There seems to be no end in sight n the war of words between Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola. And former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s name is not left out of it.
Prof. Soyinka has made Oyinlola and Obasanjo citizens of “The Republic of Liars”.
Soyinka fired the first salvo, where he among other things, berated Oyinlola, for taking his desperation over the chairmanship of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, CBCIU, to the point of injuring the integrity of Nigeria in the international community.
Oyinlola later replied in a statement that Nobel Laureate, Soyinka has been misinformed about how he emerged chairman of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU).
But on Friday, September 11, Soyinka fired back at Oyinlola.
His full statement reads:
PRINCE OYINLOLA in The REPUBLIC of LIARS
How does one begin to slash through this thickening tissue of lies? Prince Oyinlola must be put to the strictest proof to substantiate several outrageous claims in his recent press statement.
Failing to do so within one week from today will result in his taking his well-earned place in company of the current inmates of THE REPUBLIC OF LIARS – next in my series of INTERVENTIONS, a public service series published by Bookcraft, due out in the next month. For now, I categorically deny the following:
1. That I, Wole Soyinka, at any time, opposed the creation of the CBCIU in Osun State in act or spirit. This is an allegation of mind-blowing impudence, since the very opposite constitutes the truth.
2. That I ever sought, by word or deed, or encouraged, supported, or even discussed the creation of CBCIU on any spot on this continent outside Osun State, Nigeria.
3. That I ever spoke or wrote to the late President Yar’Adua on the subject of the creation of any such centre in Nigeria or anywhere else. My one and only encounter with the late president was on the subject of the MEND insurgency in the Delta region – as part of a group of intercessors, invited by that president.
4. Similarly, that I ever discussed the CBCIU, privately or on any forum, withYar’Adua’s successor, President Jonathan. On the contrary, Prince Oyinlola wrote a letter to President Jonathan requesting him to “call Wole Soyinka to order” for “meddling” in the affairs of Osun state, having been “caught” visiting Osun shrine. I was shown a copy of that letter.
5. That I, in my own person, or the governing board of CBCIU did institute, or has ever initiated legal action involving the CBCIU. That the Board should have been involved in the legal proceeding is obvious and logical. The CBCIU Board, created under the current governor, has always taken its legitimacy for granted according to the laws of Osun State. Thus it had no cause to drag any aggrieved individual to court. The responsibility for responding to any litigation challenging Osun State laws is, I still assume, the primary responsibility of the lawmakers, not the Board’s.
On the other hand, I did oppose, and most strenuously:
1. The conspiracy by some parties to transfer the Ulli Beier archives to the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, situated in Abeokuta, even though paid for with the funds of Osun State.
2. The recognition of Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library as an affiliate of UNESCO in any category, since that Library is a product of fraud, extortion and corrupt diversion of a nation’s resources. In this context, I collaborated with the late Gani Fawehinmi and Femi Falana. Action was taken in the same spirit as has continued to animate a number of Civic Organisations on the continent to prevent international image laundering by African leaders of questionable character, after losing credibility in governance. This has included higher institutions of learning and culture where millions were offered to endow chairs in their name.
3. Attempts by any other claimant to soil the name of CBCIU in their projects, most especially those that involve soliciting funds in the name of the Centre.
4. The appropriation of public resources for personal benefit, no matter how thickly disguised, and by whatever tortuous devices – including Certificates of Incorporation.
5. Oyinlola’s potted history of the origin of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding is – as can only be expected – a bundle of facts, lies, half-truths, irrelevances and dislocated incidentals.
He is absolutely right in one off-hand remark however: an ancient stench from the centre has broken the bounds of all attempted containment, a stench known as MONEY LAUNDERING.
The opposition by the CBCIU to the proposed conference on GLOBALISATION is that its underlying agenda is the globalization of this affliction on the wings of Culture.
Hence my inclusion of the Independent Corrupt Practices Commission Public Crimes, and the new Itse Sagay led Advisory Commission on corruption, in the distribution list of the text of my Press Conference.
Ultimately, the lawyers will have their day in court, and the law will have a final say. Until then however, the legitimate CBCIU, acting as an entity, or simply as individuals and citizens, will continue to educate the public on the ethical implications of seemingly public spirited ventures, and frustrate efforts by any party to extend the purlieu of fraudulent activities that drag that name – and the nation – down to an undeserved level of international regard.
