By Uduma Kalu
It  was a two-week of  intense  activities as Nigerian artists, writers and political activists, including, governors trooped out to honour the Nobel Prize laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka.

But while the writers, represented by the Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA) Lagos, held theirs last Saturday at the Aina Onabolu arts gallery, National Theatre, Lagos, the Committe of Relevant Art (CORA) honoured Soyinka also at the National Theatre last Sunday while the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism held its tribute for him last Monday.

Season of Soyinka’s plays

Prof. Wole Soyinka
Prof. Wole Soyinka

But earlier before this, ‘A Season of Wole Soyinka  [email protected]’ presented the 3rd Annual  Season of wole Soyinka. Entitled The Season of Stage Plays Celebrating Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the plays were written and produced by  Wole Oguntokun.

Slated for all the Sundays in June and July again, and the venue again is Terra Kulture. Short plays and sketches written by Soyinka  precede each play.

July 19 and 26) are remaining days for each performance starting from 3pm and 6pm through the Season.

Soyinka’s new works, craft

But at the literary gathering, featuring holidaying Nigerian writers such as Profs. Obi Nwakanma and Maik Nwosu who came from the United States with his wife, Angela as well as featured guest, University of Alberta, Canada based scholar, Nduka Otiono, with otwers guests such as former WRITA president, Mrs Mobolaji Adenubi, Akin Adeoya, Toyin Akinosho, Veronica Uzoigwe, Funmi Aluko, Daggar Tola,  Chike Ofili who chairs the state union., among others.

In their contributions, the writers focused on the Soyinka’s generation writings to look at their generation, and wailed that publishing has hit the new writers harder than it did the Soyinka age.

But Otiono who raised the point noted that the older writers were also hit by the publishing menace. For example, he said that not many people now know that the poet, John Pepper Clark, has four other books, and Soyinka who also has new books. Even Soyinka’s writing, he went on, has shifted in his grappling with critics that his works were obscure, adding that publishing affects knowledge of Soyinka’s other works.

ANA, he went on, needs a new orientation and  new leadership which will be current with 21st century realities. The organisation which he was its ex former national scribe, needs  to know how to get funding, network, and organise.

Responding to a writer’s remark that she was confused on which to call home-  USA or Nigeria,  Angela and her husband said there was no confusion for them that Nigeria is home. Angela said USA taught her that solitude is not a game.

Maik reminded the house of Soyinka’s profundity, excellence and faithfulness to craft.

Our prizes can beat West’s

For Nwakanma, though new writers should take examples from the Soyinka -Chinua Achebe generation, Soyinka’s Nobel Prize  did something on the African imagination.

“It gave validity to the African imagination. Achebe did it earlier but Soyinka’s Nobel revalidified it. But we don’t need Nobel Prize to give us that,” he pointed out.

He wondered why the NNLG literary prize, which is bigger than Caine prize, does not get the kind of attention Caine gets.

“Why do ANA prizes fizzle out after the award ceremonies? Why do we swoop on Caine prize? Why can’t we project ourselves? ANA prizes can be projected,” he went on.

In her response, Adenubi told the house that while in Zimbabwe during its book fairs, writers in that country said they were involved in choosing school books. “We should be involved.” she frowned at the use of federal character in selecting school books, saying it undermines quality.

But Nwakanma said there was need for Nigerian unity through school  books. But writers and Ministry of Education, he argued,  need to meet on the books to reflect true Nigerian literature. ANA award winning prize books , for example, should reflect in the school syllabuses, he pointed out.

Writers  not organised

But the poet and brand expert, Akin Adeoya, was furious that writers are not serious with to their profession.

“We are not business like. We do not exhibit what is going on in our writing” he began.

Adeoya noted that notes were not being taken at the reading, and that at the end of the event, no action would be taken.

“Ministry of Education may not listen to us as they have a system they use to get their  books. There is need to lobby the ministry, the media. We need to organise ourselves. We need to be careful in organising

At CORA Stampede

The next day,  Sunday, the writers’ argument took the centrestage of  CORA’s discourse on Soyinka.  Entitled Legends and Legacies,  the 87th Art Stampede, also dedicated to the late Steve Rhodes.

The gathering at the Sunday quarterly Art Stampede of the Committee for Relevant Art (CORA) agreed that the arts sector needs advocacy and fund-raising to solve its problems. But lack of  cohesion among art and culture workers was also seen as key factor among the troubles in the art house.

The speakers spoke on the need to “explore strategies through which the work of legends and heroes of Nigerian art and culture sector can be adequately documented and preserved for the benefit of succeeding generations of artists as well as the nation in general.”

Honour at Journalism Centre

Soyinka, was also last Monday point of discourse as politicians and media practitioners gathered in Lagos at the second media lecture series of the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism.

The lecture, commemorating Soyinka’s birthday, re-echoed the call for the quick passage of the Freedom of Information Bill (FoI) by the National Assembly.

In his lecture entitled “Narrating the Nigerian Story: The Challenge for Journalism,” Dr. Olatunji Dare, an Associate Professor of Journalism at the Bradley University, Illinois, United States, advocated a special designated fund to be instituted for journalists to investigate deeply the problems of the country.

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