He is unpredictable and dramatic in more ways than one. A poet and a playwright. A linguistic stylist and a word juggler per excellence.
At the height of his literary sojourn, he won for Africa as the first writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986.
Before then, he had been through Fire and Brimstone during the Nigerian civil war when he was caught at offside, so to speak, by the Nigerian government he, Soyinka literary guru sneaked mysteriously into the embattled walls of Biafran enclave, ostensibly, as we were told later on, he had gone to see Col. Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu, on how war could be avoided.
His daring mission to see Ojukwu was misconstrued as an act of a traitor and was accused of spying.
General Gowon now was so peeved that Soyinka was put in detention for almost two and half years .
His years in detention were captured in a book titled ‘A SHUTTLE IN THE CRYPT.’ A moving book of poems written by Prof Wole Soyinka , a writer, who often times converted his temporary incarcerations into creative literary cum poetic experience.
Above all, from the dusts of the detention years, another great book titled ‘THE MAN DIED’ was born which captured the chilling tale of a man who died during the war that he came across during his travelogue into the Biafran enclave .
Soyinka the playwright and poet enjoys his creative genius when he is faced with instant danger to his person, especially, with his quotable dictum when he philosophized ‘THE MAN DIES IN ALL WHO KEEP SILENT IN THE FACE OF TYRANNY’
With his release from detention in 1969 he returned to the University of Ibadan where he once held a lecturer’s appointment in the Department of Theatre Arts and Literature.
I saw him live when he came to the Main Auditorium of the University with a Vice Chancellor, Professor Adeoye Lambo , a fellow Egba man from Abeokuta.
Wearing a casual long sleeved shirt and a blue jeans, Professor Wole Soyinka, told the audience, made up of students and lecturers, who were so excited that their literary icon had returned to Ibadan from detention.
The humanist in him intoned ‘I HAVE NEVER VENTURED FROM THE FOLD’ adding that he did not sell out his Nigerianness to Ojukwu or Biafra.
There is something charming about Soyinka, his snow-white bushy hair and moustache have become his internationally recognized patent across the globe. A Soyinka is uniquely Soyinkan and one of a kind in Africa and acknowledged across the globe.
Professor Wole Soyinka’s love for dramatic exits and entries was again on display during the US presidential elections as he too was in the US for one of his seemingly endless lecture tours when he said he would leave the US as soon as the Donald Trump becomes the next President because he believed that Trump was a racist .
Not quite a year ago when he actually kept his word of checking out of the US as soon the results showed Trump had won against Mrs. Hillary Clinton, he reached for his Green Card which had entitled him to stay and work in the US and tore it in the open and got onto a plane and left for Nigeria. Soyinka is drama personified.
Sometime in November between 14th and 16th he has some lectures to deliver in the US and that has brought him back to his vomit in the US, so to speak. Richard D Cohen Lecture series at the Harvard University Centre for African studies .
In an interview with the influential London Financial Times Soyinka quipped ‘ I will go in as alien, alien from outer space, I love that designation.’
Lectures are titled ‘Beyond Aesthetics, Use, Abuse and Dissonance in African Art Traditions.’
The next titled is ‘Oga It’s Original Fake’ will be delivered on 14th November.
On November 15th, Soyinka will speak on ‘Heirs to the Procreative Deities’ The Yoruba at large.
The last lecture will be on FROM ASOEBI TO NXXXXYWOOD’
Prof Wole Soyinka is an itinerant lecturer and like ABIKU one of his memorable poems which depicts a wanderer child who constantly torments his mother by returning to her womb many times over. He had stayed in California with his wife Folake.
Soyinka observed that he was in the US during the last Presidential elections and said ‘I was in New York during the elections, I watched this face, his body language and listened to his uncouth racist language , his imbecilic harangues, his insult to other peoples and races, especially, Hispanics, Africans and Afro Americans, and citing once, Nigeria as an instance of the burdensome occupation of global space. I watched and listened disbelievingly, since this was America supposedly now freed to a large extent, as we like to believe and have a right from its lamentable history of racism.’ Soyinka’s views were clothed
incredibly and unquestionably in the characteristic Soyinkaresque style both in delivery and format. Acidic to the core and denigrating the Trump mannerisms.
Being a Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka’s facility with the English language is usually delivered in a flowing and galloping prose.
If Donald Trump were an African dictator, he would veto Wole Soyinka’s re-entry into the shores of US, especially, having torn the Green Card that once entitled to him to live and work in the US, all the border points would be manned by huge Alsatian dogs and Special forces that dealt with Osama Bin Ladin who was killed in Pakistan by US troops, the Man alleged to have led the bombing of Twin Towers in New York killing thousands of US citizens many years ago.
Prof Wole Soyinka’s Abiku- like visitation to the US is symptomatic of the Literary Abiku who relishes in tormenting his perceived tormentors in a symbolic way.
A scholar of international repute, Wole Soyinka cannot be gagged by national boundaries and that is why he had described his revisiting the US with an appropriate imagery ‘AM an alien from outer space going to the US.’
Let him only fire literary fireworks while in the US and return home in one piece.
We salute Kongi and the Creative force behind the Abiku mystery..