Finally, I advise Prince Oyinlola not to make a song and dance of the ritual salute of “an officer and a gentleman”. Those who invented that slogan had yet to encounter the special category of negations within the Nigerian species!
Read Oyinlola’s initial reply here. The reply that prompted Soyinka’s response above:
Text of Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola’s press briefing in response to attacks from Professor Wole Soyinka on the CBCIU
Gentlemen of the press
I was brought up under the best traditions of the Yoruba which command respect for elders. I do not disrespect anyone no matter the degree of provocations and, so, in the course of this short briefing, I will be fair to Professor Wole Soyinka although, as he always does, he was grossly unfair to me and other members of the Board of Trustees of the CBCIU in his recent press conference. The respected Prof spoke of ethical issues concerning the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding (CBCIU).
His attacks did not just start. He did much more in 2008 when he stoutly opposed the establishment of the CBCIU and deployed all his contacts in and out of the country to wage vicious war which we won ultimately. In 2008, Prof Soyinka unsuccessfully sought to enlist the support of President Yar Adua against us. This time around, he is appealing again to President Muhammadu Buhari with insinuations of ethical matters manifestly based on falsehood.
I, however, will still assume that he has been misinformed on the true story, structure of and philosophy behind the establishment of the centre.
The Genesis of the CBCIU
UNESCO, around, May 2007 took a decision to establish a Category Two Institute (on culture) in Africa, which, it noted, would be the first of its kind in the continent. A number of countries in Africa showed interest. Nigeria was one of them. To strengthen Nigeria’s bid for the institute, the presidency decided to acquire archival materials of renowned culture icon, Prof Ulli Beier and sent then minister of culture, Professor Babalola Borishade to Sydney, Australia to seal a deal with him on the matter.
However, Beier gave two conditions which he said must be met before he would grant the request of Nigeria. These two conditions are, one, the institute MUST be sited in Osogbo where he lived and around where majority of the materials were gathered over the decades he was here. The second condition was on who would preside over the board of trustees of the centre. Beier told the Federal Government delegation that he did not know the minister who visited, the same with the president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo but that he knew Oba Moses Oyinlola, the father of the then governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola.
He then demanded that an agreement must be reached that Oyinlola would be the chairman of the board of the centre in his personal capacity ostensibly to ensure the protection of his vision on the archival materials. The Federal Government agreed to the two terms and signed an agreement with Ulli and Georgina Beier on May 10, 2007. It was after this that the Federal Government contacted and informed me of the agreement.
Soyinka’s opposition and UNESCO’s approval of CBCIU
Between mid and 24 August 2008, Professor Soyinka launched two vicious unprovoked media attacks on me and on the proposed centre. I initially could not understand why he would seek to thwart the patriotic efforts to have the centre in Nigeria. However, as events unfolded and pictures of other contenders (from other countries)for the centre became known, it became clear to us that our respected Prof could be assisting one of his friends (from Benin Republic) to win the bid and take the centre to his home country as a trophy showing how well he had worked for his country.
Ironically, that man from Benin Republic, who, with the assistance of Soyinka, rallied certain powerful countries against us in UNESCO at that trying time, is also on Soyinka’s so called board today. So, you would want to ask: What is the interest of this foreign national in the affairs of Nigeria and in Osun state? And Professor Soyinka from Ogun state has so much love for my dear state that he would bring a foreigner to assist him to run a centre the establishment of which they both opposed and attacked until the whole world assisted us to defeat them.
They can only be seeking to destroy what they failed to get in 2008. And I understand how hurting it could be when it dawned on them that all 58 members of UNESCO led by then Indian Ambassador, Ms Bhaswati Mukhrjee were for Nigeria at the Executive Board meeting of Monday, October 13, 2008.
Status of CBCIU
A major issue raised by Prof Soyinka at his latest press briefing is the status of the CBCIU. He raised what he called the ethical issue of Oyinlola sitting as chair of its Board of Trustees. He also suggested that by being chairman of the board, Oyinlola had used his position as governor to establish the centre for himself.
I have told the story of how my name got mentioned as the chairman of the board in the agreement between the Beiers and the Federal Government. On the ownership of the centre, I wish to state it clearly here that CBCIU has four major stakeholders and these are: Osun state (its host), the Federal Government of Nigeria, UNESCO and the Ulli Beier family.
And all these interests are represented on the board of the centre. So, I believe this should serve to educate Prof Soyinka and anyone who believes in his cause that this centre does not belong to any individual and will never be.
