Our Reporter, New York
Nigerian-born Princeton University Professor Chika Okeke-Agulu has described the harsh criticisms of Nigerian literary icon Prof. Wole Soyinka of Peter Obi and the Labour Party as “very unfortunate.”
The art historian expressed his thoughts in an exclusive interview with 90MinutesAfrica’s Rudolf Okonkwo on Sunday.
Prof. Okeke-Agulu, the Director of the Programme in African Studies, said that the political interventions of the Nobel Laureate after the last general election have been selective.
“I think it’s certainly clear that he has a partisan position and agenda.
“Nearly everything I have heard him say about the election is a criticism of Peter Obi, the Labour Party, and the so-called Obidients,” the art curator disclosed.
The Director of the Africa World Initiative, which will be hosting a symposium in honour of the late Chinua Achebe on the 29th and 30th of September, expressed dismay that Prof. Soyinka paid no attention to the concerns that produced enthusiasm in the young people who were looking to Peter Obi because of his record and background which closely mirrors the kind of leadership that Achebe’s critiques anticipated.
“Seeming as if he is admonishing the young, admonishing the political class but doing it so selectively is something that I find very unfortunate.
“I doubt that the Chinua Achebe that I knew and that I have encountered in my work would have taken such a position,” the Robert Schirmer Professor of Art and Archaeology and African-American Studies said about comments attributed to Prof. Soyinka.
Peter Obi, the Labor Party’s Presidential Candidate in the 2023 election, will give the keynote speech at the upcoming Africa World Initiative’s Achebe symposium. The Africa World Initiative will, on October 25 and 26, welcome Chimamanda Adichie to Princeton to deliver the first Africa World Lecture series.
The Umuoji native, a long-term advocate for the restitution and reparation of stolen African arts, called on the Nigerian government, especially the governors of the Eastern States, to take up the responsibility of supporting the fight to return stolen artworks taken from the region during the Biafran war. His challenge of museums selling these works has placed it on public record as stolen cultural heritage of our people, he said.
Okeke-Agulu was fired from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in 1996 for his opposition to Gen. Sani Abacha’s appointment of a sole administrator for the university. He foreclosed any chance of returning to teach. He said he could exert more influence on his field from his current position. He lamented that lecturers rebuffed his past efforts to give back to one of our universities in free lectures on art history during the summer. He said the lecturers felt their students would turn against them after being exposed to what he had to offer.
“I find an alternative path to connect with people doing incredible work in Nigeria and support them,” he said, but returning there to teach would be like committing suicide.