Today, we continue the concluding part of our maiden post in our Legend Series Category celebrating Prof. Wole Soyinka on his 82nd birthday.
The Wild Wild West!
“Whether you vote for us or not, we don’t give a damn, since we are going to win anyway. The angels will descend and from the heavens to cast their votes on our side …”
The above statement was credited to Fani Kayode, SLA’s deputy and the NA were declared winners but not via either the votes of angels or men but outright rigging and severe violence unleashed on voters who resisted the rigging.
The people responded and we tie entered our political lexicon. As the rioting continued, the government controlled media declared NA winners of the election, then entered WS, then a young lecturer at the University of Ibadan and a thorn in the flesh of SLA’s government.
WS would not stop at writing and staging plays very critical of the SLA government, he would play the opposition’s last card in the election against the robbers of the people’s mandate;
Beat the heavy security cordon at the NBC building and make his way into the studio, hold four crew members hostage at gun point, seize the premier’s tapes and force the crew members to play a pre-recorded speech asking the SLA to “drop your stolen mandate, leave town and take your reprobates with you”. Then WS slipped out as quietly as he had left (that would even confound the FBI, CIA, KGB and Mossad put together).
After pulling off that incredible feat, WS would read he had been declared wanted by the Police in Enugu, the capital of the Eastern Region and bastion of UPGA, where he was a guest of the Premier Michael Okpara. With a police manhunt still on, WS would beat security cordons and return to the Western Region where he handed himself to the Police.
This was not without drama as WS had called the Police Superintendent in charge of his case requesting that he should come and get him at his home. They fell for the bait but returned without their big fish! He was waiting for them at the Police station. That day was 27th October, 1965.
On 3rd November 2015, an unkempt but defiant WS appeared before Justice Kayode Eso on charges of Robbery with violence. Eso was then only 7 weeks old on the bench and was assigned such a complex case.
On the first and second day of the arraignment, Eso showed clearly that he could handle the trial. The preliminaries had ended in a draw with the judge denying WS’ application for bail but remanding him in police custody against the wishes of the prosecution for a remand in prison.
The prosecution left no one in doubt that the government of the day wanted to fry WS’ balls at all cost but then the prosecution would do a shoddy job. Added to the government’s misery was Eso’s refusal to buckle under severe pressure. Part of the pressure included a meeting with the Premier himself who wasted in time in telling Eso that a conviction of WS was a fait accompli.
The final nail on the coffin of the prosecution was a failure to properly tender the “mystery gunman’s tape” and in its attempt to scuttle the alibi of WS. That gave WS his freedom. The Prosecution had called WS’s Head of Department to testify that he saw WS in the Department on the day of the holdup thereby puncturing his claims of being in Enugu on the said day.
The DPP further asked the HOD to describe how WS looked at the time he saw him and that nailed the prosecution case as he answered “he was clean shaven”. The earlier testimony of the star prosecution witness who WS allegedly seized the Premier’s tapes from was that he was bearded, without masks and had exchanged pleasantries as both parties were known to each other.
Kayode Eso would discharge and acquit WS on this fatal flaw by the prosecution. The learned trial Judge had said;
“While I can understand a bearded man at five o’clock in the evening becoming clean-shaven at 7 p.m., I cannot unravel the mystery of a clean shaven man at 5 p.m., becoming bearded at 7 p.m., except he is somehow masked. And the overwhelming evidence placed before the court by the prosecution itself, was that the gunman, who held up the cubicle that night, was not masked. That ‘non-masking’ kept up recurring like a ‘recurring decimal’. It is clear to me therefore, that no tribunal should be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was the clean shaven ‘Wole Soyinka’ at 5 p.m without a mask who metamorphosed into the bearded gunman at 7 p.m. With this sharp contradiction in the evidence of the prosecution, I am bound to give the accused person the benefit of the doubt. I therefore find him not guilty and he is, accordingly, acquitted and discharged”.