Reactions to Soyinka, Clark and Maja-Pearce Controversy
The New Gong's publication on June 14 of the response by Adewale Maja-Pearce to recent verbal attacks by Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka drew varied reactions from the Nigerian literary community. Whatever the slants, and notwithstanding threats veiled as metaphors, there is no doubt that robust and spirited debate was provoked, which most agree is good for Nigerian literature.
Here we present a selection from Lola Shoneyin, Ike Oguine, Mike Ekunno, Isaac Ogezi, Wumi Raji, Ikhide Ikheloa and Olu Oguibe.
To: email@example.com From: firstname.lastname@example.org Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2013 21:46:34 +0100 Subject: Re: [krazitivity] My Original Sin Against Soyinka: Adewale Maja-Pearce
Sorry for my rushed response this afternoon- so many typos, words omitted etc. Please find the correct text below. Anyone who wishes to publish/ use it in response to 'My Original Sin Against Soyinka: Adewale Maja-Pearce' should feel free to do so. Thank you. As Maxim has done, I am also going to make sure that this is exposed to as many people as possible. Thank you.
Releasing this email exchange will not do Adewale Maja-Pearce any favours. If his intention was to discredit or embarrass Soyinka, then he has already failed in his ignoble quest. No doubt, the desperate will quickly jump on this and use it to fuel their conspiracy theories. But those who have what we in Yorubaland call 'oju inu', loosely translated as 'internal eyes', will see it for what it is.
In my understanding, the 'Original Sin' was A Peculiar Tragedy- a book that took undue advantage of JP Clark's generosity and openness. I mean, if one is going to do a hatchet job on another individual, do it at a time when the taste of your victim's wine no longer lingers at the back of your tongue. Or else, it is vulgar, indecent, undignified. It does little more than lead people to wonder whether the author had sinister underlying motives.
One thing that I do know is that A Peculiar Tragedy did not sit well with Achebe, Soyinka or other individuals who found themselves being used as pawns in the soap opera. Where the truth never says it should not be said, (I'm suddenly full of Yorubaness) the truth has many colours, many shades- some so dark that it becomes fiction when held up to the light.
I know Soyinka doesn't read reviews of his work but, like it happens with many authors, word gets back to you if a review is particularly personal, vicious or stilted.
If I were Soyinka, I would never have raised it Maja-Pearce in an email. I would have found a way of tucking a long and poisonous dagger beneath his collarbone, metaphorically. Soyinka's reference to Maja-Pearce's review humanises him; moreso, his actions, when confronted with Maja-Pearce's UCLV application.
Maja-Pearce, on the other hand, with his laughable and somewhat extreme references to Stalin and Abacha seems to be operating in character.
Of everything I read, I was most touched by Soyinka's eagerness for the JP Clark issue to remain a sleeping dog. It was a big lesson for me and it got me thinking. If so many things that we consider bolekaja-worthy some day pale into insignificance, then maybe we should choose our battles with more care and consideration. But that's just life, isn't it? We live and learn.
So, should Soyinka be grateful to Maja-Pearce for editing a book of essays that Soyinka probably had no contribution to or knowledge of? I think not, and, in turn, I wonder why Maja-Pearce decided to raise it at all in his email.
The (sometimes) unbearable burden of doing 'good' deeds is that we inadvertently begin to nurse expectations. People who behave otherwise forget that the same obtains. Inevitably. Another thing we often forget is that the bases of our 'good' deeds are often of a reciprocal nature, meaning that the chain we arrogantly come to imagine that we started was a continuation of other links...
I have been watching Revenge- an American mini series which starts with this quote by Confucius, "Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. At the end of the day, headmasters will remain headmasters and students will be students. The real question is whether a student will ever be worthy of one day becoming a headmaster.