2023, he released pieces titled “Media responsibility” and “Fascism on Course,” respectively. In all, he qualified the supporters of Peter Obi, known as Obidients, and Baba Ahmed Datti (the Labour Party vice-presidential candidate) as Fascistic. Fortunately, my own terminal “soul-searing,” for the past few agonizing days, is as a result of an existential necessity of ripping off this Kafkaesque Fascist ascription that Soyinka has surreptitiously ascribed on all Obidients. Like a literary hit-man, as we shall see, his job appears to be a three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda. And even more disconcertingly and “terminally soul-searing” is my melancholic bewilderment that Soyinka could possibly descend so low, which is intermittently countered by denigrating self-doubts that wonders if Soyinka is perhaps right on some issues. Stranded in this limbo of possibilities of either/or, of innocence/guilt, I suddenly found myself in the precinct of my mind’s limit – really “terminally soul-searing.” Using Soyinka’s words, first, I “must rid” myself “of the tyranny of the ignorant and the opportunism of time-servers.”
The place to begin is David Hundeyin’s “COUNTERPOINT,” on his Twitter handle on April 6, 2023. Hundeyin well captures Soyinka’s three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda, with the exception of the Kafkaesque angle. The first of the three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda is the apparent falsification. According to Hundeyin, “rather than a direct comparison between the APC and the opposition, Soyinka’s Strawman instead invokes a false standard against the latter. A standard that was pulled entirely out of thin air and that he certainly has never lived by. Hypocrisy? Disingenuousness? Both?” This “false standard” is the derogatory term – Fascism. To be sure, we must interrogate the meaning of Fascism. As Confucius had taught, rectification of terms is the first task of a good governance. Such rectification makes possible the self-knowledge and self-diagnosis of the society, that it may be able to correct itself – heal itself. So the question then is – what is fascism?
Because the term fascism has been a historically a very ambiguous term, of misused since WWII, I will here offer three answers. One is the simple dictionary definition. Second is the general usage in political history. The third is an insight based on political philosophy.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary gives us 2 meanings of Fascism. First, when capitalized (Fascism) means “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” The second is not capitalized (fascism) meaning “a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.” We should note that whilst the former is capitalized, the latter is not capitalized. One cannot but wonder which fascism Soyinka is talking about.
The second and the third types of insight focus only on the Fascism (capitalized). Whilst the second focuses on political history, the third on political philosophy. On the second, Fascism opposes liberal democracy (both the liberal and the conservative), socialism and Marxism. Fascism historically, rose to prominence in early 20th Century, with Italian Benito Mussolini and especially the Nazi-German Adolf Hitler as the trailblazers. Some of the defining attributes of fascism are, racial authoritarianism and nationalism based on romantic rebirth myth; racism and political economic exclusion of the Other such as the Jews seen as being responsible for the national decadence; dirigiste economy directed at economic self-sufficiency through protectionist/economic-interventionist policies; the exploitation of violence, forced sterilization, genocides, massacres, mass killing … etc., as means to national rejuvenation; extreme exploitation of propaganda; and the totalitarian one-party state through the revolutionary and violent suspension of democratic constitution. Generally speaking, Fascism is seen as a far-right, authoritarian, and often ultranationalist political ideology and movement. However, the term is often used and misused in our time pejoratively by political opponents to score cheap partisan goals. Soyinka has used the term Fascism in such a pejorative sense. In history, it has been ambiguously used and misused, for example by Chinese Marxists labeled the Soviet Union Fascist, and the Soviet Marxists labeled the Chinese Marxists Fascist during the Sino-Soviet split. And now, just as Donald Trump has called American Democrats Fascists, several Democrats too have called Trump a Fascist. The latter have been more successful in recent times, especially when President Biden described Trump’s MAGA ideology as “semi-Fascism.” And now Soyinka is making attempts to add Datti and the Obidients in the Democrat’s Fascist black book. Why?
