Today, People & Politics celebrate a strong critic of successive Nigerian governments, especially the country’s many military dictators, as well as other political tyrannies, including the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe, Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka, popularly known as Wole Soyinka, as he clock 85.
The 1986 Nobel Laurel Award Prize recipient in Literature, born July 13, 1934, took an active role in Nigeria’s political history and its struggle for independence from Great Britain. In 1965, he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and broadcasted a demand for the cancellation of the Western Nigeria Regional Elections. In 1967 during the Nigerian Civil War, he was arrested by the federal government of General Yakubu Gowon and put in solitary confinement for two years.
During the regime of General Sani Abacha (1993–98), Soyinka escaped from Nigeria on a motorcycle via the “NADECO Route.” Abacha later proclaimed a death sentence against him “in absentia. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to his nation.
In his congratulatory message, President Muhammadu Buhari described the literary icon as a “universal brand” and one of Nigeria’s “greatest prides.”
He noted that Soyinka did not only excel in the academia but had also earned himself respect for lending his voice at critical moments in the country’s history.
The President called Soyinka a man of “courage”, whose selflessness was worthy of emulation by the younger generation of Nigerians and Africans.
The message read in part, “President Buhari joins family and friends of the cerebral academic in celebrating the many years of laudable achievements, recognition, awards, and consistency, all which have cumulated in pride to Nigerians, Africans and the black race.
“The President salutes Prof Soyinka for his intellectual momentum, interventions on state issues and polity through articles and comments, penchant for justice, and persistence in holding leaders to account.
“As he clocks 85, President Buhari affirms that Prof Soyinka’s lifestyle sends a message to all Nigerians and Africans, especially the younger generation, that real success is measured by the intangibles of courage and impact brought to the life of others, rather than pursuit of personal interests.
“The President congratulates the literary giant for projecting Nigerian and African values to the world, wishing him more years of health, wisdom and service to the nation and humanity.”