By Ademola Adegbamigbe
In the past few days, Bishop David Oyedepo of Winners Chapel, has been a butt of snide remarks on social media. His offence? He misinterpreted a satire written by Olatunji Dare, a Professor of Mass Communication who worked at the University of Lagos, The Guardian and now, the United States. What still beats the imagination of many Nigerians is that Oyedepo, a Bishop of high standing, would take a piece written by “one Olatunji Dare”-also a legendary figure in his own area of episcopacy- and give it a savage twist. It is a case of satire gone haywire, given the responses it generated. However, while a defence of the Bishop came from the media arm of his church, Dare himself has written a sequel, explaining his style, which ought to put the matter to rest.
The trouble started this way. In a multi-subject piece, “Matters Miscellaneous”, published in The Nation of 27 November, 2018, Dare wrote on “Buhari’s Double”, where he brought up the Jubril of Sudan controversy which was initiated by Nnamdi Kanu way back in 2017. Kanu, head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), argued that year that Buhari that was elected in 2015 “had died during one of his medical trips to London and been replaced by a clone named Jubril from Sudan with the help of surgery.”
Olatunji Dare wrote: “Since 2017, so goes the tale reportedly originated by the fugitive leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) Nigeria has been ruled by a Buhari look-alike, Jubril al Sudan, a native of Sudan — or Niger, take your pick. Buhari had died in the UK in 2017, where he was undergoing medical treatment. Notwithstanding the fact that Queen Elizabeth had sent a message of condolence to the Nigerian government, the entrenched Cabal in Aso Rock had procured a Buhari double in Sudan, and pressed him into service as Nigeria’s president. Despite occasional stumbles and apparent loss of memory, the transition had gone so smoothly that the only tell-tale sign of the infernal switch was a scar on Jubril’s left earlobe that was not a part of Buhari’s profile. Kanu, or whoever began the tale, and those who have been peddling it, should update their material.
I can report authoritatively that representatives of the Jubril family, having discovered the gigantic swindle, suddenly showed up in Abuja the other day and demanded to be compensated with a power-sharing arrangement at the federal level in perpetuity, plus 50 percent of Nigeria’s oil revenues for ten years in the first instance. Failing this, they warned, they would tell their story to the whole world.
I can also reveal that the Nigerian authorities have entered into frantic negotiations with Jubril’s family to head off what is sure to earn a double entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s Dirtiest and Worst-kept Secret. The UK authorities are mediating. Meanwhile, dependable sources tell me that Abuja is close to unraveling the true identity of the fake Jew parading himself on faked foreign soil as Nnamdi Kanu.”
Not knowing that Dare adopted satire, Oyedepo, on Sunday, 2 December, 2018, mounted the pulpit, reading the article above to his church memberd. In his words: “How can a nation with an Army of intelligent citizens who are imparting the nations of the world with their knowledge be held spellbound by this country? How can the largest nation in the world be heading for perpetual slavery without people knowing it?
The video: https://youtu.be/Ea5NbPjzMuw?t=27
“This disturbing information came from The Nation Newspaper of November 27, 2018, written by one Olatunji Dare exploded with authoritative assertions, he said, claiming among others that the president had died in the UK in 2017 where he was undergoing medical treatment. How?”
Jubril’s family, as Oyedepo quoted in the article, came to Abuja to demand compensation to keep quiet about the secret.” Oyedepo, therefore, advised Nigerians beware of a colonisation substerfuge. He said, “The question is, has Nigeria now suddenly become a population of fools? I believe it’s time to come away from our slumber and salvage this nation from slavery. If this evil tide is not dealt with quickly and decisively, Nigeria may be about to be recolonised a second time, and this time by another African country. What a shame and what a misfortune that would be. God forbid! But if the president will not address the nation on a subject as sensitive as this, it must have been proved beyond any iota of doubt that maybe he’s not our president,” he said. He then led the congregation in prayer for Nigeria to be delivered from slavery.
The Presidency did not allow the matter to get cold before firing its own howitzer. Tolu Ogunlesi, Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Digital and New Media, took to his Twitter page, describing Oyedepo as a hater of Buhari. In the words of Ogunlesi: “I know the Bishop has always detested PMB (it’s a free world, really, the right to dislike anyone is guaranteed constitutionally), but I don’t understand why he keeps going this far to peddle/amplify (from the pulpit) falsehood and disinformation about him. Really puzzling.”
Jude Egba, a media professional, wondered: “In that frenzy and atmosphere of the Winners Chapel that Sunday, it was easy to miss the fact that Dare’s opinion piece on whose premise Oyedepo had asked his congregation to pray and chant, was a satire. Meaning that it was no “authoritative” or “assertive” source on the whole ‘Jubril from Sudan’ conspiracy theory—certainly nothing to base an entire sermon on. But Oyedepo went on and on and on…
How did Oyedepo miss the part where Dare writes that ‘Nnamdi Kanu, or whoever began the tale, and those who have been peddling it, should update their material’?
