CHERNOBYL IN THE WAKE OF TONYE COLE’S POST By Hannu Afere
__________

Nigerian Social media for the last 24 hours has been on fire. Indeed it’s been a rather fierce re-enactment of Chernobyl with characters exchanging harsh words and whole tribes taking bites at each other.

The sole reason being that during a recent flight, a young man [yet unidentified] had pointed out to Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka that he was sitting in his seat.

According to Tonye Cole– the solitary, uncorroborated source of the story– he had begged the young man to leave the seat for WS but the young man had refused.

The pervading argument right now is whether or not the young man was right in exercising his right to sitting in his own pre-allocated seat, at the risk of appearing morally bankrupt, disrespectful and without any knowledge of Nigerian history in terms of literature, human rights activism and politics.

It must be noted that, even though all of this is hearsay, popular opinion holds that Soyinka stood up and went to the correct seat as soon as the young man complained.

Again, Tonye Cole seems to be the only one who saw all of this unfold.

To the casual observer, Tonye Cole is an overzealous fan crying more than the bereaved, with his crying seemingly backfiring– dressing the good professor in the garb of a villian who enjoys intimidating and bullying youngstars with his iconic grey hair.

The youth are furious but this is not spontaneous combustion. It is a well incubated anger stemming from the general political disenfranchisement meted on them by the old guard.

Popular opinion is to jettison humility and the African tradition of respecting one’s elders for a life where one is factually correct even though he might not be morally correct.

For the young man, the seat was his right. He paid for it. But it takes two hands to clap, and the youth must learn the challenging yet important duty of respecting one’s elders.

Now, while it’s not expressly stated that the young man was rude in demanding for his seat, the need for politeness [even though it seems unfashionable] cannot be over-emphasized. In the end, I’d say the young man was factually right but morally wrong.

It is true elders cannot always be seen as inerant, but we must remember that Wole Soyinka is an international icon as well as a national hero. A living, breathing well of experience and wisdom.

Ultimately, we express and affirm our own values in the people we respect and honor. Nihilism is popular because it makes one seem tough, woke and no-nonsense– it is a choice, but is it the way to go? Heroes are ordinary people doing extraordinary things and if we cannot respect that, do we even respect ourselves?

Your guess is as good as mine.