CBCIU Osogbo: Call Oyinlola To Order And Save Nigeria From International Embarrassment — Prof. Wole Soyinka Tells Buhari




Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, who is also the Chairman, Centre For Black Culture And International Understanding (CBCIU), Osogbo, the Osun State capital, Tuesday in Lagos, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to call a former chairman of the Centre and erstwhile governor of the state, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, to order.


Condemning the manner in which Oyinlola was going about in a bid to perpetuate himself as the Life chairman of the Centre, Soyinka said if not cautioned, his activities are capable of dragging the image of the country into the mud.

Wondering whether the Centre is still for culture or has been turned to a political turf, Soyinka lamented the current situation at the Centre, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Centre, saying : “ There is Law, and there is Ethics. Wherever these two arbiters of public conduct appear to clash, even Ethics must bow to Law.”

Coming down to the specifics , Soyinka said :”I require no convincing that this ideal harmonisation was manifested when the lawmakers of Osun State enacted, in 2012, an amendment to the original CBCIU law that had been signed into law by Governor Oyinlola on 29th December 2008.

“That original law, in my view, was profoundly unethical. The Amendment, by the succeeding House of Assembly, signed into law on the 31st day of July, 2012, was clearly designed to inject an ethical corrective into the original law,” he said, adding “They have however advised that the July 2012 amendment supersedes the original, and that this Amendment constitutes the current law within under which the CBCIU obtains its validity, until overturned under a new Law enacted by a chamber of equal or superior jurisdiction.”

Maintaining that the Amendment legislates that the CBCIU is public property, established and maintained with state funds, funded by the state, housed by the state, instituted by elected representatives of the people, Soyinka said it is not private, hereditary property, not even of the most elevated royalty.

Soyinka disclosed that he learnt that “Prince Oyinlola, had made forays into UNESCO headquarters, Paris, to protest his removal from a position he had created for himself while governor – and in perpetuity.”

Speaking further, Soyinka said: “Invited to that meeting, once I raised the issue, was Hans d'Orville, one of Madame Bokova's most senior aides. I asked her how UNESCO proposed to handle what was gearing up to become quite a penkelemes (courtesy Adelabu) for all parties in this unseemly development.

“Hans d'Orville confirmed that the Prince had indeed written protest letters to UNESCO and also shown up a number of times in his own person, sometimes with a delegation. Hans d'Orville informed his Director-General and I that he had already responded to Oyinlola's written appeals, and that, on each personal visit, he repeated exactly what he had written to the prince, namely, that CBCIU was set up under the laws of the host country – that is, of Osun State, Nigeria – thus, UNESCO could not interfere in a situation that would contradict the provisions of such laws.

“UNESCO's Director-General nodded in agreement, saying: “That is exactly my understanding.” Then she, in turn, wanted to know what was the real story behind the development. I warned her that the issue had a very long history. We were all rather pressed for time, needed to catch flights in different directions.

So I proposed that, instead of rehashing the tortuous details, I would pose a hypothetical question to her. I said: “Let me ask you a simple question. If you decided to leave UNESCO tomorrow, would you use UNESCO funds to set up an entity, any kind of institution, use your position to channel an annual disbursement from UNESCO's coffers, receive and dispense funds, and make yourself, in your personal capacity, head of that organisation – and for life?”

She recoiled in horror. “No-o! That would be highly unethical. Such a thing is not possible”. I added: “That about sums it up.

“The incoming governor of Osun State took exactly such a position, embarked on steps to dissolve the board and constitute a new one. The erstwhile, self-appointed Life Chairman has gone to court to contest that position. My advice is that you keep UNESCO away from the ensuing splatter while we clean up our own mess internally – we are quite used to it.” That was in September 2013.

As a member of UNESCO's High Panel for Peace, I have interacted with Madame Bokova at a number of events since then, as well as with Hans d'Orville before his departure from UNESCO. I was made aware – from numerous sources – that Oyinlola, aided by the former Nigerian representative to UNESCO, Dr. Omolewa, continued to wear out carpets leading to the Africa desk, to numerous offices and national delegations to UNESCO.

However, I studiously refrained from raising my concerns with the Director-General or indeed any other serving UNESCO official, right up to this press conference – which shall be copied to UNESCO. “Moreover, the Prince continued to make overtures to Governor Aregbesola, and myself, and to leaders in his new political party, pleading that they intervene so that he could be reinstated on the board in any capacity, however subordinate.

I left that plea to the governor entirely – since it remains his prerogative. I did assure him however that I would not stand in the way. I shall reveal here that I went even further – albeit against the grain – but in order to save the nation from international embarrassment through an obsession that I could not yet fully understand.”

On what he did to save the country from international embarrassment, Soyinka said: “I accommodated Mr. Oyinlola so far as to propose to the governor a Special Board Membership, tasked with responsibility for traditional royal cultures.”

“Simultaneously however, as was certainly within his fundamental rights, Mr. Oyinlola pursued his legal challenges, having first made off, even till today, with all the files – including every scrap of financial records – of the Centre. While the courts tried to address the conundrum of a life appointee being dispossessed while still very much alive, Mr. Oyinlola chose to pre-empt the courts' decision.

“Aided, and even physically accompanied by Nigeria's former representative to UNESCO, Dr. Omolewa, who was familiar with the interstices of that institution, Oyinlola commenced a campaign, both internally and externally, to disseminate a fraudulent version of the court proceeding. The prince has claimed – and still does! – that the courts had indeed found for him, and that he is back in office as chairman of CBCIU.

“Our legal advice is that no basis for such a claim exists! What we do know – and this is clear from the actual court records, not the disseminated, bowdlerized versions, even for the “unlearned” – is that the Court has not even touched the substance of Prince Oyinlola's appeal for reinstatement! The only effective law, we are firmly advised, remains the July 2012 Law enacted by Osun State House of Assembly. “

Soyinka therefore called on President Buhari, who , according to him, “has unusually elevated the anti-corruption struggle to the very top of his governance agenda” to look into the matter at the Centre, warning that Oyinlola's sit-tight posture and his attempt to drag Omolewa, Nigeria's former representative at UNESCO, into supporting his cause, is capable of bringing Nigeria into international disrepute.

His words: “ I must warn General Buhari – in the absence of a Foreign Minister – that, as a consequence of activities of this “CBCIU” double, the nation is being dragged into a sleazy situation through the attempted co-option of its foreign missions into logistical support for their global enterprises.

“And so to the question: “When you leave office, General Buhari, will you also carve out a privatised entity – cultural, educational, political, religious, socio-economic, perhaps even a military unit or whatever – for yourself from public funds, provide it an annuity from the nation's treasury, empower it to receive funds from internal and external sources, and make yourself, in your own individual person – that is, as Muhammadu Buhari – its Executive Chairman, and for life?”

( THEWILL )
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