The controversy that surrounded the birth of the Centre for Black Culture and International Understanding, Osogbo, Osun State, in 2008 erupted again on Tuesday when the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, accused former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola of perpetuating himself as the chairman of the centre’s board of trustees.
He, thus, urged President Muhammadu Buhari to caution him in the spirit of the President’s anti-corruption stance.
The process of establishing the centre in 2008 was marked by accusation and counter-accusation between Soyinka and Oyinlola, as the renowned dramatist had vehemently opposed an alleged plot to locate the centre at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta. He claimed that the former President was using federal might to achieve this.
But while the main centre was eventually located in Osogbo, with a unit in the latter, trouble erupted again when the Rauf Aregbesola government came to power in 2011, as Oyinlola wanted to continue as the board chairman, based on a clause in the original law that established the CBIU.
The argument simmered in 2012 when the state House of Assembly amended the law to stop the permanent chairmanship.
Aregbesola had subsequently appointed Soyinka as the centre’s chairman.
But apart from legal issues that later arose, trouble reared its head again with a planned international conference set to hold at the centre.
At a press conference themed, ‘CBCIU: for Culture or Penkelemeesi?’, held at the Freedom Park on Tuesday, Soyinka warned Oyinlola against presenting himself as the chairman.
Noting that he had reported the development to UNESCO authorities, he said it was unethical for any office holder to claim perpetual ownership or leadership of any institution built with public funds.
According to him, the amendment made to the law establishing the centre, as carried out by the Osun lawmakers, remains valid as no court of law has nullified it.
He suggested that even if there were still some legal intricacies surrounding the development, ethics demanded that it be subjected to public debate.
Soyinka said, “My immediate contribution to that debate shall be phrased along the same terms as I addressed Madame Bokova in Kazakhstan (of UNESCO). Only that, this time, it is addressed to this nation’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, who has unusually elevated the anti-corruption struggle to the very top of his governance agenda. I must warn President Buhari – in the absence of a foreign minister – that 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.
But while our correspondent’s efforts to reach Oyinlola proved abortive on Tuesday, one of his former aides, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the ‘attacks ‘ against the former governor were unwarranted.
The source said, “We view this as a continuation of Prof. Soyinka’s failed 2008 campaign to frustrate the approval of the centre by UNESCO. But on this renewed attack, we will react appropriately at the appropriate time.”
Efforts to also speak with Aregbesola or the commissioner for culture in the state also proved abortive.
But an official who also spoke on condition of anonymity noted that although the matter appeared complicated, it would be resolved in a way that it would not affect the significance and smooth operation of the centre.
The source said, “Both Prof. Soyinka and Prince Oyinlola are dear to us. So, the matter will be resolved in the best interest of the people and cultural development of the state, Nigeria and Africa in general.”
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