Professor Wole Soyinka surely didn’t bargain for what he is getting for attending a dinner hosted for him by the former governor of Rivers state and Federal Minister of Transport, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, on his 80th birthday two years ago. Following the wave of ‘anti-corruption’ sweeping through the nation, investigations into the way and manner the immediate past governor of the state conducted the financial affairs of the oil producing state has led to the discovery that the ex-governor spent N82 million to host the Nobel Laureate on the his 80th birthday – an assertion which the now Minister of Transport has come out to deny.
According to the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communication, Dr. Austin Tam-George, he said concerning the alleged reckless spending:
“I will seek the permission of the Governor to formally write Professor Wole Soyinka, a known supporter of Amaechi if he received part of the N82 million spent on a 3-hour Dinner hosted for him by the Amaechi administration.
“If he agrees that he received such funds, then he will be compelled to refund same to the coffers of Rivers State. At present, we have presented these details to the Police for investigation and prosecution. We shall also take up this matter as a financial crime against the people of Rivers State.”
But the professor would not let that bother him as he took a swipe at the present governor of the state, Chief Nyesom Wike, in a statement which he titled, ‘Those who flounder in the sewage of corruption,’ where he alleged that the allegation against him is just a simple case of ‘corruption fighting back’ and concluded that the nation’s anti-graft agencies are welcome to probe him.
“This morning, I saw only the headlines in one or two print media regarding the 80th Birthday dinner to which I was hosted by the former governor of Rivers State, the Honorable Rotimi Amaechi, now Minister of Transportation. I ignored them. It was not, and remains not my business to probe into the catering and logistical implications of the hundreds of institutions and governments all over the world to whom I acknowledge an immense debt of unsolicited recognition over the years.
“Since then however, I have learnt of some unsavory statements by the insecure incumbent of the Rivers State government Lodge. These included a loose invitation to anti-crime agencies to investigate the potential crime of being honoured through any occasion. The unprecedented call by this governor is prescient of a warning I recounted in my recent pamphlet publication, ‘The Republic of Wars,’ and was taken from my address to an anti-corruption global conference that took place in Tunisia two years ago. Those words were: ‘Corruption strikes back.’ In this ongoing instance, that expression translates most vividly as ‘Those who are neck deep in the sewage of corruption ensure that they splatter sewage in all possible and improbable directions.’
“I do however fully support the Wikeleaks call for multi-directional probes. I recommend further that he involve the services of INTERPOL to guarantee its extension to all international organisations and governments to whom I owe uncountable events of recognition – including birthday luncheons, dinners, cultural receptions and events of real, fictitious, or simply opportunistic flavoring – to which I have submitted myself.
“The descent to this present level of abominable distractions makes one truly despair. It is one that even I did not envisage when I warned – Corruption strikes back! Whether it brings honour or dishonour to the nation is another matter – I am saddened, but indifferent.
“EFCC and company – over to you! You all know where I live,” he noted.
But the Commissioner has written a piece that questions the Professor’s moral standing based on his stance on the allegations of misappropriation against the former governor of Rivers state, especially as it affects him.
Read the piece below:
“Prof. Wole Soyinka’s reaction to the scandal of the 82 Million Naira dinner held in his honour by the Rotimi Amaechi government in Rivers State is at once disappointing and depressing. Soyinka has said he didn’t know about the cost of a party held in his name, in a State where 90 per cent of the people live in insufferable poverty. But now that official documents show the cost of his three-hour dinner, where is his moral outrage?
“Why does his statement not include a condemnation of such unconscionable misuse of public funds in his name?
“In a country full of villainy, Soyinka is often held up as a moral titan. The Nobel Laureate cements this perception by conducting himself in the manner of someone who suffers from a god complex, someone who does no wrong. But Soyinka’s unbridled support for Rotimi Amaechi invites close moral scrutiny.
“Rivers State is reeling from the catastrophic legacy of the Amaechi years. Despite receiving over N3 trillion in revenue in 8 years, Amaechi left the most abandoned projects in the history of Rivers State, since 1967. Thousands of workers went without their salaries for 4 months, aged pensioners faced starvation without their pensions for 8 months, and the salaries of thousands of teachers were not paid for nearly 12 months.
“Everywhere you looked in Amaechi’s Rivers State; there was this stark, almost synonymic connection between poor governance, corruption and fiction. A physical tour of the Greater Port Harcourt City in Rivers State on which Amaechi had spent over one hundred billion Naira, revealed only a putrid landscape of corruption, broken dreams and wasted resources. How could Wole Soyinka be indifferent to such atrocious legacy?
“During her 80th birthday in 2011, the American Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison had a hearty laugh over coffee with friends at her home in Ohio. No State dinner was held in her honour at tax payers’ expense by the State of Ohio. Can Soyinka reasonably claim to be indifferent to the exemplary moral contrast provided by Toni Morrison? The N82 million dinner for Soyinka is a financial crime against the people of Rivers State. Did the Nobel Laureate receive cash gifts during that bibulous night? Will Soyinka condemn this pornography of waste and excess by Rotimi Amaechi?
“That is the moral question.”