Speaking on Hard Talk, a BBC programme, the professor said the dreams people of his generation had about the country had not materialised.
Zeinab Badawi, anchor of the programme, had asked the literary scholar: “Has your generation of older Nigerians failed the people?” and he responded, “Yes, I believe so.
“I compare today with dreams and aspirations we had when we all rushed home after studies abroad. We considered ourselves the renaissance people that are going to lift the continent to world standards, competitors anywhere. It hasn’t happened.”
Asked to comment about the 2019 presidential election, he said: “The 2019 election is one of the most depressing elections we’ve been through. Talking for myself, it wasn’t possible for me to make a choice for the simple reason that both candidates (President Muhammadu Buhari and Atiku Abubakar) both had histories— one immediate, one past —which made one look for alternatives.”
He explained why he was soft on Buhari in 2015 when he referred to the president as a born again democrat.
Soyinka said Buhari did not win the 2015 election because the people were endeared to him but for the fact that Nigerians could not continue with former President Goodluck Jonathan in office.
“General Buhari didn’t really win the first election, he won by default. It was impossible to continue with Jonathan (back in 2015),” he said.
“As it happened, yes, I did use that expression ‘born again democrat’. When somebody competes in an election three, four times and persists, he must believe in democracy… the circumstances in Nigeria, the fact that Nigerians have shown the military what a huge failure they were makes it possible for one to identify the possibility of exceptions when they seem to behave like democrats.
“But in any case, I kept emphasising that Nigerians had a very difficult choice and as I said, It was between the devil and the deep blue sea.”