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Wole Soyinka at 89: A daring cosmopolitan Nigerian patriot

By Ayodele Fagbohun

“Renowned playwright,  poet, novelist, Professor Wole Soyinka has done a lot for Nigeria. In the literary world, he remains a giant, an Iroko. Importantly, his contributions to the struggle for the restoration and institutionalization of democracy and good governance in Nigeria are indelible.

“Together, along with other activists, we fought for democracy under the aegis of the National Democratic Coalition (NDDECO) at great risks to our personal lives.

Special Adviser on Special Duties, Communication and Strategy, Mr. Dele Alake to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu on the celebrations of Wole Soyinka’s 89th Birthday.

In 1934, a very outspoken and courageous Egba Woman, Mrs. Soyinka, like her sibling, Mrs. Funmilayo Ransome Kuti (mama Fela and Dr. Beko) gave birth to a son, Wole Soyinka our own William Shakespeare in Abeokuta, Ogun state.

His father and mother hailed from Ishara in Ijebu and Egba tribes within the Yoruba national ethnic or linguistic group in the federation of Nigeria.

Wole, a precocious child unusually  advanced in mental development, later in life coined his own nativity Ije-gba from Ijebu/Egba. A son of a school headmaster who at the age of three literally converted the modest library of his father as private study where he imbibed and cultivated the habit of avid reader which did not depart from him.

Little wonder, Wole Soyinka eventually became first in Black Africa to win Nobel Prize for literature, in 1987. What a star in the so called benighted dark continent of Africa.

Wole Soyinka is a daring cosmopolitan character of no guile. An erudite professor of literature a public spirited person with tremendous network of global connection. He has naturally inherited noble trait of courage from his matrilineal background, an embodiment of passion for his great country, Nigeria.

This is as a result of his own God given endowment and personal exploits.

Daring personal risks to himself and perhaps to his immediate family, Professor Soyinka has contributed in no mean measure to grow the country into a federation of have of peace justice, enlightenment and prosperity where no man is oppressed.

He will not “siddon look” to see Nigeria shiprecked as a result of sheer ineptitude of the corrupt cabal and tribal ruling caste totally benefit of vision and bright ideas to govern well.

Under confused and entrapped atmosphere and in the absence of pragmatic and right ideologically oriented leadership, there is bound to be inane and stupid calls for secessions and sectarian violence in the country. Life is bound to remain ever for lorn, brutish, short and nasty.

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On secession calls to dismember  the country along disparate ethnic units, Prof Soyinka said emphatically, “I don’t like the sound of a Yoruba nation anymore that I like the sound of Tiv nation or an Igbo nation.”

“The reason is this, there are certain pejorative overtones, chauvinistic overtones attached to it. That’s not the issue. When you talk about a Yoruba nation are we talking about the creation of a nation, within Nigeria alone or across colonial borders into Cotonous, Benin Republic, where Yoruba exists, on to Togo and even I’vory Coast?

Prof Soyinka is completely at sea about the whole bizarre contraption called Yoruba republic in the offing.

Thank God! For the new political dawn which ushered in fresh new lease of life. With the presidency of Bola Ahmed Tinubu/Kashim Shetimah all genuine stakeholders in Nigeria’s project will strive hard to jealousy guard a virile, independent and sovereign federal republic.

Importantly, to throw off the erstwhile perpetual mental indolence and slavish adherence to Hausa/Fulani oligarchy and to stoutly embrace the practice of true federalism and liberal democracy as a panaceas for unity and progress of the country.

Prof. Wole Soyinka, Commander of Federal Republic (CFR) always speaks with candours, with heart of steel and calls the cant and humbugs for what they are His mission is not a political demagoguery, but a damning verdict against military oligarchy, warped civilian rule; to give constitutional powers to the people in the ultimate.

For political power to rule flows from the people not from the barrel of gun or rule of thumb either.

Now, it is high time for whoever cares to lead, must, be prepared to eschew cowardly, immoral conduct and inflammatory statements and invectives to put the nation on the edge of the cliff. Any true leader must be resourceful and resilient to fight the battles and determined to win the war with brains, brawn and shrewd diplomacy. Not with anachronistic and antediluvian methods or devices that cannot stand the awesomeness and onslaught of modern arsenal and international diplomacy.