On political philosophy, Leo Strauss explored the three waves of modernity as liberal democracy, communism and fascism. Strauss concluded “The theory of liberal democracy, as well as of communism, originated in the first and second waves of modernity; the political implication of the third wave proved to be fascism.” (Introduction to Political Philosophy) Strauss identified an on-going historical-dialectical drama that gets more radical in a progressive progression. The first wave is cultural revolution effected by Machiavelli, Bacon, Hobbes, Descartes, Spinoza, Locke, Montesquieu, culminating in liberal democracy and was at “first guided by reason.” The second wave, rooted in Rousseau and then by his German heirs, culminating in communism which is “guided no longer by reason” but instead by a supra-reason. The third wave is also rooted in Nietzsche’s thought, radicalized by Heidegger, culminating in fascism which is guided not by supra-reason but by the “subrational but still secular and thus nontranscendent ‘‘historical process.’’” (What is Political Philosophy) This philosophical explanation well explains the grave derogatory stigma fixated on the term Fascism, which Soyinka has attempted to paint Obidients and which are completely false.
Obviously, from these insights, Soyinka pulled a very intricately “false standard” “pulled entirely out of thin air” by ambiguously ascribing the term fascism (capitalized and non-capitalized), whilst at the same time shying away from the Fascism of the incumbent regime. The difference between capitalized Fascism and non-capitalized fascism is simple enough. For example, what Soyinka called “missives of violence directed against dissenting voices, real or suspect … for instance, were the virulent attacks and threats to the musician Seun Kuti …” (“Fascism on Course”) may be an example of fascism. Soyinka stated “Unfortunately, a bit of Fascism … a lot of Fascism was creeping in … people saw what was supposed to happen, was expected to happen, to be a divine command, to be inheritable, and to be right now and then and began to act Fascistically to other people, if you disagree with them on strategy or even little issues of tactics … not even by the old brigade but also the young.” (April 3 Channel TV interview) That could be said to be fascism (non-capitalized). Yet, this fascism as “a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control” (italics is mine) appears to be in accordance with human nature, against which rule of law and constitutionalism in liberal democracy, were all created. For example, based on this meaning, one could say for example that Andrew Jackson was fascistic. In the same way, one could argue that the political contests between Hamiltonians and Jeffersonians, and in fact, some partisan conflicts in American history, like between the North and South that led to the Civil War, have always had fascistic tendencies on both sides. Thus, what matters is not fascism and the attended “tendencies” as such but the rule of law and the democratic constitution, within which these tendences are adequately controlled and punished. Thus, the red herring of fascism, ought to always remind us about the democratic rule of law.
Yet, even at that, though a few rabid Obidient may be ascribed with the non-capitalized fascism. And yet as Professor Anthony Kila, stated (as published in Sundiata Post on Saturday, April 7, 2023), noted “that though Obidients are partisan, intemperate and unruly, he did not agree with Soyinka’s assertion.” Even if we accept that a few Obidients are fascist, does that mean all Obidients are? How could Soyinka make such crash generalization? For what purpose?
In the same vain, Soyinka proposition that the “Violence and ethnic profiling. “Spiritual” warfare in the shape of sacrificial rams to keep “disloyal” communities under restraint” (“Fascism on Course”) can also be an example of the “creeping” Fascism (capitalized). Hundeyin also noted the “electoral violence, hardcore ethnoracialism and documented drug crimes of the incumbent party” as well as that “the APC is a violent, racist, authoritarian entity that uses money and violence to distort democracy,” Unfortunately, Soyinka shied away from this technical differentiation. He shied away from specifically calling out the incumbent government Fascist. One could see this in his attempted, but failed avoidance of the “ethnic” word. When asked about the ethnic profiling in the gubernatorial Lagos election, Soyinka stated “Something happened during election … which for me is both distasteful and distressing and this was a targeting, without question the targeting of non-state people, especially, those who are considered strangers to the community during the governorship elections. If you like, I am trying to avoid the ethnic word because I don’t want to go there, … there was a real targeting certain sections of Lagos where the Igbo population was prominent, and I think that was disgraceful and deserve to be condemned by every serious thinking person.” He only downplayed the ethnic factor only to downplay the Fascist reality to making it easy to transpose the Fascist guilt and crime on the Obidients and the Labour Party.
