Be it sleepy suburb of Ake, Abeokuta in Ogun State or in the paved streets in London or New York, whenever Nobel Laureate, Professor Oluwole Akinwande Soyinka speaks, it resonates far wide.
Professor Soyinka was born on July at Isara in Ijebu Remo near Abeokuta, Ogun State. He attended St. Peter’s School, Ake, Abeokuta Grammar School (1944 to 1945), Government College, Ibadan from 1952 to 1954 and then proceeded to University of Leeds, England from 1954 to 1957. These years were followed by a working stints at the Royal Court Theatre, London in 1957. He was Research Fellow in Drama, University of Ibadan, Senior Lecturer at the University of Lagos and Director, School of Drama, University of Ibadan in 1967.
He was also a visiting Professor of Drama, Shecffied University, England. He held the same post at University of Legon, Ghana. Soyinka was also a professor of comparative Literature, University if Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) Ile- Ife among a plethora of other academic jobs. In 1986 in far away Stockholm, Sweden, Professor Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, making him the Africa to receive the prize in its 85 years of history. To crown it, Nigeria awarded him, the commander of Federal Republic of Nigeria CFR.
Professor Wole Soyinka is an Iconoclast of sorts and conscientious crusader but his could be to a fault. His voice is Big. His tales even if they are full of sound and fury, signify nothing.
His comments and pronouncements have some narcotic effect on listeners and readers. But all these attributes also make people question his methods and tactics. He seems to be a tyrant and terror of some degree because he imposes his views on others. He is a good dramatist but may and could sometimes overdramatize.
Soyinka presumes himself to be a most disciplined apostle of civil democracy yet he forgets that in any human role, what is important is the approached he exhibits which determines whether he is tool of condemnation or an asset of salvation. T his should be paramount at least for history’s sake. At the age of 18, Soyinka as an undergraduate of the then University College, Ibadan in 1952, founded the pyrate confraternity, a nocturnal cult that has become the sources societal ills in university campuses nationwide. Twelve years later, he was to be in the news again for allegedly holding up a radio station in Ibadan by forcing stunned broadcasters to handover tapes of a recorded election victory of Chief Samuel Ladoke Akinlola and to transmit one of his own, asking the politicians to quit the stage.
At the wake of the Nigerian Civil War, it was widely believed that he was among the then presumed Third Force due to his role in the war. He was, however, later arrested and detained. At his return, Soyinka went into self exile in Ghana and Britain. Soyinka is very disciplined yet resented prostrating to old people or chiefs. To him, it was a very unclean form of salutation – courtesy, Ake: the Year of Childhood. The child of a teacher, Soyinka is brave and courageous. He is blunt and frank but more often exhibits traits of cowardice through his attacking style of fighting from exile rather that doing it on the battlefield. His March towards democracy can sometimes be questioned because it is on record that at the termination of the two civilian republics, his voice was one of the most virulent incitements of military rulership.
Professor Soyinka no doubt mean well for Nigeria. He isc galled that Nigeria is wasting her potentials. He is pained that our brightest and best are developing foreign land while Nigeria remains the black hole of the world. Points of interest has erudite professor looked beyond his drama life? To the purveyors of violenece, it is instructive that violence begets violence. Throughout history, violence alone has never resolved problems. Pandit Nehru achieved the best for India through Non-violence means. Neslon Mandela saw the futility of armed- struggle and abandoned it as a means of fighting apartheid.
If Soyinka sees nothing wrong in a state of violence, anarchy, chaos and total breakdown of law and order, then what sort of man is he – a tool of condemnation or an asset of salvation? The honourable professor of dram should be quickly told that he is overdramatizing his role in the fight for the realization of true democracy in Nigeria. Lest, he ends up the tiger without fangs.