Wole Soyinka – In the realm of human discourse, where ideas and beliefs intertwine, controversies often arise like tempestuous storms, stirring emotions and igniting fervent debates. Such is the case surrounding the celebrated Nigerian playwright and Nobel laureate, Wole Soyinka, who now finds himself engulfed in the fiery embers of a polarizing dispute. His weapon of choice: a meticulously crafted letter addressed to the esteemed Emir of Ilorin, HRH Alh. Dr. Ibrahim Sulu Gambari, CFR.
The subject of contention emerges from the ashes of a canceled Isese festival, a cultural endeavor set forth by the enigmatic Christian prophetess and acclaimed Osun priestess, Omolara Olatunji, known to the masses as Yeye Ajesikemi. As this intellectual whirlwind unfolds, let us delve into the intricate layers of this controversy and explore the disparate perspectives that have converged upon this ethereal stage.
Critics, including Alhaji LAK Jimoh, a respected Ilorin-born historian, and Imam Ismail Dare Olawuwo, an Islamic scholar, have taken turns to criticize Soyinka for his lack of religious tolerance. They argue that as an atheist and a proponent of cultism in the Nigerian educational system, he lacks the moral authority to speak on matters of religious tolerance.
LAK Jimoh, while expressing his desire for a more organized response to Soyinka’s letter, highlighted his grievances with the title of the letter itself. Referring to it as “Open letter to SULU GAMBARI” without the courtesy of addressing the Emir as Alhaji Ibrahim Sulu-Gambari, Jimoh accuses Soyinka of displaying a lack of home training and respect.
Moreover, Jimoh contends that Soyinka’s references to inter-religious disharmony in Kaduna, Boko Haram, and ISWAP are a deliberate attempt to incite disruption in the traditionally tranquil Ilorin Emirate, known for its ethno-cultural tolerance and inter-religious harmony.
Jimoh goes further to criticize Soyinka’s past involvement in cultism during his undergraduate years and even accuses him of being a failed assassin in the 1960s. According to Jimoh, individuals like Soyinka, who have perpetuated destructive cultism in Nigeria, should feel ashamed and have no moral ground to sermonize about tolerance. He argues that Soyinka’s previous intolerance towards dissenting political opinions undermines any credibility he may have on the subject.
Continuing his critique, Jimoh challenges Soyinka’s intellectualism and suggests that if he wishes to engage in a debate, he should familiarize himself with the history of various Yoruba towns and the trajectory of their respective dynasties. Jimoh mentions examples like Ife, Oyo, Ibadan, Abeokuta, Osogbo, and Modakeke, highlighting instances where certain groups displaced others to establish their dominance.
Imam Ismail Dare Olawuwo, in a similar vein, questions Soyinka’s right to discuss religious tolerance due to his atheism. Olawuwo asserts that the Emir of Ilorin, as the custodian and protector of the city, has the moral authority to intervene and cancel events such as the Isese festival. Ilorin, being a predominantly Muslim community deeply influenced by Islamic teachings, values peace, unity, and respect for others as crucial elements for peaceful coexistence.
The responses from LAK Jimoh and Imam Ismail Dare Olawuwo reflect the strong sentiments against Wole Soyinka’s letter, criticizing his lack of religious tolerance and calling into question his moral standing. As this controversy unfolds, the city of Ilorin eagerly awaits Soyinka’s response, suggesting that those who live in glass houses should think twice before casting stones.