Hundeyin shed more light on this transposition of guilt – “this Strawman is completely false – it was in fact the APC that deployed physical violence against those who wouldn’t vote for it. Despite winning millions of votes, there is NOT ONE recorded incident of electoral violence attributed to the Labour Party.” Whilst Soyinka was able to point out fascistic actions across all parties, he failed to point out both the Fascism of APC and ingenuously transposed the two terms of fascism and Facism on Obidients and Labour Party. And this is the heart of the false standard. The question is why?
The second of the three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda is the near perfect diversion from the real issues. Hundeyin expressed “Instead of facing the actual issue, i.e. the APC is a violent, racist, authoritarian entity that uses money and violence to distort democracy, and the Obidient movement is a direct pushback to that, a strawman is invoked – ‘The new kids on the block don’t tolerate disagreement … this Strawman cleverly misdirects the entire election conversation into a meaningless cul-de-sac where the violent incumbent party escapes scrutiny and misplaced attention is focused on a peaceful, organic opposition, thus ultimately wasting everyone’s time and attention.” Soyinka’s mechanism of diversion is ingeniously crafted. He must have thought that he had chosen his targets well –Datti, Obidients that attacked Seun Kuti; and finally, those whom Festus Adedayo, (“Is Soyinka, the god, unraveling?” In April 9 in The Cable), called the social media “Rottweilers” that attacked Soyinka for calling them Fascists. For us Obidients, the Datti March 23 interview with Seun Okinbaloye on Channel TV is a wonderful defense of our constitutional democracy against APC’s un-constitutional and electoral heist.
In that interview, Datti stated Nigeria “is in a state of constitutional crisis … a certificate of return has been issued to a so-called presidential-elect, unconstitutionally. There are therefore two meanings – two interpretations – two understanding of the declaration made. One is that one by INEC, one is that one of the people … the certificate breaches the provisions of Section 134, therefore the requirements to be declared as president-elect have not been met by Tinubu-Shettima ticket.” Datti stated clearly “Swearing in Tinubu and Shettima is swearing in the Nigeria Army on the 29th of May. If you swear in people that have not satisfied the requirements, you have by so doing ended democracy. … The crisis is that this our democracy is going to end on the 29th of May 2023. Please write it …”
However, on Datti’s protest against rigging and civil, if civilized constitutional caution, Soyinka thinks otherwise. On this interview, Soyinka stated “I never heard anyone from any side threaten the judiciary the way I heard it when Mr. Datti was speaking on television … I never heard the kind of menacing language, kind of blackmailing language which were treated by Mr. Datti … that kind of attitude … that kind of do or die provocation. That is not what I think we have been struggling for … The interviewer asked him several times what would you do if the supreme court judgement goes against you, if the interpretation you are offering about the constitutional aspect of this election if it’s against that of the Supreme Court is against you. And he kept saying, it is not even open to analysis, the word says “and” and it’s very clear and Supreme Court in his wisdom had better give, in other words his interpretation. This is trying to dictate to the to the supreme arbiter of the nation. Whatever you think of the Supreme Court, it is an institution we all refer to sooner or latter … That is what is known as Fascistic language.” (April 5, Arise News interview) In vain, we have searched for the “menacing,” “blackmailing” and “Fascistic” language. For us, Datti spoke for rule of law, which is just one of Labour Party’s 7-point Agendas. An Obidient friend even noted that Datti is in a face-off with a Fascist abandonment of the Constitution. And for us, nothing is menacing about this Datti’s Truth, but the menace to constitutional democracy that Datti deplores. That is the real issue for us. The real issues for us is that our peaceful democratic revolution, “with a clarity of purpose and acceptance of all attendant risks, including costly errors” is threatened.
