Soyinka Condemns Use of Crude, Abusive Language By Politicians

Written by on March 11, 2015

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has condemned what he described as “sheer venom, crudity and vulgar abuse of language in such prodigal quantities” by political actors in the ongoing political campaigns.

Speaking on Tuesday on the topic ‘Learning from Yesterday’ during the presentation of Dr. Dele Cole’s book at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) in Lagos, Soyinka stated that during the past few months, Nigeria had been thrown into “a holding pound for man-eating dogs,” an analogy he credited to one of the current political actors, whom he described as one of the most hysterical.

According to him, the unnamed politician had used the metaphor, when he was at the “other side” serving his former master.

Apparently referring to the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Soyinka described politicians at the incumbency camp as the most reckless in the use of language during the ongoing campaigns.

“The very gift of communication, considered the distinguishing mark of cultured humanity even in polemical situations, has been debased, affecting even thought processes, I often suspect. Speaking as objectively as is possible in such circumstances, I would say that, among the various camps of the gladiators, the most reckless and indecorous has sadly proved the incumbency camp,” he said.

In an apparent reference to a recent statement credited to the First Lady, Mrs. Patience Jonathan, Soyinka noted that restraint in the use of language had been thrown to the wind with such abandon that even a highly-privileged spouse had publicly urged supporters to stone the opposition.

He also accused an unnamed governor, whom he said had been exposed as a product of a “conspiratorial and criminal electoral malpractice,” of conferring death-wish on a prominent politician.

According to him, newbreed politicians, who took over the political arena had stooped to an unimaginable low in the art of public persuasion.

“Such passionate partisans and/or cynical mercenaries may be unschooled in the  art of rhetoric, they most certainly have excelled in the art of demagoguery, and earned themselves  a place in political history,” Soyinka said.

In his review of the book, Soyinka described the timing of the book presentation as a relief after the postponement of the elections as the stressed public, including himself was in need of some moments of sanity in discourse.

Speaking on the book, Soyinka stated that making history is a “sub-conscious craving of social man, winning the accolade of one’s peers and even hopefully affecting posterity”.

“The real issue therefore is through what means one actually ends up making history, and to what end? Serial killers make history, as does prowess in the athletic field. Nation builders, liberation  fighters and transformative leaders stand the greatest chance, for the obvious reason that history is about society fn formulation, and nothing excites the human imagination and ambitions as does the very process of the coming-in-being of any social entity,” Soyinka added.
He described two rivals and pivotal figures in the Nigerian nationalist struggle, Herbert Macaulay and Henry Carr as the most memorable personalities in the work of Cole.

Soyinka argued that status and power were the largely unstated objectives of politicians and thanked Cole for highlighting these two in the transformative phase of Lagos under colonial power.

He noted that a veteran politician, who announced publicly that he was stepping aside from politics to become a statesman merely wanted to advance in social status after power.

He also questioned the “authoritative” claim that an incumbent Head of State had trained a thousand snippers to kill a thousand enemies and warned politicians against false alarms or exaggeration.

“Abacha and his hit-man Al-Mustapha could never be credited at any time with anything near a hundred, more likely close than twenty-five or less in that so-named Special Task Force of trained killers.

“We refrained from exaggerating the number, as we did not wish to become a laughing stock in international caucuses – including the US State Department – to which we reported the sinister collection, even as we sought their help in neutralising the rest,” he said.


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