By CHARLES ONUNAIJU
“Our common sense is totally lost. I am embarrassed sometimes that I occupy the same nation space with some people… what is the right of any Nigerian to challenge me on my decision? Barbarians have taken over, the country using the anonymity of the internet”.
– Prof. Wole Soyinka
But didn’t an erudite professor, renowned scholar, iconic playwright and social critic, who publicly threatened to destroy his document, however way it was over the outcome of a distant periodic election he did not even vote in and for which his interest is at best marginal, brutally assault common sense, that the rest of us should be embarrassed to share the same nation space with him?
Since Professor Wole Soyinka interjected prior to the anger-driven US presidential election with a threat to shred his own green card in the event of an election victory of the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, he has set off a frenzy of activities on the social media. That such a towering figure as Soyinka who is familiar with real theatre could set off such theatrics as he did with a threat to tear his green card over an election outcome and expect nothing less that the frenzy that trailed it, is very strange indeed. He did not utter philosophy for which he should expect measured and rational response. In my part of the country, we say that when you bring home an ant infested wood, you have only invited lizards to feast. It is only natural and a matter of common sense that Nigerians are entitled to know how the distinguished professor has fared in his public threat to shred his card, after Donald Trump, the Republican candidate secured the requisite electoral college votes(more than 270) to win the U.S Presidential election. The anger and name calling that the professor has deployed to intimidate his interlocutors does not answer the question of his categorical statement to shred his green card in the event of Trump’s win.
If the professor had been led, like Pastor T.B Joshua to believe the establishment media and polls projections of a victory for the Democratic Party candidate, Hillary Clinton, into the volatile gamble, there is actually no big deal in a humble climbdown. Afterall, the assorted community of media and poll watchers, who predicted that Trump would be dumped in electoral humiliation, have since moved on, inventing fresh reasons for their dull binoculars that did not see more accurately the election permutations.
Trump’s meteoric rise and consequent stunning victory is not so much about him but represents a considerably prevailing social sentiment in the US, to which he masterfully aggregated and articulated. The American traditional political elite or the Washington establishment has projected power in a way, in which the country has over-reached itself and also, the brutal effects of the financialization of capitalism has taken huge toll on the working people, even as the traditional safety net has imploded. The consequent vulnerability of the working class, who have been previously protected through the gains of the US global accumulation process, guaranteed by Washington’s imperialist plunder and wars, felt left in cold. Two things stand out to the traditional working class and the young people as prospective culprits for America’s domestic woes. They are cheap imports, for which globalization and particularly, China is blamed. The other culprit is immigration, in which immigrants are held responsible for pulverizing jobs through provision of their cheap labour that render the traditional white working class highly uncompetitive.
Besides, the alleged stealing of U.S jobs, immigrants are alleged to perpetrate violence and this is notwithstanding, the violence perpetrated against the original American aborigines, the Red Indians, who were not only, nearly decimated by their earlier guests but live currently in squalor in the segregated reserve areas. To this prevailing sentiment of hostility to immigrations and globalization, Mr. Trump, a political outsider who has made a fortune in real estate business lent acerbic demagoguery, denouncing globalization and making a promise to put America first.
He accused China of manipulating its currency to ferry its exports cheaply to the United States. He drew attention that the excessive U.S security muscle is pushing the working and middle class to bankruptcy, wondering why richer nations like Japan, Saudi Arabia and even Washington- NATO’s partners in Europe cannot pick the bulk of the security bills or even construct their own security umbrella
On immigration, railing against Mexican neighbours as rapists and petty thieves, with a promise to construct a wall along the Southern border for which Mexico will pay, fitted the mass hysteria against immigration. With a persona as theatrical as our own Professor Wole Soyinka, Mr. Trump tapped into the overflowing red blood of America’s tribal politics. His possible enlightened antidote was the amiable Vermont senator, Mr. Bernie Sanders, the Democratic Party aspirant, who had a meteoric rise until he was cut short, as was latter revealed by the establishment of his own party, who preferred Washington wheeler-dealer, Mrs. Hillary Clinton, who fell an easy prey to the anti-establishment populist insurgency. As Mr. Trump, Senator Bernie Sanders inspired a faith-like followership, but without the bigotry and hate-filled vituperations of Mr. Trump’s “deplorable” as Mrs. Clinton called them.
The mostly young Americans who championed the cause of the 71-year-old “Democratic Socialist”, as Mr. Sanders called himself were believers in the international system, in which the U.S would fully participate but without the imperialist wars and overhyped security concerns that is in itself, at the root of international insecurity.
Mr. Sander’s core promise was to revise the U.S excessively rigged capitalism, in which a one percent U.S corporate oligarchy and their political allies sit atop nearly 70 percent of the national wealth. He knew that what ails America and leaves her working class vulnerable is not global trade but corporate greed and elite avarice that elevates the dollar beyond its value and its consequent deification as the sole international currency of exchange.
The fact is that in the face of over-sized corporate America and blushful and arrogant Washington elite, the ordinary America hemorrhages in deepening social and economic exclusion.
Onunaiju, writes from Abuja
It is in this context that U.S. presidential election last November provided Americans with two stark choices of anti-immigration, anti globalization –right wing populism or elaborate and inclusive national social reform with considerable reduction in Washington international belligerence. When once, the second option was eliminated by the manipulation of the Democratic Party that abruptly ended Senator Sanders great run, Mr. Trump was left alone in the field to chatter and bluster his way to the presidency. That he largely sold dummy to his angry voters will become clear in the coming months and years.
So how did Professor Soyinka fail to grasp this unfolding scenario prior to the U.S election and rather interjected with the drama of shredding his green card, except the outcome of the polls produced his preferred candidate? If he had left hard analysis to make light of an unfolding serious social issue by investing it with the drama of a theatre, why is he bemoaning his stalking “mutants” as he chose to denounce his traducers for following him through drama line
Even as a national treasure, which all of us are, in different ways, Soyinka have no immunity to being interrogated on questions he has raised or decisions he has taken in the public square, no matter how intimately personal, it is.
Onunaiju, writes from Abuja