Kongi @ 90

AS the world admits the newest entrant into the club of nonagenarians on July 13, The Hope  toasts to the inimitable life of an iconic intellectual, world citizen, literary czar, passionate humanist, distinguished patriot, fiery fighter and the face of Omoluabi ethos, Professor OluwoleAkinwande Soyinka.

BORN on July 13, 1934 in the rustic village of Ake, Abeokuta, Western Nigeria, Wole Soyinka has, through  the power of the word and ‘solid personal achievements’, built a global brand and a world citizenship called Wole Soyinka and styled Kongi. His 90 years on earth is a book with lesson-laden chapters in patriotism, service to humanity, character, leadership, professional excellence, resilience, hard work, human rights, and versatility for the world and especially the youth in search of mentors to learn from. He is one of the world’s few towering writers who have, apart from making a name in their literary constituency, are global voices in local and global politics and economy as well as human rights and good governance. In 2016, he tore his US Green Card to protest the election of Donald Trump as the President of that country.  

WOLE  Soyinka is a strong voice in the political evolution of Nigeria, demonstrating patriotism through writing and political activism at critical moments in the nation to protest oppressive military rule, bad governance and speak truth to power at personal costs. He is  a dogged fighter who had gone on exile several times and jailed twice for standing against bad leadership in Nigeria.

AS a lover of order and humanity, he envisioned a road safety programme for our chaotic roads and later pioneered the founding of the Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, to rid Nigerian roads of chaos, carnage and fatality and to generally bring order to the roads. As part of his love for the  country and good governance, he founded the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism. He is a constant face and voice at local and international, symposia, lectures, workshops and seminars by world-class organisations to enthrone economic, political and societal transformation.

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A man of vision and conviction, Wole Soyinka believes, “Only one universal ideology answers human cruelties, the excesses of power, bigotries, social inequalities and alienation: Literature.” Probing his conviction further, ‘the literary lion’ found a personal solution, “Writing became a therapy. I was reconstructing my own existence. It was also an act of defiance.” This defiant personal stance attracted world acclaim in 1986 when the Nobel Prize for Literature was awarded to Wole Soyinka,  “who in a wide cultural perspective and with poetic overtones fashions the drama of existence,” in the words of the awarding institution. He is the first African and black person to receive the Nobel laureate in that category.

AVAILABLE records indicate that Wole Soyinka has written 52 books in 64 years, covering the three genres of literature — 25 plays, 10 essay collections, seven poetry collections, five memoirs, three novels, and two translated works — notable among which are Kongi’s Harvest; The Man Died; Ake: the Years of Childhood; The Lion and the Jewel; The Road; The Interpreters; The Trials of Brother Jero; Idanre and Other Poem;  Mandela’s Earth and Other Poems; A Dance of the Forest;,  The Beatification of the Area Boy; King Baabu; Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth; and Myth, Literature and the African World.

COUNTRIES of the world recognise their icons whose contributions to nation building are generational and inimitable. It is therefore commendable that President Bola Tinubu recognised Soyinka as one of the heroes of democracy in the 25th Anniversary of Democracy Speech. It is also heartening that the Alake of Egba Land, the Paramount ruler of Soyinka’s country home, Oba AdedotunGbadebo III, has set July 13, Kongi’s birthday aside as Wole Soyinka Day to celebrate the Nobel Laureate’s invaluable local and international contributions to humanity, while calling on the Nigerian government to do the same. No recognition can be too much for a man to whom service in our collective interest is enough gratification.

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KONGI’s life is a lesson for all of us. For the nation, Soyinka has demonstrated that patriotism, integrity, service, probity, good governance and people-orientation are undeniable ingredients for building a one, indivisible and prosperous nation we all desire. For Senior Citizens, Soyinka leaves a message that service to humanity guarantees peace at old age. For the adult Nigerians and the political class, Kongi has demonstrated that a life of Legacy is what we owe posterity. For the youth, Wole Soyinka has proved that vision, passion, patience, service and excellence are necessary bricks for building an enduring and prosperous personal and national life. 

THE HOPE celebrates ‘a glorious life in letters’. We toast to the life of this enigma and a man of many parts whose religion is service to humanity. May the Elements continue to grant Kongi the needed strength, wisdom and long life to be of service to humanity.

Kongi @ 90

We’re encouraged , Ondo D Gov tells

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