The Age-Long posers He Won’t Address
Like the son of the Biblical Prophet Samuel who walked not the way of their father, the playwright, Poet, author and teacher who wrote Nigeria’s name in gold on the world literary map wuhen he received the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986, Professor Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka, son of prominent Anglican Minister, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka, walk a parallel line with his father.
Brought up as a church-going chorister, Wole Soyinka made a volte face in faith by becoming an atheist and a political activist who has been a pain in the neck of many Nigerian governments both at federal and state levels, as well as, perceived enemies.
Beyond literature –drama, prose and poetry –in which he has attained the ,highest which any many can attain or aspire to, it is the mass media ,as an institution , both locally and internationally ,that has helped to build the Wole Soyinka brand to what it is today.
The Nobel Laureate has used the mass media a tool in his fight against corruption and sit-tightism in successive governments in Nigeria. Along this line, 18-year old Conscience International and the creative genius are not only partners in progress but also comrades-at-arms, however with fundamental difference in approach.
While, for instance, this magazine is an agent of peaceful, lawful change, the Professor, by flesh, soul and spirit, is self –confessed violence personified.
A dramatist par excellence , Wole Soyinka has a history of acting James Bond in real life, many times Leaving in trail of bloodshed and destruction of valuable property worth several millions of Naira in its wake.
As unfortunate and regretful as the circumstances of Nigeria’s political development that led to the emergence of the late General Sani Abacha are, this magazine believed, as much as we still do, that violence would affect the man-on-the-street more negatively than Abacha or any member of his family. Leaders who preach violence in the name of activism, including the revered Wole Soyinka, would not enlist their sons and daughters, no matter their age, into their groups to fight a war against a well-protected and shielded military ruler but would only end up wasting the lives of other people’s children. Launching NALICON (the National Liberation Council of Nigeria),his ad hoc organization for the overthrow of the Abacha regime ,in 1995,Soyinka had responded to a question as to whether he supported the use of violence ,by saying that any method that would achieve results would have his blessing, no matter who bore the brunt of such actions.
Such Machiavellian principle, Conscience International and its management did not, and still do not subscribe to.
Without doubt, such principles cannot be unexpected of the professor who grew up as an unruly child of a well –respected cleric and school administrator. As chronicled by him in his book, Ibadan : The Penkelemes years ,the boy Wole was such a bully that his school mates nicknamed him “Akintoyi ,” According to his account, his school mates said he was “trouble, trouble, toil and trouble”. By the personal account of the man many youths see as a role model and as reported by Conscience International several years back, he was a walking catastrophe, a runt, a trouble maker, a Bohemian, a never-do-well, ever so cantankerous and argumentative pest. By his claims in the same book, he led many street gangs which terrorized school teachers who dared to punish its members for uncouth behavior.
These are the trials which good family background, good quality education, exposure, professional accomplishment, international recognitions and awards, as well as age and grey hair have not been able to dispossess him of.
In spite of all the respect which is accorded the eminent Nigerian and world citizen, many parents and non-parents have lost promising sons and daughters or relations directly or indirectly through the violent activities of campus or off-campus cultism in Nigeria cannot forgive Wale Soyinka in a hurry.
As the lead founder of Pirates Confraternity, otherwise known as the national Association of Seadogs (NAS), as a student of University of Ibadan, he has the dishonor of being known ingloriously as the very progenitor, the godfather of undergraduate area boys who have done more harm and wreaked worse havoc to the nation than their counterparts on the streets beyond the ivory tower.
Although he started Pyrates as an 18 years old undergraduate during the 1953/54 session, along with six others, whether dead or alive, have either repented and denounced the evil or have kept the organization at arm’s length over the years.
The other founding members of NAS, all with Soyinka referred to as the “Original Seven,” were the late professor Muyiwa Awe, Ralph Opara, Pius Oleghe, Nat O. Oyelola, Sylvanus Egbuche and I. I. Aig-Imoukhuede.
With a stiff neck and in spite of the outcry against the organization, Wale Soyinka, whose cult name is Captain Blood, has held on to Pyrates Confraternity. Rather than see reason, the bearded professor who is more adept to the use of English language than the owners of the language has reduced the national crisis to mere semantics, arguing that his National Association of Seadogs is not a cult but a mere confraternity.
A close watcher of events and a distant admirer of the Nobel Laureate fears that if Professor Soyinka was to make a choice between his Noble Laureate award and his confraternity, he would not hesitate to let go of the former.
For whatever atrocities the confraternity might have committed while he was a member, the apostate Muyiwa Awe, a professor of physics, atoned for it and spent the better end of his later years crusading against cultism.
In his contribution to the book, Ibadan Voices: Ibadan University in Transition, edited by Professor T. N. Tmuno, a former vice-chancellor of the premier university, Awe says “The confraternity was conceived at something which would be different from something”