RIGHT THE WRONG
“It was not until my last year in school that it occurred to me that these black people, these vote-less masses, were in any way concerned with the socialism which I professed, or that they had any role to play in the great social revolution which in these days seemed to be imminent”.
Professor Wole Soyinka presented this during his Nobel lecture at the Nobel Prize award ceremony awarded to him in 1986. He dedicated the award to Nelson Mandela as a show of support and also to call the attention of the world to the apartheid epoch in South Africa.
Wole Soyinka was born in 1934 in Abeokuta, Ogun state, Southern Nigeria. He was the second of six children born to Samuel Ayodele Soyinka (a headmaster) and Grace Eniola Soyinka (a trader and political activist).
Prof. Wole Soyinka started his educational pursuit at St. Peter primary School in Abeokuta, from where he proceeded to Abeokuta grammar School for his secondary education.
In the year 1946, the Nobel laureate gained admission into Federal Government College, Nigeria’s most elite school at that time. He proceeded into the University College (now University of Ibadan) where he studied Western History, English literature and Greek in 1952.
Soyinka began writing plays in 1954, but his first major play ‘The swamp dweller’ was published in 1958, followed by ‘The lion and the jewel’ in 1959. Other plays written by the professor of literature include ‘The immigrant’, ‘My next door neighbors’, ‘Culture in transition’, ‘The interpreters’, ‘A dance of the forest’, ‘Death and the king’s horsemen’ among others.
A curiosity arousing detail about Soyinka’s play was that each one addressed (pointed out) ills in the society. Suffice to say, he pointed out the wrongs being done by the government in power at that time with every of his plays.
In his political speeches at that time, he criticized the cult of personality, government corruption and dictatorship both in Nigeria and in Africa. These criticisms were evident in his plays. This put him at logger heads with the government. His first incarceration was in 1964 where he was accused of underlying tapes during reproduction of recorded speech of the winner of Nigeria’s election that year. He was released after a few months.
In May 1967 during the Biafra war, peace loving Wole Soyinka secretly met with the Igbo leader Chukwuemeka Odumwegu Ojukwu with the aim to persuade him to stop the actions tending to separate the Igbo nation from Nigeria.
The then military president, Gowon got wind of the information and ordered for Soyinka to be arrested and imprisoned claiming that Soyinka was a traitor conniving with the enemy. He was incarcerated for a period of two years and released after the Biafra secession came to an end.
However, despite the altercations and imprisonments, Soyinka never stopped speaking out against the ills in the society especially those perpetrated by the government. He used the medium he had (poems, plays and drama) to right what was wrong, or at least to call attention to what was wrong. Wole Soyinka seized every opportunity at lectures, seminars and award presentations to call the attention of the world to Nigeria and Africa at large.
Now the big question is – What have you done with what you have to right the wrong?
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