Soyinka would favour an Igbo person first before Yoruba – Onyeka Nwelue

Onyeka Nwelue

Filmmaker and author Onyeka Nwelue has stood in defence of Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka following the recent criticism that the octogenarian has been subjected to over his comments about Datti Baba-Ahmed.

Soyinka had labelled comments made by Baba-Ahmed, the Labour Party’s vice-presidential candidate in the February 25 poll, against the swearing-in of President-elect Bola Tinubu as fascist.

In an article published on Wednesday on Premium Times and titled ‘Professor Wole Soyinka and the economy of language,’ Nwelue said, “The Wole Soyinka I know is Igbo-centric and is a vital force for the inclusive fight for humanity in general. No matter the current heat, I must plead with young Nigerians and supporters of Peter Obi, to believe me, when I say Professor Soyinka supports Peter Obi. In private and even in public, he always stressed how it is important to have an Igbo President or let the Igbo have their own country. He also wants a competent person to lead the nation.

“If you had two people, an Igbo and a Yoruba, come to Professor Soyinka for help, I can tell you, without mincing words, that he will attend to the Igbo first. He may not like this, but I found out over the years. A Yoruba friend of mine once described me as ‘Soyinka’s gatekeeper.’ It didn’t end well between us. We practically stopped talking because of that appellation.”

Soyinka defended Nwelue last month after the latter was stripped of his academic visitor status at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge over his alleged claim to be a professor at both varsities.

The author denied wrongdoing, stating that he has always been called a professor since his teenage years.

Nwelue noted that he would remain eternally grateful to Soyinka for that.

He also recalled how in 2019 Soyinka was ‘recruiting’ people by himself to get on the presidential campaign team of Prof Kingsley Moghalu and how he wanted him (Nwelue) to be part of it.

“Soyinka speaks from a place of love and concern for our democracy. If we could listen to his voice of rage, he talked about investing his energy in the ‘new kid on the block.’ I remember him saying his dream was to see an Igbo President before leaving this world,” he added.