Dare rounds up the Jubril part of his column with the following words: ‘Meanwhile, dependable sources tell me that Abuja is close to unraveling the true identity of the fake Jew parading himself on faked foreign soil as Nnamdi Kanu.’
Here was a writer making light of the whole ‘Buhari-is-a-clone’ saga and making fun of those who have gone to town with what is apparently fake news. He was poking fun at society as the famed satirist he is. He was laughing at himself and society. Because that’s what Dare has been doing with his columns since his days at The Guardian. Everyone who has been reading The Nation should know this. How did Oyedepo not know this? How did he miss the humour in a piece that had humour written all over it? How does a preacher who inspires millions worldwide, who owns two universities, not know the difference between a satirical piece and a news story?”
In a piece, Much Ado About Jubrin Of Sudan, Professor Ajayi Borofice, Senator representing Ondo North Senatorial District, who has Ph.D degree in Human Genetics, in congenital malformations arising from chromosomal aberrations in 1975 and had Post-Doctoral Research in mutagenesis and carcinogenesis, put his professional judgment on the controversy. “For a 75 years old adult to be cloned, a living cell must be obtained and subjected to some manipulations that will convert it to to tipotent cell. The totipotent cell will now undergo embryological development that will produce a young human fetus. It should be noted that for the fetus to grow and become a replica to a 75- year adult, it will take 75 years to grow. It must also be said that the phynotypical presentation of a man is a product of interaction between his genotype and the environment. Therefore, for the clone to look like the same man, it must be exposed to the exact environment for a period equivalent to 75 years. It is therefore ridiculous for anybody to think Mr President has been cloned and that the person who is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a clone from Sudan. Instructively, I have had opportunity to have one-on-one interactions with Mr President before he took ill and after his recovery, there is nothing to suggest that Nigeria is governed by a clone of President Muhammadu Buhari.”
The above notwithstanding, not a few writers submitted that maybe Professor Dare did not handle the satire well, given the expression, “I can report authoritatively…” Others are quick to reject that line of argument, saying that the Herr Professor has been in that trade for over 30 years.
Satire, according to literary experts, is the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues. It is a form in art or writing which ridicules either a person, government, or an institution, often through the use of humour. Satire can either be in paintings, plays, books, songs, TV or movies. It also is used to stereotype people. Satire was used long ago, even as long ago by the Ancient Greeks. It was, as historians put it, widely known in Elizabethan times. Jonthan Swift used satire in his classic, Gulliver’s Travels, to make fun of people’s stupidity.
One historian puts it this way: “Works like The Beggar’s Opera (1728) used satire to show how silly the politicians of the time were. The German playwright, Bertolt Brecht, used a lot of satire, as did Peter Cook. More recently Jon Stewart and other comedians use it frequently. One example is Maurice Joly’s 1864 pamphlet entitled The Dialogue in Hell Between Machiavelli and Montesquieu (Dialogue aux enfers entre Machiavel et Montesquieu), which attacks the political ambitions of Napoleon III. It was first published in Brussels in 1864. The piece used the literary device of a dialogue between two diabolical plotters in Hell, the historical characters of Machiavelli and Montesquieu, to cover up a direct, and illegal, attack on Napoleon’s rule. The noble baron Montesquieu made the case for liberalism; the Florentine political writer Machiavelli presented the case for cynical despotism. In this manner, Joly communicated the secret ways in which liberalism might spawn a despot like Napoleon III. However, The Prince itself has also been sometimes understood as political satire.”
Given the acrimonious exchanges the Dare satire generated, he, on 5 December, intervened, slicing through the debate the way hot knife would butter, by writing‘Buhari’s Double’: A postscript”. He explained what happened: “My column for this newspaper last week (Tuesday, November 27) was devoted to “Matters Miscellaneous,” a rubric under which I stated that I would, as has been my custom for more than 30 years, try to catch up “with broad strokes” and “in short takes” on some fairly recent events, “lest those who make and those who consume the news feel neglected. Again, as has been my custom when employing that label, the tone was light-hearted, and tongue-in-cheek. That was the spirit in which I engaged a tale that had been doing the rounds for several weeks that President Muhammadu Buhari had died last April while receiving medical treatment in the UK, and that since then, a Sudanese look-alike, Jubril al Sudaniya, insinuated into Aso Rock by a resident Cabal, has been the de facto president of Nigeria.