Yet, what Datti had done is pretty much more civilized to what Soyinka had done in 1965, when Soyinka held a radio station at gun point to replace what he saw as an unjust recorded broadcast made by a Premier who had, according to him rigged elections. In the Datti’s March 23 Channel TV interview he noted that he doesn’t have trust in the Supreme Court. And when asked why Datti explained “A seating Senate president who contested presidency and today he is declared Senator and the laws of Nigeria do not allow you to context 2 offices.” Is this not coeval with Soyinka’s excuse for holding up the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation in Ibadan at gun point on 15 October 1965 that he gave in his April 3 Channel TV interview. Soyinka also stated that he did not have faith in the then system. According to Soyinka, “Elections were not yet … over, but they were over. Even before the elections started, elections were over. If you remember, the Deputy Premier went on air, arrogant, boastful, saying whether you vote for us or not, the angels in heaven would come and vote for us. So you already saw what was going to happen in that elections and they did not disappoint. And they were brutal, let us not go into details, but already … democracy had already broken down. And there was no pretense about it. You had Judges being summoned by the Premier … summoned and being told – this is the way he want things to go …” In both instances both have lost trust in the system. The question, then is, was Soyinka a Fascist to? Even more, was his action of holding up a radio station at gun point a Fascistic action?
Soyinka’s real issues appear to be of a different kind. From In all his Kafkaesque exposé, interviews and pieces, Soyinka made desperate attempts to smear Datti and the entire Obidient movement with the Fascist term with three real issues of his own. The first is to divert us from our own real issues with the ambiguous use of the term Fascism. Whilst responding to the social media “Rottweilers,” he stated “Far more alarming was the grotesque fantasy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disguised as a wheelchair, zooming off in space to a secret meeting with other parties of the conflict. On its own, that is sufficiently scary. Swiftly followed thereafter by a television tirade of intimidation, it strikes one as more than the mere antics by the mentally deranged. The tactics are familiar: ridicule, incriminate, then intimidate. Objective: undermine the structure of justice. Just as a reminder: this writer was not being rhetorical when he declared, on exiting prison detention: Justice is the first condition of humanity.” Here Soyinka is not denying that a secret meeting between the Chief Justice “with other parties of the conflict” is not alarming. However, he is equating the mere verbal defense of the democratic constitution to the same “grotesque fantasy” of the unholy secret meeting. That is not all. In his “Fascism on Course,” he equated a Fascistic and pan-tribalistic conduct of an incumbent party – the “Violence and ethnic profiling. “Spiritual” warfare in the shape of sacrificial rams to keep “disloyal” communities under restraint” to those fascistic “missives of violence directed against dissenting voices, real or suspect … for instance, were the virulent attacks and threats to the musician Seun Kuti, …” by the Obidients because Seun sees the name Obidient” as derogatory. He likened Datti’s constitutional caution on the presidential result to fascistic “the virulent attacks and threats” on Musician Seun Kuti. Soyinka noted that “Such beginnings – and instances are numerous – have culminated in the open intimidation of the Court of Last Resort, even before proceedings have begun.” He is here equating pan-tribalistic Fascism and conduct of an incumbent party to Datti’s constitutional caution and the fascistic “the virulent attacks and threats” of some Obidients, all to make oblivious the obvious threat to the Nigerian constitution. And he smoothened all these with a simple justification – “The process is not yet ended … electoral process is still on … democratic process, electoral process is still on.” (April 3 Channel TV interview). Isn’t it when the constitutional process has not ended that the same constitutional principle be celebrated?
The second real issue for Soyinka is that “We who consider ourselves educated and civilized, not alienated from people, we’ll do whatever we can to smoothen over the breaches which has been committed, since those initiatives, hand across the Niger, hand across the nation, just get back to civilized conduct, and wherever the chip falls, and this is the level, the stage at which democratic process has reached in Nigeria. It will never go back from here, the mold has been broken, pattern has been set. People have discovered that they are not powerless.” The real issue here is to “smoothen over the breaches which has been committed” like for example, the non-constitutional and Fascistic atrocities committed by the incumbent government on the opposition in the last elections.
