Opinion: The ‘Satanic Verses’ Of Sam Omatseye – By Tony Okoroji


Between 1988 and 1989, one of the most momentous events in the history of literature, took place. The publication in the United Kingdom of “Satanic Verses”, a novel by the Indian born British author, Salman Rushdie, almost set the world on fire.

A significant number of Muslims across the world had accused Salman Rushdie of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad in his book. This set off a chain of reactions and demonstrations leading to Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran issuing a worldwide fatwa for the killing of Rushdie anywhere he was found. Much of the world was horrified as Salman Rushdie lived in hiding and disguise for many years.

On July 17, shortly after the Osun Gubernatorial election, I was compelled to publish a piece titled “WILL SAM OMATSEYE APOLOGISE TO ADEMOLA ADELEKE?”. I wrote the piece because I was horrified by Sam’s article just before the election which he titled “CLOWN vs CROWN”. In the article, Sam went after Senator Ademola Adeleke with very frightening and demeaning language, treating Adeleke like a sorry joke who was seeking what was beyond him. Sam’s conclusion: “The Osun people know the serious from the farce. Even before the election, it is obvious he (Adeleke) will not only be crestfallen, but his will be a clownfall”.

The result of the Osun election is now history. The article in Sam’s “IN TOUCH” column in the Nation Newspaper was clearly out of touch. The Osun people voted for Adeleke leading me to write: “Now that the people of Osun State have spoken, I wish to ask if Sam will find the humility to apologise to Senator Ademola Adeleke for those horrible words” I am not aware that Sam found the humility or the necessity to even consider my plea. And the dam broke…

Oh yes, the dam broke this week with the publication by Sam Omatseye of his “satanic” article which he titled “Obi-tuary” with the photo of the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, right under the caption. The deluge of reactions has been unprecedented. It has been a momentous week in Nigerian literature and its use and abuse. I read the reactions by my friends, Uzo Maxim Uzoatu and Chuks Iloegbunam and felt very sorry for Sam. These are not people who would ordinarily want to hack down anyone for the fun of it. Sam Omatseye is going through his Rushdie moment. The big difference is that Salman Rushdie is a great writer dedicated to literature and not a political hatchet man.

There is no evidence that anyone has issued a fatwa on Sam Omatesye and certainly not Peter Obi who Sam so badly tried to mutilate. I am not sure that Mr. Obi has even read or reacted to the article which is why I do not understand how Sam seems to think that Obi should be held responsible if anything happens to him. Despite the posturing, Sam is scared! I understand that his family has issued a statement pleading for calm.

If you have good taste, you cannot but come to the conclusion that even with literary licence, Mr. Omatseye has gone too far. He is not in touch but out of touch with decency. My understanding is that the gentleman is a journalist. It is also my understanding that good journalism requires its practitioners to be responsible. I honestly believe that Sam should spend some time in solitude asking himself whether he wants to be a journalist which he can be, or he wants to continue as political hatchet man.

I have written in this column before that attack dogs have been unleashed on Peter Obi to de-market him but they will find that it is a very tough job. The supposed lack of structure also means that there is no defined target to hit. Each time, an arrow is thrown at Obi, thousands of arrows fly back. The 2023 elections was meant to be a straight forward fight between the APC and the PDP until Peter Obi showed up with his falsetto voice, data, statistics and his ubiquitous “Obidients” who are not giving or asking for “shishi”. The professional political operatives did not plan for a Peter Obi and what is turning out to be an asymmetrical warfare. They are confused, desperate and overreacting and I think that “Obi-tuary” is part of that desperation.

I have written here before that with the advent of social media, the media landscape has dramatically changed. No one can monopolize information anymore. Everybody with a smartphone is now a publisher and everyone can be instantly challenged especially with the army of supporters of the Peter Obi movement being social media savvy.

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