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 Centre For Black Culture and International Understanding (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 Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (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, with Yar’Adua’s successor, President Jonathan. On the contrary, Prince Oyinlola wrote a letter to Jonathan president 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 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (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 globalisation of this affliction on the wings of Culture. Hence my inclusion of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), 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!
Wole Soyinka is the first black Nobel Laureate in Literature.