– I Would Have Been a Retired General By Now – Soyinka at 86
– He hoped for South Africa but was posted to Suerz, he thus furthered his career in literature.
As part of activities commemorating the 86th birthday of Africa’s first Nobel prize winner in Literature, Professor Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka, theNews correspondents made a courtesy call on the iconic octogenarian, at his Abeokuta residence, on Monday, July 13, 2020.
During the short but captivating interview, the celebrant, who looked strong and agile albeit 86, narrated his ordeal at the Nigerian Army Officer Corps.
According to him, his undying love for South Africa was a major determining factor in his decision to enlist with the NAOC at the time.
However, his hopes were dashed when, shortly after enlisting, he was drafted to the Suerz, instead of South Africa. Completely disillusioned by his failed SOUTH-AFRICAN DREAM, the young Soyinka decided to quit the army.
“No, I wanted to train for South Africa, not the Suerz. I had to flee when they were going to pack me to the Suerz instead of where I wanted to go, which was South Africa. So, I packed up my kits and left…” He said.
When asked if the process of quitting the military was smooth or rough, the Yoruba-born playwright had this to say:
“…fortunately, we were the inferior native. You know the colonialists were very funny. Those in Lagos were British subjects, we, from Abeokuta etc were “protected subjects” and were not fully bound by the laws of the British.”
“I was like a second class citizen. Nice to be second-class sometimes. I was able to go back to my studies after the intervention of the students’ adviser for foreign students.” He continued.
In another question, Soyinka was asked why he was engrossed in the idea of going to South Africa as a young boy, the human rights activist, echoing lines from his posthumous lecture in tribute to Nelson Mandela, where he described the former South African president as “the soul of Africa”.
He said; “I have always been obsessed with South Africa. And, Mandela represents, for me, the bearer of African dignity. That’s why I used the expression that “the soul of Africa has departed” when he died… It was the most natural thing for me to dedicate the lecture to Nelson Mandela”.
Asked why he looked strong and healthy, having almost spun nine decades on planet earth, the grey-haired colossus alluded to sheer luck, denying involvement in any kind of fitness or agility programme.
“I don’t know why. But, I must say, I’m not a health fanatic. I don’t jog. When I see people jog, they look ridiculous. From time to time, I go into the bush, just to get away from people, really, not for the purpose of exercise. I have no idea. It’s just luck”.
Finally, when quizzed about his antiestablishmentarian philosophy or convictions, the political diplomat, who initially questioned the exclusiveness of the term, gave a robust description of his own individual personality.
“That word, antiestablishment, is debatable. One does not set out to be an antiestablishment. It is true that there are certain degrees of individualistic consciousness, individualistic inclinations which abhor regimentation… I cannot treat faces as particles in human congealment…you assert your being to the fullest”.
From all of us at Nigeria News World,we say HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PROFESSOR WOLE SOYINKA.
Photo Credit: Vanguard