In 1967, Nigeria drifted into inevitable but unfortunate internecine civil war, Soyinka was convinced that the war was blatantly misguided and needless waste of precious lives and property. He was for handshake across the Niger to negotiate for true with Lt. Col. Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the military Governor of the then Eastern Region.

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Soyinka was arrested and detained during the war by Yakubu Gowon of the then Eastern Region.

Soyinka was arrested and detained during the war by Yakubu Gowon military junta 1967-1969. He later wrote “The man Died,” prison note about the enormity and bestiality of military rule, sheer inhumanity to man.

A renown journalist, and Sowemimo, on assignment was mown down by a soldier on broad day light at a public square in Ibadan (1967) and the people kept mum in the face of the tyranny; and the man died!

A man of implacable, ingenuous and revolutionary out look who remorselessly and gallantly fought military rule to stand still, exit with ignominy, Wole Soyinka proved candidly that pen is mightier than sword when wielded with dexterity and edifying purpose.

Soyinka, one man squard organized his own pro-democracy group NALICON and returned to the trenches.

He co-founded Road Safety Corps popularly known as “maja-maja” to halt the road carnage and return normalcy on our highways. He served as chairman, Federal Road Safety Commission, 1988-1991.

He is a veritable man of prodigious, incredible talents and skills in the selfless and unalloyed services to humanity that could neither be compared nor quantified.

As the founder/grand patron, National Association of Seadogs (Pyrate confraternity) in his College of Ibadan in 1952, Wole Soyinka quits active political activism.

It is imperative for the youth to uphold the virtues of Pro. Wole Soyinka particularly in the South West to rebuild the broken walls of unity, solidarity and progress in Yorubaland and to cover the rest of the country.

Initially, there was a general misconception that Pyrate Confraternity was a secret cult to be avoided like a plague by the students and be proscribed. Thanks for the tenacity of purpose as one of the sterling qualities of the founder who now turns 89 on earth, the association has not been proscribed.

This writer humbly suggest that Yoruba ethnic group should canalize the value of pyrate confraternity as a way forward to stern the ill-tide of security malady in the South West where incidentally the organization was mooted.

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The security network in the South West code named Amotekun co-founded by Governor of Ondo state, Oluwarotimi Odunayo Akeredolu, SAN, CON and his broker-colleagues should liaise with Pyrate Confraternity for optional service delivery throughout Yorubaland. With particular reference to the intractable security breaches rampart in both Oyo and Ekiti states.

I heartily felicitate and congratulate Prof. Wole Soyinka, CFR, for h is unusual and uncanny feat to live up to this rare and unique milestone in spite of relentless affirmation and passion for the truth, always as constant as the Northern star which is not palatable to the vicious and vindictive men of violence in and out of corridor of power.

Soyinka’s long-drawn-out struggle from his youthful days, since the heyday of major Adako Boro’s epic struggle in the Niger Delta region to free  Nigeria from the clutches of colonialism and new colonialist agents who substituted foreign rule with native tyranny could be said to be non peril.

Wole Soyinka is true to his calling, as a distinct public figure without any strings attached by way of amassing filthy lucre. He won’t succumb to any political demagoguery, vile or violence threat, duress and cajolery to bamboozle him and betray lofty principles and be a sellout.

Soyinka characteristically gave a damaging verdict on the pseudo-civilian regime of former president Olusegun Obasanjo under whose watch, the Attorney-General/Minister of justice, Uncle Bola Ige, (SAN) was gruesomely murdered in his bedroom at Bodija Estate, residence in the evening of December 23,2001.

Chief Bola Ige’s protégé, second Republic Senator in Old Ondo State who as erstwhile chairman, Elders Forum, All Progressives’ Congress (APC), Senator Olorunnimbe Farukanmi, also a critic of military incursion in the nation’s politics, constantly asks the puzzling question: who kills Bola Ige, or put it mildly, who is the master mind of the heinous and dastardly mission?

Having fought ceaselessly and remorselessly on the side of truth, justice, fairness and equity to right the wrong and put Nigeria amongst international community, it will be unthinkable, unfair and not dignify Professor Wole Soyinka in the evening of life to quickly descend into slough of a patron in a ruptured ethnic Oduduwa republic.

Happy birthday, Bro. Kongi, more fruitful years of invaluable services to Nigeria and black Africa. Nigeria shall be great again!

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