The third real issue for Soyinka is evident in the same Channel TV interview where he trumped up the “glorious precedence for democracy” in Africa when an incumbent Ghanian president John Kufor gladly relinquished power when he lost election, though his people were ready to cause trouble. He noted that the former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan had also followed Kufor’s example. Is this the example he wants Peter Obi to follow after banishing all his spokespersons to Ukraine, as he suggested in the April 5 Arise News interview?
These combined to form a spectacularly complex thesis of diversion from the real issues. The real issue for us is the spectacle of a stolen mandate based on the Fascist abandonment of the constitution in electoral process. According to Hundeyin “With the deployment of this strategic Red Herring, the expectation is for the online and international conversation to shift away from the electoral violence, hardcore ethnoracialism and documented drug crimes of the incumbent party, and toward “Are Obidients fascists? The expectation of using the term Fascism is well crafted to shift away from the fascism of the incumbent government.
The third of the three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda according to Hundeyin is that “perhaps most malicious of all, his completely unnecessary and unjustified use of the historically loaded term ‘Fascism’ is a dangerous Red Herring.” Hundeyin notes “Using a word which for much of the world, is analogous to invoking Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini, is deliberate. Soyinka is a Professor of English and a literary Nobel Prize winner. He of all people knows the historical and political context that the word “Fascism” exists in. He knows that whatever he says becomes an international headline.” With our understanding of fascism, we can now understand why Hundeyin wrote “He knows this word contains so much power that if someone or a group of people are described as “Fascist” repeatedly, it has the same effect as when someone is repeatedly described as “racist” or “misogynist” – it becomes an everlasting smear, with absolutely no burden of proof.”
Isn’t this particularly malicious when you note that Soyinka likened Datti, to Donald Trump in his April 5 Arise News interview. Soyinka openly told Datti “You are beginning to behave like Donald Trump and that is not very good for democracy.” By this Soyinka unilaterally equates Datti/Obidients to Trump/Republicans, the arch-enemy of the incumbent government in United States today. The international question now – is Wole Soyinka right about the Obidients? Or has Soyinka usurped the leadership in what he calls the Republic of Liars?
The combination of this malicious three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda is simple enough. Again in Hundeyin’s words, Soyinka is “using propaganda techniques and his international clout to divert attention from the main issue” and that “Whenever there is a direct comparison between 2 parties and one is clearly superior to the other, 2 propaganda tricks you must never fall for are the Strawman and the Red Herring. Wole Soyinka’s latest comments are a masterclass in how to use these tricks to kneecap a movement.”(Italics is mine). There is more, however. What Soyinka did here is to transpose the guilt and crime on APC on the Obidients, by ascribing the Fascist term to the Obidients, and by extension, the Labour Party, which should be really ascribed to APC. This is precisely what was is Kafkaesque about Soyinka’s precarious intervention. What then is Kafkaesque?
From Merriam-Webster dictionary we also learn that Kafkaesque is “of, relating to, or suggestive of Franz Kafka or his writings especially: having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre, or illogical quality.” This dictionary further states that Kafka’s “surreal fiction vividly expressed the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual in the 20th century. Kafka’s work is characterized by nightmarish settings in which characters are crushed by nonsensical, blind authority. Thus, the word Kafkaesque is often applied to bizarre and impersonal administrative situations where the individual feels powerless to understand or control what is happening.” One important element here is the transposition of guilt and crime. Interestingly, with the all naturalness just as Soyinka displayed, Kafka had literarily explored the possibility of the disconcerting inversion or transposition of guilt and crime ten years before Hitler rose to power. As such Kafka prepares us to understand the real character of Nazi politics, by means of which the guilt and crime of the extermination of Jews in placed on the powerless and alienated Jews themselves by that “nonsensical, blind authority.” In short, the exterminated Jews brought their own destruction on themselves, for being Jews. For Kafka, this transposition starts with the sudden exclusion of a person from society in space and time, just as the Nazis excluded the Jews and other people with the infamous Nuremberg Laws. Guenther Anders explains Kafka’s works that the excluded individual becomes oblivious of his obligations, as he is condemned in ignorance – ignorance of the law – through which he could claim his innocence. That law in our case is the Constitution that Datti has in his word “extremely” defended. The individual in the Kafka’s world is forced to embrace ignorance which spurn a bad conscience, and then again spurn the feeling that he has no rights and that he is wrong. With this moral anguish with “the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness of the individual,” and that individual is excluded from the world. Anders concluded that “Kafka’s entire work, where it is not concerned with describing this vicious circle of misery, is an attempt to escape the vertiginous sensation which it produces.”
