Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka

How Should a Nigerian President Look? Part II: Wole Soyinka

In How Should a Nigerian President Look? a team of six Nigerian male experts (including two journalists, a historian, a political scientist, a sociologist and a brand marketer, all having conducted major research on or works in Nigeria and were Nigerians) participated in a Delphi method experiment to determine how a Nigerian president should look. The main outcome of the research was that the president should look like Morgan Freeman using the criteria indicated in the study and nominating only Hollywood actors to avoid bias.

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On a casual level, the only man in the public eye in Nigeria that looks very much like Morgan Freeman is Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka. In reality Morgan Freeman’s DNA analysis indicate that his origins in the Songhai and Tuareg ethnic groups of Niger that neighbours Nigeria. One may ask how many such people are present-day Nigerians as a result of the ‘Sokoto jihads’ and other migrations? Soyinka may take it as an insult to suggest he has Songhai and Tuareg DNA since he firmly asserts he is a descendant of Oduduwa. So we may leave the Freeman–Soyinka resemblance of coincidence, if we have the discipline to do that. The space for conspiracy theories is fertile.

Since the study was the outcome of expert analysis, the choice of Morgan Freeman and his look-alike Wole Soyinka may not immediately resonate with most Nigerians. While these experts are bound to conform to (often narrow) objective criteria, everyday people have a broader and more subjective approach to issues which is useful in society. Any member of an ethnic group or religion, or Nigeria watcher or opinion user that is directly or indirectly against Soyinka may dismiss the results of the research if not research all together. Even those that support Wole Soyinka may dismiss the results. Soyinka is Yoruba in a multi-ethnic country and is neither a Christian nor Muslim.

President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari

President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari

Furthermore, Wole Soyinka never stood presidential or national assembly elections for any major political party in the Second and Fourth Republics of Nigeria. His own presidential aspirations with his own progressive Democratic Front for People Federation (DFPF), a fringe Nigerian political party, were dead in the water before it took off. However, there were millions of Nigerians who hoped DFPF would succeed against the behemoth of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). There are some in the know that claim Wole Soyinka only forgave and supported a man he hated for a long time, Muhammadu Buhari, because the All Progressives Congress (APC) represents interests and virtues of DFPF.

DFPF may have fizzled out prematurely because its main aim was anti-corruption like Buhari’s APC and it eschewed ‘money politics’ again like Buhari’s APC, which has become the major ingredient in Nigerian politics. Buhari’s election victory has demonstrated that the days of ‘no money no votes’ are dying away. Nigeria is waiting for an era of successful anticorruption measures. This is exactly what Soyinka seemed to want for Nigeria.

All in all, Wole Soyinka is marketable as presidential candidate. Are Olu Falae, Olusegun Obasanjo, Goodluck Jonathan, Musa Yar’Adua, Muhammadu Buhari more marketable as presidential candidates in the Nigeria polity all things being? The answer has to be NO. However, the marketability of a candidate does not necessarily translate into election victory, voters consider other things too.