Val Ojo:

Presidential Libraries are fine and good. However, I am sure Americans did not start the education of their population with the building and endowment of Presidential Libraries.

Where are the local street-corner libraries, available to every citizen, the types that were around when I was growing up in Nigeria? Where are the elementary school, high school, college and university libraries worthy of the name?

Is Nigeria's education now to be hitched tobuilding Presidential Libraries? When willAfrican heads of state stop being mere poorclones of what they think Western leaders are?

Western leaders try to cater to what they think are the needs of their people - rightly or wrongly - African leaders are catering to personal ego.

What is the difference between an Obasanjo Presidential Library at Owu Quarters in Abeokuta, and a Catholic Cathedral in Yamasoukrou or wherever?

I this not still the same old crowd - Adenuga, Dangote, Odogwu, Arisekola, Ibru - flouting their "wealth", whose sources are at best questionable?

And where did the State Governors get the "N360 million" they "donated" from?

Obasanjo’s library launch, executive extortion – Soyinka

Emmanuel Obe and Toyin Obadina, Ibadan

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has described
as “executive extortion,” the launch of the
N7billion President Oluse-

gun Obasanjo’s Presidential Library in Abeokuta, Ogun State on Saturday.

Soyinka who was fielding questions from journalists on Monday after delivering a lecture to mark the 80th birthday of Princess Tejumade Alakija, Ibadan, Oyo State, said that the fund-raiser contradicted the President’s anti-corruption crusade.

He, however, said that the launch, in which about N6billion was raised through some individuals and corporate bodies, was handled in a transparent manner.

Among the highest donors were the oil majors, $20million; the Chairman, Globacom Communications, N250million; the President, Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, N211.6million; the Chairman, Zenon Oil and Gas Limited, Mr. Femi Otedola, N200million; and the 36 state governors, N360million.

Other major donors were the consortium of banks, N622million; the Ogun State Governor, Otunba Gbenga Daniel, N100million; the Nigeria Ports Authority community, $1million;Obasanjo Holding, N100million; Ocean and Oil, N50million; Aare Musulunmi of Yorubaland, Alhaji Arisekola Alao, N100million; Ide Ahaba, Chief Sunny Odogwu, N100million, and Peoples Democratic Party, N20million.

Soyinka also said that the sovereign national conference being proposed by the Pro-National Conference Committee might hold in August.

“We are now looking at the possibility of hosting the conference in August,” he said, explaining that the June date initially fixed for the conference was no longer feasible.”

During the lecture, titled, Back to Okija, Soyinka criticised those he described as extremists, bigots and zealots whom he said were moving to destroy all shrines in the country.

He questioned the motive behind such actions, saying the perpetrators represented retrogressive forces in the Nigerian society.

While conceding that there might be some evil shrines in the country, Soyinka said it was not a sufficient justification to clamp down on all shrines that are potential national artifacts.

He said, “Christian priests have been arrested for offering divine protection to armed robbers before an operation, providing them alibi. We do not say we should destroy churches and even playing grounds along the beach.

“Let all religions learn humility, take their authorities from the best in the religions and examine practices that are still anti-human in their conduct.”

Soyinka, who called for the respect of human dignity in the country, said the attack on shrines by religious zealots reflected lawlessness in the country.

He also criticised Obasanjo for not releasing funds meant for local government areas in Lagos State, despite a Supreme Court order.

Soyinka said, “We know that present government of this nation has no respect for the law of the land. If it did, for instance, it will not disobey the ruling of a judicial court that has unambiguously ordered the release money that is sticking unconstitutionally to its dictatorial fingers.

“Once an example of lawlessness has beenestablished right from the very top, whyshouldn’t the religious bodies take of othernationally empowered institution?

“If the President of this nation can unilaterally determine what people can be served, preserved or shortchanged, of social amenities including primary allocations, why shouldn’t a bastion of religious fanatics also decide the potential of enquiry and knowledge to wipe out the resources from the earth. What else?”

Soyinka also criticised the Kano State Government for barring men and women from riding in the same bus.

He said that the law was not even in operation in Indonesia, the world’s largest Islamic country.

Soyinka described as a waste the money spent by the state on the purchase 100 buses to implement the policy.

He challenged the Governor, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, to prove that there were motorised vehicles when the Koran was recorded.

He likened the new Kano law to the operation of the apartheid regime in South Africa and the segregation in public transportation in the United States where a Black man was supposed to duck into a gutter if he saw a White man approaching.

He praised Princess Alakija for her contributions to national development in spite of the fact that she operated in a country that had a bias against women.

The former External Affairs Minister, Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi, who chaired the occasion, lauded the contributions of Alakija to the emancipation of women.

The Oyo State Governor, Chief Rashidi Ladoja, said he wished that Obasanjo himself was present to personally reply to Soyinka’s charges, but promised to deliver a copy of the lecture to the President.

He said that most of the issues raised by Soyinka as it regarded disrespect for the human person did not occur in Yorubaland.

Some of the other personalities at the occasion were Chief Bode Akindele, Chief Folake Solanke, Dr. Victor Olunloyo, and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuade Olubuse II.Emmanuel Obe and Toyin Obadina, Ibadan

The PUNCH, Tuesday, May 17, 2005