Soyinka ingeniously took propaganda to the Nazi level. This same Kafkaesque propaganda was also used by the German fascists on Holocaust victims, by means of which the Jewish victims themselves were blamed for the holocaust. The judicial excavation of the truth towards just judgment evident in democratic jurisprudence was replaced by the Nazi dispensation of punishment based solely on the Nazi transposition of guilt. This cancer is fast growing within liberal democracy, in different colours, and that is not very good for democracy. And the basis for this transposition is evident in the Weltanschauung of Adolf Hitler’s Main Kampf. We all know Adolf Hitler as the grandmaster of Fascism. In his book Mein Kampf he explicitly identified propaganda as a useful tool to mobilize the nation into a community. Propaganda doesn’t argue for human rights or the objective truth that could possibly serve the enemy, but a particular political agenda, like for example ascribing the attributes of the good and the righteousness to oneself and of hostility, greed and treachery to the Other, for example the Jew. According to Hitler, propaganda must be simple because people are simple. Because masses have little receptivity, very forgetful, with small intelligence, propaganda must be limited to very few slogans until this forced understanding is understood by every member. This appears to be what Soyinka has done with the term Fascism, by consistently repeating it.
It is this Fascist beatification of intellectual falsehood that differentiates the propaganda of Fascism from the universal liberal education of liberal democracy, which Peter Obi, Datti, the majority of the Obidients and the Labour Party represent.
In short, Kafka’s imagination explains not only the Nazi politics of extermination of Jews but also Soyinka’s transmogrification of the Obidients. The object of this Kafkaesque transposition of guilt is the mind, the minds of our fellow Obidients to such an extent that an Obidient would begin to doubt that he/she is not a fascism, and thus lose his/her erstwhile self-determination and most of all the driving Obidient spirit. An Obidient would be forced to ask himself or herself, am I a fascist? This would be compounded when the United State or any global partner defines Obidients as Fascists. Such an Obidient, excluded from the world, is being hurled into a Kafkaesque prison with moral anguish – with all “the anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness.” Yet, it gets more worse. Kafkaesque mental prison is a trap. Victims, unaware of the high-profile and subtle mind-game, could now well react fascistically too. And such reaction, in thoughts, words and actions, would confirm the earlier transposition of guilt and crime and then permanently stamp it on the alienated individual.
And unfortunately, such reaction is confirmation that the three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda had worked. Soyinka confirmed this whilst addressing the censures he was receiving from Obidients for calling them Fascists and equating Datti to Trump. He happily said: “It would appear that a record discharge of toxic sludge from our notorious smut factory is currently clogging the streets and sewers of the Republic of Liars. It goes to prove the point that provoked the avalanche exactly! The seeds of incipient fascism in the political arena have evidently matured. A climate of fear is being generated.” Soyinka further stated “The refusal to entertain corrective criticism, even differing perspectives of the same position has become a badge of honour and certificate of commitment. What is at stake, ultimately is – Truth, and at a most elementary level of social regulation: when you are party to a conflict, you do not attempt to intimidate the arbiter, attempt to dictate the outcome, or impugn, without credible cause, his or her neutrality even before hearing has commenced. That is a ground rule of just proceeding. Short of this, Truth remains permanently elusive.” Soyinka now claimed that he had the evidence that the seeds of fascism have evidently matured. This potpourri of Kafkaesque trap must be made manifest for what it is.
