On my way to work this morning, one man asked: “What does this Soyinka want?” Sitting beside him in the same bus, I couldn’t immediately provide a reply. One thing I was sure of was that this man was really angry with the Nobel Laurette.
As he spoke further, I began to understand his problem with Professor Soyinka. His problem with Soyinka dates back many years ago. Soyinka opposed Jonathan. Soyinka writes in indecipherable words. Soyinka opposed Trump. He started cultism on Nigerian university campuses. He plays too much politics, that is why nobody in the world recorgnised Kongi.
All these came up after the man hear that the Professor has “threatened to leave Nigeria” in the news. Soyinka is quoted to have said: “I should not be exiting the United States but Nigeria because the people on behalf of whom one has struggled all one’s life can be so slavish in mentality as to start querying the right of their champion to free speech.” How dare he say that, this man seems to say!
This man’s problem like I said earlier, was not much with Kongi’s unfortunate statement, but with things more personal.
In this man’s bitterness, he forgot that Kongi won the Nobel prize for Literature in 1986. He also forgot that Soyinka’s politics transcend Nigeria. Many probably do not know that Soyinka was largely involved in the downfall of Ugandan dictator, Idi Amin Dada. Those that have bothered to read his A Play of Giants, will testify that Kongi chooses his audience carefully and has never claimed to achieve popularity by simply writing!
Famed writers like Eric Blair (better known as George Orwell) wrote on social and political problems. Books like Nineteen Eighty Four, Animal Farm, Homage to Catalonia and Down and Out of Paris are dedicated to addressing specific social problems he saw in his life. What is the big deal in a writer like Soyinka participating in politics?
As far as I know the best of writers are those who are brave enough to take sides with what they know as truth. George Orwell fought on the Republican side during the Spanish Civil War. W.B. Yeast never hid his Irish Republican sympathies in his write-ups (see An Irish Airman Foresees His Death and Easter 1916). Chinua Achebe was not only on the Biafran side during the Nigerian Civil War (incidentally Soyinka was imprisoned for visiting the Eastern Region by Gowon), he was National Vice-Chairman of Aminu Kano’s People’s Redemption Party (PRP) in the Second Republic (1979-83).
I can go on to list writers and their political beliefs, but for time and space. “What does Soyinka want?” If he tears his Green card because Trump won, whose business is that? To this I will reply: Jero is a social critic who sees the society the way he interprets it like all of us do!
On a serious note, what does Soyinka want?
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