When it was reported that some members of the Eko Foundation had kicked against the appointment of the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka as a co-chairman of the Lagos@50 planning committee, it was quite disturbing for many reasons. For one, Soyinka is an international figure and though his memoirs such as Ake: The Years of Childhood and Isara: A Voyage Around Essay may have presented him as an Egba man, he had been detribalised by his socio-political and cultural legacies. History can testify.
One reason cited for that opposing view was that Soyinka is not a Lagos indigene. That claim was not only preposterous but reflective of the tribalistic nature of our society. That opposing notion was quickly dismissed by the informed community of arts and culture in Lagos that this reporter engaged in an electronic chat about the brewing controversy.
Apparently it is not over for the committee. That had been insinuations that monetary expenditure earmarked for the celebration of Lagos at 50 has misappropriated by the committee. It had also been suggested that the celebrations will run for a year, obviously with serious financial implications.
Soyinka, at a press briefing held at the Freedom Park, Lagos, debunked the claim by the critics that funds provided by the Lagos State Government and other corporate bodies at quarter on the expenses which has not been provided. Insisting that the scope of the festival is very wide but plans are quite ongoing to see that all the necessary logistics are provided.
“It is a dangerous trend and a distortion to create a negative mood about the celebration of Lagos@50. We are here to correct that misconception. Sponsors of the paid advertorial want to cause disaffection between the state government on the welfare of the workers with regard to the hard economic situation in the country. So, it is tendentious when people do that kind of thing,” he remarked.
He maintained that the funds earmarked by the state government had not been tampered with and that the committee has taken it upon itself to raise funds for its assigned master plan of the festival.
“We are getting ready with those expectations on our part. It is going to be a two-week long programme. Based on paper, everything is there. But the funds are being awaited.”