This is a clear warning to all Obidients to refrain from such traps and fascistical reaction to the three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda or any propaganda whatsoever. They need not worry; the tide has already begun to turn. The human mind is the most sacred home of humanity. It is the sacred battlefield, where the wars of ideas, of success and failures are either won or lost.
But why would Soyinka would get himself and his hard-earned reputation involved in such three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda? For what purpose? Did he not in these Kafkaesque exposés claim that he had staunchly contributed to the emergence of “building blocks” that led to the Third Force and the emergence of Peter Obi as a presidential candidate from the South East of Nigeria? Festus Adebayo dropped a proposition on this in his April 9 article “Is Soyinka, the god, unraveling? in The Cable. According to Adebayo, “Many believe that, in this latest intervention of his, he was obviously on an amicus-curiae assignment for those who fear that if not tamed, the rumpus of growing global disaffection with what was termed the electoral heist of February 25 may rally global disdain against the election. It is feared that this may remove the rug of legitimacy off the Bourdillon Overlord’s “President-Elect” status. Soyinka, they believe, is on assignment, like the DSS and some other funny characters who are seeking victimhood for the President-Elect.” Adebayo proposes further “Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic, while Soyinka has retained his respectability as a numero uno essayist and laureate, once issues verge on or his reaction is sought on matters that had to do with some of the people with whom he had dalliances with in exile, the Kongi had always fled into a romance with Janus. Being an old boy of Government College, Ibadan which he attended in 1954, mum was the word from him when a fellow NADECO fugitive, Bola Tinubu’s claimed attendance of his alma mater became a contentious issue in 2000. The inaccessible bottomlessness of the relationship between Soyinka and Tinubu is a known issue in Nigeria. It is a no-go route for Soyinka. If at all he has to make a comment on it, the professor finds a way of obfuscating the issue with so inaccessible a grammar that it becomes a metaphysical dungeon.” This is not surprising. Olusegun Obasanjo made similar comments in the third volume of this biography – My Watch. The question however is – is Adebayo’s proposition right?
Then, I digressed, in doubts. At the dangerous brink of that mind’s limit, I began to ask, like a dead man who is asking himself if he is really dead or not, perhaps is it possible that there is an esoteric interpretation of Soyinka’s post-election intervention, hidden in the texts, that attempts to cleanse the Obidient movement of all fascist proclivities and prepares us for some proprietary before an inevitable non-fascistic revolution.
And yes, I found pointers. In his April 3 Channel TV interview, as well as the April 5 Arise News interview Soyinka spoke well of the EndSars Movement. On Channels TV, Soyinka talked about the building blocks that led to the emergence of the Third Force and Peter Obi on how “one by one, building block are been knocked away by seasoned politicians.” He noted that the EndSars movement, is one of those building blocks. We all know that the EndSARS movement was an aborted revolution, and that Tinubu, who is Soyinka’s supposed friend is one of the dramatis personae that effected that abortion. Furthermore, Soyinka made the case for a revolution. In his 8th April, 2023, “Fascism on Course,” Soyinka clearly noted “There is of course, always the possibility of a Revolution, with a clarity of purpose and acceptance of all attendant risks, including costly errors.” But he gave a condition. “Revolutions are not however based on the impetus of speculative power entitlement. No matter, until that moment, the structures that ensure just and equitable cohabitation must be protected from partisan appropriation – be it from material inducement, fake news, or verbal terrorism – the last being the contribution of one who is positioned to assume co-leadership of the nation, no less. Revolution is not about lining up behind the nearest available symbol. When a symbol does emerge however, we are still obliged to examine every aspect of what is fortuitously on offer, and continue to guard our freedoms every inch of the way.”
And by eventually accommodating a possible esoteric reading and exegesis making a case for revolution, I uneventfully arrived at an intellectual limbo. And I could not but still ask – is Wole Soyinka now Kafkaesque Fascist or a democratic revolutionary? Nevertheless, the esoteric reading of a possible revolutionary message is suffocated by the evident Kafkaesque potpourri of Fascism. Thus, I am flanged back to the Kafkaesque questions asked earlier. Again, I would digress based on the authority and international reputation of the interventionist. Like a ping pong ball, I was been tossed from one side to the other, with a maddening and increasing velocity – “terminally soul-searing.”