The accounts of how this switch was executed and how it has been sustained seemed wholly improbable; yet, not a few in the attentive audience, including those one thought had been habituated by sound education to healthy skepticism, believed the accounts but actually embellished and propagated them. It occurred to me that I should join the bearers of the tale at their own game and outperform them and thus put them out of business. Their script was dated, I stated. Affecting the omniscient tone of some of my colleagues (“It can now be revealed”; “We can now assert categorically,” etc., etc.) I vouchsafed “authoritatively” that relations of the said Jubril al Sudiniya had stormed Aso Rock and demanded to share federal power “in perpetuity” and 50 percent of Nigeria’s oil revenues for the years “in the first instance,” failing which they would reveal to the whole world the sordid secret that the Cabal in Aso Rock had been keeping.
For good measure, I added that the UK authorities were mediating. Early in my writing, the “satirical thread” was often so thin that readers frequently found it hard to determine whether I was joking or in earnest. Teju Olaniyan, then a budding literary scholar at what was then the University of Ife, gave me a valuable education in the business. ‘Bold exaggeration,’ he wrote, ‘is the heart of a good satire.’
I kept that counsel in mind when I was writing the piece under reference. The case I was making would be so outlandish and so preposterous that it would be dismissed out of hand. It turned out otherwise. Instead of laying the matter to rest, my intervention this past weekend gave fresh wings to the tale of the Buhari Double, taking it far and wide, and in certain influential circles imbuing what was intended as entertainment with messages and meanings to which I do not subscribe. My November 27 intervention, “Buhari’s Double,” it is necessary to insist, was conceived and executed in a satirical spirit. And that is authoritative.” The above coming from the author settles the matter.
However, Professor Sheriff Folarin, Chairman, Media and Editorial Board, Living Faith Church Worldwide, argued that Bishop Oyedepo, was misunderstood by his critics. Folarin based his position on the following premises:
1. Bishop Oyedepo knew the piece was a satire, but he had privately expressed surprise at the weakness of such a satirical piece.
2. The bishop felt the noise about the “double” should have been laid to rest long before it became cancerous and embarrassing. The bishop felt the noise was avoidable by even a comical response to the allegation by Buhari before it became an issue of satirical fun.
3. The bishop did not at any point admit belief in the “Buhari double” story. He made measured submissions on this and chose his words intelligibly and without ambiguity to be misunderstood. He declared that it was wise for the president to have come out and debunked the claims if they were not true. Thankfully, it was immediately after the bishop’s open challenge that President Buhari broke his silence on the matter and debunked the allegation.
4. Maintaining silence on matters that have caused unnecessary national embarrassment is not a thing to encourage or perpetuate as a responsible nation. Buhari has the right as a human being to keep quiet if he so desires, but the Nigerian president cannot afford to keep quiet when our national image is at stake. President Buhari, therefore, owed us the obligation to have come out long before now and calmed frayed nerves, put doubts to rest and make us move forward and put such mundane thoughts as “double” behind us.
Folarin added: “He wanted him (President Buhari) to speak out and put an end to many years of one national disgrace after another. The other time, Yar’Adua’s illness became a source of opprobrium. Years ago, Jonathan watched helplessly as over 200 girls were taken into captivity by hoodlums under his watch, which caused national disgrace. Recently, over soldiers were killed with such impunity by non-soldiers. And now, the world is laughing yet again at us for another nonsensical controversy that should have been taken care of by a smart presidency.
“We must note that Bishop Oyedepo is an elder statesman and a stakeholder in the Nigerian project. He cannot afford to keep quiet in the face of the odious turn of tide for the country. He and other well-meaning Nigerians cannot be working so hard to build a great image for the country and others, including the government are destroying what such people labour hard to build. If he has chosen not to fold his arms like others choose to do, he has the right to do so as a Nigerian and indeed he has done right by speaking out against matters of national emergency. Professor Wole Soyinka once warned “the man dies in him who keeps silent in the face of tyranny”. This “tyranny” means different things, including insensitivity to issues of national concern.
“How could the leader of Africa’s biggest nation be called “cloned” and replaced with a Sudanese and the leadership will maintain a demonic silence? Donald Trump, leader of the world’s greatest nation would have explained and cleared the mist in a series of tweets and through White House press briefings. The British government would have done same under Theresa May. Emmanuel Macron of France would have done same. But it is only in Nigeria that all sorts of insults are hurled at us and we go about our businesses as long as there’s food on the table. This has to stop. We should, therefore, encourage the respected voices and our other (alternative) leaders, such as Soyinka, Rev Fr Matthew Kukah, Olusegun Obasanjo, Tunde Bakare, Emeka Anyaoku, Oyedepo, etc., to speak out for us whenever we are challenged as a people.
“As for Professor Olatunji Dare’s “satire”, it may have failed as a satire if it could not achieve its purpose and could be understood so literally. If the likes of Animal Farm’s George Orwell and Voltaire had written such flat satires and had later done postscripts explaining their works were satires, the way Dare has done, how could the satirical genre of writing have been popular?”