In the year 1965, it was recorded that Chief S.L. Akintola was slated to give a victory speech after the rigged regional election that year which took him back to sit of power as Premier of the Western Region.
A certain gunman allegedly gains entrance to radio Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) at Ibadan a minute to the radio broadcast of the Premier’s speech on 15 October 1965. Howbeit, he seized the tapes containing the Premier’s pre-recorded speech.
The alleged gunman who was said to be Wole Soyinka however compelled the continuity announcer to broadcast another tape which he brought in place of the triumphant address of the Premier, the people of Western Nigeria heard, inter alia.
Here was the message broadcasted;
“Akintola get out; Akintola, get out and take with you your band of renegades who have lost with you any pretence to humanity, and have become nothing, but murdering beasts. . . .
The lawful government of Western Nigeria is the UPGA government, elected by the people of the West. Let every self-seeking impostor get out now before the people, losing patience, wash the streets in their polluted blood. . . .
In the name of Oduduwa and our generation, get out! Before the frustration of ten million people, their anger and their justice in an all-consuming fire come over your heads.”
However, this was really a big slap to the premier and this action got him angry and in the course of that Wole Soyinka was fastly declared wanted, detained, and subsequently charged with the offences of conspiracy and theft of the Premier’s tapes.
With respect to Wole’s detention, numerous influential literary figures and public intellectuals were moved to lodge protests and appeals for clemency with the Nigerian government.
Although Soyinka unsuccessfully raised an alibi, at trial the prosecution failed to secure a conviction due to the conflicting testimony of several witnesses concerning the identity of the armed man.
The presiding judge of the case, Justice Kayode Eso as he then was, said that the proper course of action in the situation was to acquit and discharge the accused person.
Resisting pressure from powerful Western region politicians who wanted Soyinka convicted at all costs, Justice Eso held as follows:
“All the eye-witnesses [at the radio station] were positive that the [armed] man who held them up was not masked.
The place was well lit, they said, and they had no doubt about their examination of the gunman’s face. The gunman, they had all said, was bearded.
[One of the witnesses who gave evidence for the prosecution testified that Soyinka, whom he saw two hours before the incident at the radio station, was clean-shaven].
While l can understand a bearded man at five o’ clock in the evening becoming clean-shaven at 7 p.m., I cannot unravel the mystery of a clean-shaven man at 5 p.m. becoming bearded at 7 p.m. [when the incident occurred] except he is somehow masked.
And the overwhelming evidence placed before the court by the prosecution itself, was that the gunman, who held up the cubicle that night was not masked. That ‘un-masking’ kept up recurring like a ‘recurring decimal’.
It is clear to me therefore, that no tribunal should be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that it was the clean-shaven ‘Wole Soyinka’ at 5 p.m. without a mask who metamorphosed into the bearded gunman at 7 p.m.
With this sharp contradiction in the evidence of the prosecution, I am bound to give the accused person the benefit of the doubt. I therefore find him not guilty and he is, accordingly, acquitted and discharged.” The Justice Said
In 2019, that’s several decades after the incident, Soyinka’s reflect on the incident and recalls that even in the odd time, he was strongly motivated to intervene in the old Western Region Crisis on behalf of the disenfranchised people whose democratic rights had been discriminated by brazen electoral fraud:
Recapping his statement, He Said;
“I was one of them, my voice was being stolen. I could not sit down and accept that somebody should steal my voice. I felt at one with the majority of the people.”