We brought a report on Thursday about the protest march by women under the aegis of Women Action Today in Lagos, in which they kicked against the $4 billion budgeted for a ‘Mission House’ for Nigeria’s First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan.
At that protest march, which took the women to the Lagos Governors Office, where they were received by the Lagos governor, Babatunde Fashola, a certain letter written by Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, was read and asked to be forwarded to President Goodluck Jonathan. It was Wole Soyinka’s ‘Valentine Card,’ specifically addressed to African First Ladies (and First Male Spouses.) Thursday, the day of the protest was St. Valentine’s Day.
Read the full letter below:
Wole Soyinka: A St. Valentine’s Day Card on the Occasion of Women’s March Against Connubial Corruption.
by Wole Soyinka
A Valentine Day Message should be brief, so I must plead for understanding for this departure from the norm. In any case, I deplore the slavish adoption of foreign saints of whatever shade, color, or religious persuasion. However, the coincidence of dates for women’s intervention in yet another egregious conspiracy to drain the Nigerian treasury, mounted in the name of a high-flying member of your gender, strikes me as a call to break the mould and submit myself to the call of Saint Valentine.
A Yoruba proverb goes thus: Ti a ba ma a j’opolo, ka je eyi to l’eyin. (If one must eat a toad, then go for an egg-bloated one). If I must send a Valentine card for the first time in my life, then let me do so on a grand scale. I have therefore elected not to lend my affection to any one individual, but the entire bevy of First Ladies of the African continent – and that includes First Male Spouses. What, after all, is to stop these male consorts from developing ‘pet projects’ and setting up Missions? Even if they number no more than one or two, there is a saying that goes: What is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander.
A mind-boggling fiscal misappropriation – Four Billion Naira, no less! – is being attempted in your names – openly, in an attempt to institutionalize an illegality through a debasement of the democratic process. It is no longer secretive but in-your-face, and damn public opinion! Your names have been invoked as the ultimate beneficiaries, and thus, you are vicariously implicated.
In the name of St.Valentine and the love I bear for you all, please dissociate yourself from this display of shameless avarice. I shall not go so far as to ask you to denounce what you probably know nothing about, but if you ever get to hear of it, distance yourselves from the gross impropriety. I implore you in the name of all local equivalents of St. Valentine: continue to serve humanity within and outside your borders, but without self-interest. Assist this nation in crushing the increasing acquisitive impudence of individuals and institutions that do not exist in our constitution, yet insist on fattening on national resources.
The enthronement of vulgar preening and opportunistic consumption is complicating the battle of a principled minority on critical social issues. It gets in the way of sanitizing society, and has become an expensive distraction. When you visit in your personal and/or professional capacities, or as consorts to your spouses, we would love to love you, respect and honor you. It will be painful to watch you dodging a rain of rotten eggs and tomatoes in place of flower petals and bouquets. There is no such thing as an African First Ladies Mission in the Nigerian appropriation list. Any claim remotely like it is the conspiracy of sycophants, jobbers, masters of impunity, a desperate clique that unfurls a continental umbrella as cover for private aggrandizement. Please, do not be a part of it. The people of this nation are fast losing patience.
Yours in unstinting love, this St. Valentine’s Day of Two Thousand and Thirteen, Wole Soyinka (A Public Service Retiree)