Status of the Board
What is the status of the centre’s board today? Prof Soyinka’s ‘board’ tested this in court in 2013 when it sought to take over a case instituted by us. And what did Soyinka get from that move? The Federal High Court Osogbo in a ruling on October 10, 2013 (appeal on which was struck out by the Court of Appeal Akure on 26 February, 2015), decided as follows:
“It is not in doubt that the first plaintiff, ‘ Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding,’ a UNESCO affiliated institution was established in Osogbo, Osun state through the Osun State House of Assembly which passed the law in that behalf which was signed into law on 29th December, 2008. Thereafter, it was registered under Part C of the Companies And Allied Matters Act vide a certificate of Incorporation dated23rd July, 2009… As this case is still at its preliminary stage, I will refrain from making comments that may have the effect of determining the substantive suit one way or the other.
However, once a body becomes incorporated, under the Companies And Allied Matters Act as an Incorporated Trustee, from the date of its registration it becomes a body corporate with perpetual succession and a common seal. The Companies And Allied Matters Act (CAMA) is a Federal legislation and once a body is registered under it, it cannot be regulated outside the said legislation i.e CAMA…”
The court further held that the case was instituted on the instruction of “the Registered Trustees of Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding who are the existing parties in this case.” The court went further to state that “the party represented by Mr T.S. Adegboyega (i.e. Soyinka’s board) are not parties on record and as such cannot discontinue a process they have not initiated.” The court concluded that ” a-non party in a case cannot decide the direction it should take. To steer a ship to harbour, one must of necessity enter it first.”
And, did I hear Prof Soyinka right when he said there had been no court pronouncement on the status of his ‘board’? I believe he has been grossly misinformed.
Because I believe, to the best of my knowledge, that there is no personal animosity between me and Professor Soyinka, I have, in consultation with my governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola made some moves to meet the professor and give him the correct information on the centre for him to be properly guided. All the moves have sadly been rebuffed. I paid a visit to his house in Lagos on the advice of my governor. He was not around and never acknowledged that visit. I made several phone calls to him which were never answered. I tried reaching him unsuccessfully through his daughter, Mrs Moremi Onijala.
The last was an intervention organised between us by Gov Aregbesola for Senator Sola Adeyeye to broker peace. The senator met with me and promised to meet Soyinka and get back to me. I was waiting for the feedback when I read Soyinka, an elder statesman and a supposed culture icon attacking me once again.
Why all these attacks? I have asked myself repeatedly. Could it be a case of transferred aggression? If he has any problem with his brother elderstatesman, General Olusegun Obasanjo, why transfer the aggression to me? I have never done anything in the past to warrant what I have been getting from this professor of Literature. Does Soyinka know that an elder in Yorubaland operates within certain ethical boundaries? Does he know that elders must never be seen playing the hen otherwise foul smell will be their companion?
The coming November conference in Brazil
It is necessary to speak briefly on the coming Conference of Black Nationalities scheduled to be held in Brazil between November 15 and 18, 2015. We have already secured the endorsement of UNESCO and other critical stakeholders for the conference and all is set to have a successful outing.
This conference is a follow up to the first which was held in Osogbo in August 2010. We took this year’s edition to Brazil in honour of black activist, poet, essayist, Nobel nominee and humanist, the late Abdias do Nascimento who spent his whole life promoting and projecting the image of the black race worldwide. We enjoin all Nigerians, including Prof Akinwole Soyinka to join us in celebrating this global culture icon through the conference.
I note that Professor Soyinka sent copies of his press briefing to some agencies and foreign missions for whatever reasons he might have. I, however, want him to know that I, Olagunsoye Oyinlola since age 18, have served this country honestly and dutifully to the best of my ability. At the age of 18, i decided that I was ready to pay the supreme sacrifice for the unity, peace and prosperity of my country. I have since carried on with the dignity associated with being an officer and a gentleman.
I commanded the Nigerian Contingent of the United Nations Mission in Somalia for two years and got global acclaim for diligence, honesty and professionalism. I served Lagos state as Military Administrator for two and a half years and Osun state as Governor for seven and half years without any invitation from neither the police, the EFCC nor the ICPC. My records are ever clean and open.
I therefore, make bold to declare in the name of the Almighty God that “enikeni ti o ba ran omo olomo ni oko ekun, o da ju wipe omo tire naa ko nii ra oja erin”.
I thank you for listening.