The story of a young man who asked Prof. Wole Soyinka to stand up from his window seat on a flight, has gone viral on the internet over the last few days, with several twists and turns to the plot of the tale. Tonye Patrick Cole co-owner of Sahara group who was on the same flight shared the story of this “event” on Instagram, chastising the youth, whom he presented as being immoral and disrespectful!
Lo and behold the Naija Twittersphere and social media as a whole, went on overdrive. At the beginning, many tongue-lashed the young man whom we know next to nothing about, while Tonye Cole was widely praised for venerating morals, culture and respect for the dignified figure of Wole Soyinka, including by WS’ son, Olaokun Soyinka who considers believes Cole was merely standing up for his father.
Looking infallible like a rich and seemingly meek “General Overseer” in the picture he took with Prof “Kongi” before the incident, Mr Cole has soaked all this up with glee. Wow, nice guy! “What a good Samaritan art thou brother Cole?”.
Before even looking at the account of Mr Tonye Cole (take note that it was not an account of Professor Wole Soyinka, it was an account of some attention-seeking, crier more than the bereaved, so to speak, who himself makes millions of people cry daily), there is the need for us to know who this tale bearer is.
Many that are uninformed have been praising Tonye Cole for exposing the incident of supposed rudeness, like a well-meaning defender of all that is pure and true. What is downplayed is that, Tonye Cole, who is the son of a man that was part of the most oppressive regime in this country’s history, currently owns one of the most anti-people companies (Sahara group) gobbling the poor masses’ already inadequate income like a vampire, without any consideration for the culture of respect and goodness of heart, including for old women and men caught in the web of his profit maximization concerns.
Based on verifiable evidence Tonye Cole is an oppressor of the people through the Sahara group, a conglomerate that owns Ikeja Electric (IKEDC), which is responsible for crazy bills, illegal disconnections, lack of prepaid meters and over bloated estimated billings. They are as well complicit in the arrests and detention of citizens, including much older people, who have merely protested against this bundle of nonsense in the power sector.
He makes billions off the darkness and punishment meted and metered on Lagosians. The 52-year old oil mogul and power sector tycoon founded Sahara group in 1996 when he was just 29 years old, with his friends Tope Shonubi and Ade Odunsi.
His father, Mr Patrick Dele Cole served as Nigeria’s Ambassador to Brazil during the reign of the evil genius, General Ibrahim Babangida who annulled the June 12 elections. He was also on the list of beneficiaries from the Halliburton bribe scandal, and later served as deputy national chairman of PDP at its infancy before becoming a Special Adviser of President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Such background of affluence and thievery best explains Tonye Cole’s early wealth and sense of privilege. His partner, Wole Shonubi was one of the select super rich on President Buhari’s entourage to Donald Trump’s White House last year.
It thus should come as no surprise that the presidency and national assembly refuse to respond to the vehement public outcry against the electricity distribution companies or the whisking away of innocent community activists that question the distribution company’s extortion from their homes to prisons.
The struggle for electricity rights is because Tonye Cole and his ilk have put their cause of expanding profit over and above our needs as people. The rich and privileged have a way of deodorising the smell of their ill-gotten wealth, through using fake charity, eating roasted corn with poor women in the market, and dancing/singing at church praise worship. Another stratagem of this their fraudulent pattern is projecting themselves as moral referees like what Mr Cole attempted to do on the contrived “’Bobo Fine’ vs Wole Soyinka” play.
It is however now clear that Cole’s narrative blew the “event” out of proportion. Indeed, Professor Soyinka has made it clear that “it was a very minor thing and I’d forgotten all about it.” So, whose ends does Tonye Patrick Cole’s narrative serve?
We are in times of capitalist crises and resistance from worker and youths. In such periods, beneficiaries of the system, and house boys of the ruling class are wont to play the scripts of deceit to cajole the people and make themselves appear like upright leaders of the masses in waiting. They could even criticise the government and will make it a point of duty to comment on social issues, as seeming advocates of what is proper and desirable.
Such cheap plays at populism like Cole’s speak more to their selfish goals of “packaging” than concern for morality or concern for propriety. Tonye Cole wants to be Rivers State governor badly and would play any script that will make him look saintly in the eyes of Rivers State people and Nigerians in general.
I urge Nigerians to research on who’s telling us what. There is always a relationship between the message and the messenger. The bosses are prowling the social media space looking for whom to convince, recruit and exploit with narratives such as Cole’s.
We must scrutinise the publicity stunts of representatives of the 1% and not get to unwittingly help them trend false narratives, especially those that are clearly also aimed at promoting docility and acceptance of pecking orders. Who benefits most from such nonsense? Definitely not rebels and non-conformists like Wole Soyinka. Law and order, recourse to traditions and falsely painted faces of respect benefit those who see themselves as our betters. People like Tonye Cole, trying to hide as masquerades behind the mask of “WS”.
It is not about certification, tribe or religion. The “tragicomic metaphor for the problem of Nigeria” and indeed of class society in general from this otherwise “non-drama” is that people like Tonye Cole who see a problem with the arguably plausible demonstration of disrespect for venerable figures like the respected Professor have no problem whatsoever with urging the police to arrest old working-class community leaders like Pastor Samuel Olarewaju, Chair of the Ijora-Badiya Landlords and Tenants Association, whose “crime” is standing up against the exploitation of poor people by companies owned by our respectful talebearers.
At the heart of the matter we find class differences and the never-ending struggle between the rich and we the poor. This is not in any way to suggest that “Bobo Fine”, as Mr Cole described the young man, is on our side. He is most likely one of their children, spoilt brats of the super-rich like Tonye, his father and friends. The point is that the kind of respect Tonye holds dear is held dear only for those who are either rich and/or have made their marks, including in ways that cannot be denied like Prof Wole Soyinka.
Those who could not have been in that first-class cabin of Olympus do not matter for respect. They could rot away in jail for no just cause, as far as our genteel emergency respecters of culture and traditions are concerned.
We must always scrutinize the antecedents and affiliations, of talebearers. Capitalists like Tonye Cole can never be our friends. We are on one side and they are on the other side. The teacher they are should not teach us nonsense.
They do know what true respect is. True respect is that accorded the poor and lowly who do not have the international prestige of a Wole Soyinka. It is what is denied the poor when they are arrested for resisting crazy electricity bills and illegal disconnections.
We must not be fooled by them. We must know our oppressors in any narrative and at the barricades. Toye Cole is one of those them, and his tales by moonlight will not pull wool over our eyes. Our eyes don clear!!
by Eniafe Selassie