By: Kexter E.A. Donald Jnr.

Wole Soyinka, a renowned Nigerian playwright and poet, has long been a central figure in the country’s political landscape. While his accomplishments as a writer and intellectual are widely acknowledged, his foray into politics has been met with both praise and criticism. This article delves into the complex narrative surrounding Soyinka’s political engagements, examining his interactions with prominent Nigerian leaders and his stance on various issues.

A Controversial Figure

Soyinka’s involvement in Nigerian politics has been marked by controversy. His confrontations with leaders like General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) and President Olusegun Obasanjo are indicative of his willingness to challenge authority. However, critics argue that Soyinka’s approach is often confrontational, and that he tends to vacillate between extremes, making it difficult to pinpoint a consistent ideological stance.

The IBB Confrontation

One of the most notable incidents in Soyinka’s political career was his clash with General Ibrahim Babangida during his military regime. Soyinka was a vocal critic of Babangida’s administration, advocating for democracy and human rights. Surprisingly, Babangida extended an olive branch, inviting Soyinka to collaborate with the government on projects such as road safety. However, Soyinka’s response to this gesture remains a subject of scrutiny.

Unfortunately, Soyinka’s tenure overseeing road safety was marred by financial mismanagement, leading to accusations of misappropriation of funds. This incident, critics argue, tarnished Soyinka’s reputation as a responsible and reliable political figure.

The Obasanjo Era

Soyinka’s relationship with President Obasanjo was equally contentious. His vocal criticisms of Obasanjo’s policies and leadership style often veered into personal territory. This animosity only abated when Soyinka’s children were appointed as personal assistants to Obasanjo, prompting questions about whether this appointment was a strategic move to quell Soyinka’s dissent. This aspect of their dynamic continues to raise eyebrows.

Tribal Allegations and Controversies

Soyinka’s political engagements have also been colored by allegations of tribal bias. Some critics argue that he tends to approach issues with a tribal lens, which, they contend, hinders a more holistic understanding of Nigeria’s diverse sociopolitical landscape. This perception of tribalism has further contributed to the divisive nature of his political commentary.

Recent Outburst and Allegations of Bigotry

Wole Soyinka’s recent outburst in South Africa, where he stated that Peter Obi never won the 2023 elections, has further fueled controversy surrounding his political involvement. Critics argue that such statements reflect a level of bigotry that clouds his sense of reasoning. Soyinka’s assertion is questioned, as he does not have an official role in INEC, nor does he preside as a judge over election outcomes. Furthermore, the matter is still under review in the Supreme Court.

Allegations of Political Motivation

Some suggest that Soyinka’s comments may be motivated by a desire to align himself with President Tinubu, potentially seeking a share of the national political landscape. This has led to accusations that Soyinka’s criticism of President Obi is not solely based on reasoned analysis, but may be influenced by broader political considerations.


Wole Soyinka’s impact on Nigerian politics is undeniable, but his legacy in this realm is a polarizing one. While his commitment to democracy and human rights is commendable, his confrontational approach, alleged tribal biases, and recent controversial statements have sparked criticism. It is crucial to recognize the nuances of Soyinka’s political journey, acknowledging both his contributions and the controversies that have defined his interactions with Nigerian leaders. Ultimately, Soyinka’s political legacy remains a topic of fervent debate, underscoring the complex nature of politics in Nigeria.

*What are your views on this? Leave your comments in the comment section.

By osibanews

Eliel Otote A is an Actor and Filmmaker, with a bias for journalism. He was a freelance feature writer with the Nigerian Observer in the 80's in Benin City, he also presented programmes on both radio and television. Eliel is the Editor and Publisher of OSIBAnews Network Magazine, of which this blog is an affiliate.

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