When two supposedly senior lawyers translate their thoughts into lines of commentary, you should expect to tap into wisdom. No matter what you say about lawyers, their calling affords them access to the fount of any society. From handling a slew of cases, they dip their fingers into the pulse of society.
They see people in their different states: in remorse and cunning, fear and trembling, defiance and humility, triumphal vanity and mea culpa. Whether high or low, they are witnesses to human folly and sublimity, when they stare into the abyss of the jail or prance at the accolade of society.
Their training also imbues them with the history of societies, the sociology of groups, the psychology of individuals. So, you expect them to convey deep learning and worldly wisdom.
Not so for two legal minds who allowed their nativist impulses to run away with them. They are Professor Imran Oluwole Smith and Kunle Uthman. They are principal officers of an otherwise obscure group known as Eko Foundation.
They have been making high decibels of noise over the appointment of Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka as co-chairman of the Lagos @50 committee set up by the Lagos State governor, Akinwunmi Ambode. In a slew of nouns, they say that “true” indigenes of the state have reacted with “shocking waves, trepidation and disbelief.” They follow these nouns with a raft of footloose adjectives, saying that the shock waves are “resonating, reverberating and deafening…”
First, how does Soyinka’s appointment lead to trepidation? Does Soyinka scare them so much? For their information, Soyinka is a harmless figure. They did not use the word fear, but trepidation and that indicates perhaps one of the highest levels of fear, if you discountenance such words as horror or terror. Trepidation is an urbane way of expressing high-octane unease.
As lawyers, they ought to understand such words, especially as Smith is a senior advocate of Nigeria, an epaulette that some thinking Nigerians now take with levity. Some SANs have been behaving badly in the past few years, especially in the past few days. Example: the flock of never-do-wells who lined up like bleating sheep behind Tarfa. No matter.
The lawyers said Soyinka was not an indigene, so he should not be chair of the committee. Haba! Soyinka lacks connection with the soul of Lagos. Soyinka is an Egbaman. Soyinka has no house or compound in Lagos. Is this how they argue in court, and rose to Nigeria’s legal prime? They also said Soyinka is alien to the “sights and sounds” of Lagos.
I think they were trying too hard to make an argument. They clutched at wet grass and it not only stung them, they bled. And what a sloshy pair of hands with its oddball mix of blood and mud and dew.
They are in the 21st century, but they still have not recovered from the Lagos of the early 19th century. They still live in primal Lagos. They are cavorting in the coastal Lagos of the canoes, of the lightless nights, of the ovine and bovine innocence, of the long treks without the whir of cars, of the illiterate many, of the pre-Kosoko and Akintoye duel, of the humble huts and zestless fashion, of unruffled accents, of the Egba suzerainty and the upstart Ibadan, when the Yoruba wars resounded from afar with Dane guns and refugees spilling over…
Well, this is news to them. This is Lagos of the variegated hues, of high rise and highways, of the technicolour nights, of a humongous port, of business mogul attracting the best of cultural mavens, of languages as diverse as the Nigeria, even West Africa, where it is not just a feudal king that reigns but a governor of a democratic vote. It is a city morphed from a few hundreds to several millions.
It is a city where doctors treat from a place called hospitals, where herbalists are now Neanderthal, a melting pot, a megacity, an embrace of all colours, creeds, castes, of Yakubu Gowon, of Ojukwu. It bred Fela and I.K. Dairo and Ebenezer Obey. The Ibrus prospered here and others by them. It was home to Leventis and UAC and the big banks, etc. It is the same city where Soyinka celebrated first at the airport when he brought the nation and continent the world’s top literary prize.
They say he does not reflect the sights and sounds of Lagos. Really? He did not when he twitted the army in the same city? He did not when he was jailed in the town for his beliefs? He did not when he staged one of his major plays, The Dance of the Forest, at our independence in 1960? The lawyers might have read too much legal briefs and not read much of Soyinka’s works, such as The Jero Plays, Opera Wonyosi, etc. They probably do not even know the song, I love my country I no go lie?
They say his co-chair, the eminent Rasheed Gbadamosi, is indisposed. Are they his doctors to decide for him what job he can or cannot do? They admit that most of the 12 persons on the committee are indigenes. So what’s the problem with the Eko Foundation that their contentions lack foundation in Lagos thinking? They brim with nativist anarchy?
If they are afraid of W.S., they have only to confess, and we treat that ailment appropriately.