5th December, 2016
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka on Monday disclosed that he never applied for an American Green Card and that it was former United States President, Jimmy Carter who got it for him.
Soyinka, at a press conference at the Freedom Park, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria also took a swipe at Nigerians who criticised him and wanted to know if he would abide by his comment to dump his green card if Donald Trump should win.
An unhappy Soyinka said his decision to dump the green card if Trump should win was personal and was no business of any Nigerian, decrying that unwarranted comments and insults against his personality on social media by bloggers and the rest was uncalled for because they were not the ones who got the green card for him.
“Let us look at the phenomenon of this green card, I called it Jimmy Carter’s card. Jimmy Carter got it for me,” he said.
Soyinka said it was when he was a lecturer at Emory University in the United States during the Abacha era that he got the green card which he never applied for.
“I was teaching then at Emory University. The President of my University, Williams Chase had applied for a green card for me, I was then on E1/B2 visa which allowed you to teach or to work in the US for a limited period. Finally my department head and president said to me, look, you should get a green card. They insisted and they went ahead.
“When you are about to move from one grade to the other, either a kind of visa to the next or from that visa to green card, you become a prisoner. You cannot leave the US unless you get what is know as exeat, if you do, you cannot come back to the US, you must wait and get an exeat,” he explained.
Soyinka added that at that time Senator Adeyeye, Kayode Fayemi and others in NADECO were supposed to have a meeting in London to fuse all the bodies fighting against Abacha into one and that his presence was highly needed at that meeting and that he needed to be there willy-nilly.
“The NADECO people called this meeting to unify the various forces fighting against Abacha, I applied for an exeat, it can take three days, a week, it depends on who is handling it and the day for the meeting gets closer and closer and Fayemi and the others kept harassing me that I must not miss the meeting,” he said.
Soyinka said further that Jimmy Carter, a fellow at Emory University and the university’s president decided to get him an exeat so that he would be able to return to the US after the meeting.
“It was the last flight for me to get to the UK. I told Kayode and the others that it looks as if I was going to miss it, but they insisted that I must be at the meeting, so I called my wife and told her that I don’t know when I will see her next, I am leaving for the meeting and I don’t have an exeat. I told my head of department and William Chase that I have to go. Williams Chase got to work, called Carter and they got to work.
“The idea was that they should get me the exeat in time, by the time I went to pick up my exeat, it was my green card. So to start with, I did not even asked for a green card. But the point was that I was ready to leave because of that struggle. I was ready to abandon the green card at that time for something I considered very important,” he said.
Soyinka said he was puzzled that Nigerians could poke-nosed into his private affairs and the exercise of his rights to freedom of speech.
“I really I am puzzled. I don’t know what the hazzle is all about, if I decide I want to leave the US and in a particular way, that is my business and not the business of the millipedes of internet who claw out at any excuse and lips flying in their trade. I don’t know what the excitation is, why do Nigerians tend to wail louder than the bereaved?
“What is your business? I am addressing those illiterates who feel that they have to make themselves heard and have to express opinion about everything, whether it concerns them or not and resort to vulgar abuse and insult simply because they are scared just because one person is saying I have had enough of the state. I just want to take a walk. This is simply a personal issue,” he said.
Soyinka also said he was considering taking a second exit from the nation, but he did not clarify whether he was leaving the country or not. He simply said “exit takes different form, you can exit internally or externally, it is possible I can exit into the Autonomous Republic of Ijegba, but certainly something must give way. There will be some actions which I will take or refuse to take because of this incident which really should come to an end, I have had enough of this. There will be very gradual and accelerated exit from the public intervention; from giving the commitments I have made as part of general public service.”
He added that he would relocate the Soyinka’s foundation out of the country in view of the disregard Nigerians had for him.
In his words: “I am going to move the residency of the foundation operated by me out of the country, I have already begun to make arrangement. It is my property and I do what I like with it. If the board agrees, I am moving that residency out of Nigeria and if you like, you can follow me to where I am and put me in your blog because I move my foundation out of Nigeria.”
Soyinka also said he would hold a private funeral on January 20 when the United States President-elect, Donald Trump, is inaugurated as President.
He explained that the funeral was not to mourn with the citizens of the US over their choice of president but to mourn the death of Nigeria’s loss of common sense.
“Our common sense is totally lost. I am embarrassed sometimes that I occupy the same nation space with some people,” he said.