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Wole Soyinka @90: Heroism, Myth And Meta-myth


By Richard Odusanya

Nation-building requires heroes. A nation without documented heroes or comprehensive documentation of the lives and times of their heroes and heroines, will not succeed in positively impacting as many young ones as are needed to berth a great country. So, essentially, a good number of the world’s most successful countries are endowed by the nourishment and talents of their diverse population which ultimately produces heroes.

Heroes have always played a crucial role in binding societies, offering courage, sacrifice, leadership, and moral integrity narratives. Whether real or mythical, these individuals provide nations with a sense of history, identity, unity, and shared values. Here comes Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde “Wole” Soyinka (CFR), a Nigerian playwright, novelist, poet, and essayist in the English language. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first African to be so honored.

Every country has its fair share of a national hero or hero. The world needs more people with critical thinking skills coupled with an objective mindset capable of sequestering their internal bias when required by equally pertinent decisions that need to be made by decisive individuals with experience and practical wisdom in humble coexistence within their mindset. What most people mistake for a “hero” is usually just a victim of circumstance that devolves into an eminent personality with huge responsibilities.

Wole Soyinka (WS), is best known as a playwright, alongside his literary career, and has also worked as an actor and in theaters in Nigeria and Great Britain. His works also include poetry, novels, and essays. WS is by every intellectual and academic classification an iconic figure. His reputation blossomed after he won the Nobel Laureate in 1986 having distinguished himself as a literary genius.

WS has been a guiding force in shaping the cultural and intellectual landscape of the continent of Africa, particularly in Nigeria. Therefore, my fellow compatriots join me as we celebrate WS@90. It has become imperative that as a people we need to reflect on WS’s profound contributions and the everlasting impact of his work and advocacy – through the sacrifice and fearless commitment to social justice, unwavering defense of freedom of expression, and promotion of Nigeria’s rich cultural heritage, WS, stands as a beacon of excellence and inspiration.

Unarguably, a nationalist, eruditely broadminded, and dependable hard-working person apart from selfless adventures. Can I just mention only one remarkable example; apart from those that sadly died during the Nigerian civil war, WS, suffered more than most for the cause of Biafra. He was not only imprisoned in Kirikiri prison during the war but he was also put in solitary confinement and chained to the floor. In his words: “I don’t know any other way to live but to wake up every day armed with my convictions, not yielding them to the threat danger and to the force of people who might despise me.”

Kongi, as you’re fondly called, Africa’s most iconic literary maestro and one of the world’s most influential citizens, quintessential poet at 90. I join millions of our compatriots across the globe to celebrate an eminent scholar, dramatist, poet, and humanist who would have preferred a quiet celebration, his associates have decided otherwise. Africa’s first Nobel Laureate, a humanist, role model, thorn in the flesh of dictators, and a of hope to humanity. 

In conclusion, permit me to sign off with a call to action using the profound words of Jacob Nordby a storyteller, thinker, and adventure seeker whose many quests have led him to a deep fascination with life in all of its weird splendor. He has written the award-winning novel, The Divine Arsonist, and a non-fiction titled, Blessed Are the Weird – A Manifesto for Creatives. Jacob remarked as follows: “Blessed are the weird people: poets, misfits, writers mystics, painters, troubadours for they teach us to see the world through different eyes.” 

Finally, WS, history will write your name in GOLD, as i crave the indulgence of my readers to adopt my sister’s birthday message to Kongi: “…My darling Uncle Wole, Happy 90th birthday! I am so happy that you made it to the Nonagerian level, and still have your wits around you. You are still as fit as a fiddle and your mind is so sharp, despite the hardships you have been through as a literary and Human Rights activist in Nigeria. 

“I am glad that you are alive to see the results of your good works- you are being celebrated in all the continents of the world! You deserve this and more, our wordsmith, Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, from Ake to Ibadan, and Ife on to the global stage!!! With lots of love and gratitude, Funso Adegbola. For Bola and Tinuke Ige’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY WS@90, Nobel Laureate, Prof Akinwande Oluwole Soyinka, who we fondly call Uncle Wole, Kongi, Prof, ‘Captain Blood’ and our WORDSMITH.

Richard Odusanya

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