Tam David-West and Wole Soyinka
In what could be described as 'teaching the teacher', a former Petroleum Minister, Prof Tam David-West has faulted a grammatical usage of a co-professor, Wole Soyinka.

Soyinka has some days ago, in an interview opined that the SOVEREIGNTY IS BLOODY NEGOTIABLE

David-West in a recent interview with the Daily Sun Newspaper described Syinka's submission as absolute rubbish and nonsense. He insists that the sovereignty of Nigeria is non-negotiable.

David-West said as excerpted from the Daily Sun Newspaper:

“I pre­pared myself for this interview because for a virologist to chal­lenge a Nobel Laureate, a profes­sor of Comparative Literature, on English word, it’s like committing suicide. But I will not commit sui­cide.”

The Nobel Laureate, Pro­fessor Wole Soyinka, said recently that the sover­eignty of Nigeria is nego­tiable. How would you ap­praise the comment?

Absolute nonsense. I am sur­prised that it came from somebody as eminent as Wole Soyinka. This is absolute rubbish, absolute non­sense. No sovereignty is negotia­ble. When something is sovereign, you cannot negotiate. He is talking nonsense. Nigeria’s sovereignty is not negotiable. The sovereignty of Nigeria and any other country is not open to negotiation.

Wole Soyinka should know much than I do as a virologist. I have evidence to support what I have said. I read the story in which he said the sovereignty of Nigeria is negotiable when I was in Abuja. I am very annoyed about it.

I know what Wole Soyinka said, with greatest respect, is absolutely not true. In case I am wrong, I have to phone some friends to get their opinions. I went back to the library and got five dictionaries to get the meaning of sovereignty. They are Black’s Law Dictionary (1999 Edition), Oxford Thesaurus (2001 Edition), Collins Dictionary (21st Century Edition), Oxford Il­lustrated Dictionary, and B.B.C. English Dictionary.

Wole, of course, will agree that he over-spoke. What he said was not correct, it is not true. Nige­ria’s sovereignty is not negotiable. Anything that is sovereign can­not be negotiated. .Sovereignty implies and conjures supremacy, absolute. You don’t negotiate ab­solute.

Great scholars wrote Ameri­can Constitution. They made one mistake that has been standing for 200 years. They said in the intro­duction, in order to have a more perfect union, we have decided to do so, so, so, so. I phoned an American friend, I told him that the founding fathers that wrote the constitution were great men, but they cannot have something that is more perfect. Perfect is absolute. You cannot have more perfect. You cannot qualify perfect. When something is perfect, it is perfect. There is no half of quarter perfect. It is absolute. So, any sovereignty is not negotiable because it is ab­solute.

Every sovereignty conjures ab­solute. You don’t negotiate abso­lute. It is either there is sovereignty or there is no sovereignty, there is no mid way. If it is sovereign, it is sovereign. Every sovereign state has absolute supremacy. What you cannot negotiate is supremacy. Ni­geria is an independent state. Ni­geria is a sovereign state.

The problem here is that we should separate between concep­tion and socio-political problem. Conceptually, there is no way you can negotiate sovereignty. But if it comes to socio-political con­sideration, what you are going to negotiate is not sovereignty, but modus vivendi. How you can live together can be negotiable, but it is impossible to negotiate the sover­eign state of Nigeria. It is impos­sible. It is not negotiable.

When I saw the headline of the story: ‘Nigeria’s sovereignty is negotiable, says Soyinka,’ I said it was possible that Wole Soyinka was misquoted. But I did not want to fall into the category of the people I call headline readers. So, many Nigerians are headline read­ers. They only read the headlines, they don’t read the substance. The headline may not be the same as the substance. So, I don’t want to be a headline reader and criticise. I read the story through and I be­came more annoyed. The headline was right. The full text quoted him that he said so. But the long and short is that no sovereignty is ne­gotiable.

Going through the story in which Professor Wole Soyinka was quoted to have said Nigeria’s sov­ereignty is negotiable, would you not rather say he was being figurative, because he said ‘we bet­ter negotiate it, not even at meetings, not at con­ferences, but everyday in our conduct towards one another?’

He cannot be figurative. Wole should know much better now. He cannot be figurative with some­thing as grave as that. That is triviality and I know, he is a very serious person. He is not figura­tive, he meant it, if you differen­tiate between conceptual aspect of sovereignty and geo-political aspect. Now, Wole Soyinka was taken away by geo-political, which is about decentralisation of the nation. Decentralisation of the country is completely different from loss of sovereignty. Decen­tralisation of the nation has to do with modus vivendi, how do we live together.

Many people think when you are talking about decentralisa­tion or restructuring of the nation, you are talking about sovereignty. They are not the same at all. They are completely different.

For few days, people have been talking about restructuring the country. But what is wrong with Nigeria is not structure. It is the people themselves. Somebody had written to the Guardian from Ilo­rin, he completely misunderstood what I said. There is no situation that is perfect. A state organisa­tion like the country is dynamic.

It should be reviewed from time to time. But in reviewing it from time to time, you must be very careful, whether we are doing something of fundamental nature or of sentiIt should be reviewed from time to mental nature or for socio-political reasons. ­

Now, our modus vivendi, how we live together; can we look at it and change it? Yes, I agree. Why do I say so? What people are complaining of is not by the Constitution of Nigeria. The point they are making is that the centre is too powerful, that the states are not powerful. It is not due to the constitution. It is because of the la­ziness and weakness of Nigerians. The constitution is very clear that Nigeria is a federal state. In a fed­eral state, the centre is weak. The centre cannot dictate to the states. (The United States President, Barack) Obama cannot dictate to any state in America.

I have just discovered that until few months ago, some states were still flying the confederate flag, which was illegal. After the civil war of America, confederate flag, like the Biafra flag, was still flown in America and Obama could not touch them.

It is like saying that some East­ern States in the country are flying Biafra flag and Nigerian President cannot do the same thing that American President will do. The state is powerful in America.

Read Full Interview From Daily Sun Newspaper


  1. So what about our Sovereign National Conference?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Yes. I agree with Prof. David West in his voyage into semantics. But, everyone knows the context from which Prof. Wole Soyinka spoke. And for the erudite Prof. David West to latch-on to such an innocuous error to make a mountain out of a molehill smacks of a deep seated envy. It shows that one professor harbours so much jealousy and ill-will against the other and this was an opportunity for the one professor to put the other "in his proper place". He, obviously, made a bad job of it.


News Punch © 2013 - 2017. All Rights Reserved. Site Credits: Semasir Connect