These questions, all questions asked above and below and even more that could not be stated, in the past few days, have driven me to my mind’s limit, in the same tormenting progression that I have attempted to document here. Driven me to my mind’s limit, “terminally soul-searing,” with all the “anxiety, alienation, and powerlessness,” I almost lost trust in the world. Then, all of a suddenly, I could more easily appreciate Jean Améry’s 1966 book – At the Mind’s Limits: Contemplation; by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities. When the Fascist propaganda had reached its climax with Nuremberg Laws, which legally excluded the Jews, Jean Améry had realized from that moment that he was “a dead man on leave, someone to be murdered, who only by chance was not yet where he properly belonged … Our sole right, our sole duty was to disappear from the face on the earth.” Isn’t that coeval with our stolen mandate, the declaration of a president-elect unconstitutionally, followed by the Fascist exclusion of voters during the gubernatorial election, and then the post-election pan-tribal and religious propaganda, especially against the Labour Party gubernatorial candidate Gbadebo Rhodes-Vivour. Can we actually “smoothen over” these “breaches”?
Améry motivates the need for my self-understanding of my role as an Obidient. This is particularly traumatic for me, not just because I am Obidient and also a Government College Ibadan (GCI) old boy who have always seen Soyinka as a quintessential role model of all time, but also because I have always seen Soyinka as an intellectual role model in the continuity of our autochthonous traditions. In 1986 when Soyinka won the Nobel Prize and I had just finished my secondary school, I had sworn to do my best to do to architecture, what Soyinka had done to literature. And until now that has been the spiritual and intellectual leit motiv of my intellectual essence and development. Still.
I also happen to be a gladiator in the Obidient movement. I am involved, first as a member of National Consultative Front (NCFront) that joined Labour Party in the first half of 2022 before Peter Obi, and then the Labour Party PCC Coordinator, as well as the Spokesperson of Big Tent, both of Osun State. In the same State, I coordinate two Obidient movements; Peter Obi Support Network (POSN) and the Obidient Movement. Furthermore, I was a Labour Party House of Assembly candidate in Osun State. I am also a member of Baba Adebanjo led-Afenifere. The Obidient movement – the Third Force – is my own equivalent of Améry’s Heimat (German word for Home), which to Améry means “security.” This security was destroyed by the German Fascist. Unfortunately, our own security is also now under threat.
I could now better appreciate Améry’s notion of “radical humanism” which makes self-manifest the ugly consequences of inhumanity to prevent reoccurrence. The consequences of inhumanity in this case which must be prevented from reoccurrence is the three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda, that Soyinka employed. No doubt, Soyinka remains an undisputed Orisha. And in ages to come his mortal devotes would evoke his essences with his peculiar things like expensive wines. Unfortunately, like mortals, no Orisha is infallible. He has proved his onions in most things that he has set out to do. He remains my highly respected Old-Boy. I doff my hat for his literary escapades and genius. However, this three-fold-Kafkaesque propaganda cannot be allowed to stand. Améry’s “radical humanism” has led me back from my mind’s limit, safe and sound, and I have restored my trust in the world. And having realized that, even though there may be lessons to learn from Soyinka, those lessons are unfortunately strangled by the evident Kafkaesque potpourri of Fascism.
In the end, I am brought back face-to-face to Hundeyin’s fatal conclusion “How to defeat these 2 favoured APC propaganda tools – the Strawman and the Red Herring – is to PUSH BACK WITH YOUR OWN NARRATIVE.” And to push back with our own narrative, we must remind ourselves and the good people of the world what Fascism really is.
Olusegun Richard Babalola is Osun State Coordinator of Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Osun State Spokesperson of Big Ten and a member of Afenifere and ASHE Foundation