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 3 trillion naira 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 82 million Naira 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.
• Dr. Austin Tam-George is the Hon. Commissioner for Information and Communication, Rivers State.