Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka seems worried about looming economic decline in Nigeria, with falling oil revenues, and said yesterday: “I agree with those who say the economy is bad. It is obvious and it is so bad. I think the Presidency should call an emergency economic conference where experts will be enlightened. We really need an emergency economic conference, bringing experts together to march the nation forward. I think the economy is not encouraging. Quite frankly, I think most economists will agree with this.”
Wole’s worries raise several worries of their own.
He backed President Muhammadu Buhari during the (s)election last year. In his “declaration of support” then Soyinka said “there’s a moment when we must put the past aside.” He added: “Against my rational instincts, I believe that we have here a genuine case of a born-again democrat”.
It appears Soyinka supported Buhari without any consideration of whether the former dictator had the economic expertise to turn Nigeria around. Soyinka also seems to have ignored Buhari’s history of economic failure as a military dictator in the early 1980s.
The same Soyinka had written in 2007 about “a far graver, looming danger, personified in the history of General Buhari. The grounds on which General Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive. History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future. Of course, we know that human beings change. What the claims of personality change or transformation impose on us is a rigorous inspection of the evidence, not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances. Public offence, crimes against a polity, must be answered in the public space, not in caucuses of bargaining. In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evidence suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order.”
This is the person that Soyinka backed last year to run the country on a platform of “change” and now needs an “emergency economic conference bringing experts together to march the nation forward”. Surely, if Buhari had the qualities that made him worthy of Soyinka’s backing, he wouldn’t need the old professor’s bidding to come up with an economic team and package to drive the country forward. Rather than drive the country forward, the retired general marched out of Nigeria today on a three nation junket.
Soyinka’s flip-flop to support Buhari last year came after the financial backer of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, Rotimi Amaechi, then governor of Rivers State, hosted the Nobel Laureate at public expense for a birthday dinner that set the people of his state back 82m naira ($411,600).
The last thing Nigeria needs in the current economic climate is another very expensive talk-shop under the guise of an “emergency economic conference”.