July 14, 2019

Wole Soyinka: Celebrating Kongi’s giant strides at 85

By Chris Onuoha

Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka celebrated his 85th birthday, yesterday,under the auspices of Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange (WSICE) programmes as usual with series of literary activities.

hardtalk, Wole Soyinka

Professor Wole Soyinka

The literary giant cum activist chose to remain voiceless in  this period of his celebration, granting no interviews to journalists, noting that age is no more on his side. He also noted that he has in  all his youthful vibrant life said all that needed to be said, to correct anomalies in the society, according to Jahman   Oladejo, member of the WSICE organizing team.

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However, this counters Solomon Elusoji’s quote: “At 85, Wole Soyinka evokes the buoyancy of a 30-year old; his mind remains distilled and brilliant. He is still optimistic about this country’s – and, in extension, Africa’s future.” His quietness though, does not elucidate tiredness as the Nobel laureate continues to be an advocate of good governance in the country.

As encomiums have continued to grace his celebration, President Muhammadu Buhari in his goodwill message described the literary icon as a “universal brand” and one of Nigeria’s “greatest prides.” The Arole Oduduwa & Ooni of Ife,  Adeyeye Enitan Ogunwusi Ojaja II, also congratulated the Nobel Laureate on his 85th birthday, describing the literary giant as a great pathfinder. These among others were words of honour and recognition to a man globally known for his literary exploits but well known by ordinary Nigerian for his political activism.

The 3-day event started from Friday July 12 to Monday July 15 and continued simultaneously in Lagos, Abeokuta and Akure with literary discourse and theater performances.

Events marking his anniversary started on Friday in Lagos with an advocacy session;   an event that explores Soyinka’s body of work to reflect on the concepts of Rights, Honours, Respect, Patriotism, Tolerance and Humanism. It is an photography exhibition held at Kongis’s harvest Art Gallery, Freedom Park, Lagos Island that displayed photographs, journals and printed materials.

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A publication from Soyinka’s conference of 2014 when he turned 80 … publication mentioned at Wole Soyinka’s International cultural Exchange programme yesterday and to be presented on Monday July 15 at 6om at the freedom park.

This was also followed by formal presentation of books- memo on our future: essays by Nigerian children as inspired by Soyinka which includes a competition of winning essays by past winners of the annual WSICE essays competition. A book “Igho goes to school” a children book by the culture journalist, Anote Ajeluorou facilitated by WSICE was distributed to about 1000 students across the country.

Another is introduction of The Soyinka’s Impulse: Essays on Wole Soyinka edited by Duro Oni and Bisi Adigun. A presentation of various scholars during an international conference held on occasion of the 80th birthday anniversary of Soyinka five years ago to be presented on Monday July 15 in Lagos.