When I first read that the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka had called on Nigerians for a protest match in Abuja, I was both embarrassed and ashamed for the younger Nigeria youths.
My thought was, this senior citizen loves Nigeria so much that even at his age, he is ready to commit to the streets for a better Nigeria. While in essence, the youths who ought to be at the vanguard of such urgent call, laze around.
Soyinka is probably one of the best known living social critique in Africa. Not only is he a thinker, he is also positively an actor in the socio-political scenery of Africa and the world. This proud gem of the Yoruba extract has attained a rare level of spiritual self-consciousness of unmatchable sophistication-a form of awareness often found among world-class masters of ideas, knowledge and thoughts. They live among us, but they are completely different. Not in terms of bio-physical and chemical composition, but of a profound social knowledge of the common goal of human beings as â€˜social animalsâ€™ bound by natural law to co-habit the earth.
In Platoâ€™s Allegory of the Cave, a clear picture is portrayed of a very dark social phenomenon where every one, having being confined in a stench primitive miasma, have come to know nothing except ignorance and its uncanny proceeds of uncivilization. According to Plato, one must break through the dark cave of this depressing social nemesis to perceive the intelligibleness of reality and its ontological truth. And even if one has done so and have come back to help inform and convince those who are still living in darkness that there exist light outside of the cave, they would attempt to kill him. This is because they have grown accustomed to the darkness of the cave and cannot imagine any reality outside it. As far as Nigeria history is concern, Wole Soyinka is one of those who had gone out of the cave of timeâ€™s ignorance and have acquired a true knowledge of things as they are in essence. He had spend all his life informing the minds of the rest of the Nigerians who are still in perpetual socio-political darkness.
â€˜I believe in the human communityâ€™ Soyinka once said. This form of affirmation contains within it, a seed of universal truth. A truth that transcends the self and its selfish cravings of individualism, tribalism, and racism. These three of which are cancerous in the progression of human beings as one single reality destined to inhabit the earth and share its products collectively.
A man who sees the world in terms of â€˜human communityâ€™ is the man who alone can change the world. As long as the Nigeria history books are writing, Soyinka would forever remain as a conscience of the dead Nigerian soul. He is a â€˜gadflyâ€™ whose stings, social critiques, is instrumental in awakening the minds of so many Nigerians about the danger of political and social ignorance. He is not a man of cheap shots of hollow words. He has battled, all his life, the barbarism of the African dictators and had been in prison and exile in the process of making Nigeria a nation worth living in.
Here is why he is different. Most of the intellectuals and social critiques as we know are people beseeched with cynicism, indecision and laziness. While they might theorize and write brilliant ideas, they are very poor actors whose escapist sanctuaries are replete with impractical idealistic concepts existing only in their headsÂ and having no bearing to pragmatic human situation. Soyinka is a different caliber of intellectual. He is bold and practically confrontational especially with the issues hindering social-political and economic transformation. Various establishments of military dictatorship in Nigeria had targeted him. His record of involvement in the Nigerian moral struggle against injustice, oppression and corruption stand out as his resume. As a playwrite, he also charnelled his works towards political, cultural and social advancemnt. For it is appropriate for both the primitive and semi-primitive socio-political structure to be critiqued so as to facilitate a healthy growth.
The recent event in Abuja wherein his action and words mobilized a mass of people for a protest against the indefinite suspension of Nigerian by Umaru Musa Yaâ€™adua and his cliques in an unconstitutional vague conspiracy proves him a man of bold moral determination. Nigerian and the world watched as this aged man, who ordinarily, ought to be enjoying his retirement, challenged the power that be in Nigeria.
It was this last action by Soyinka in Abuja that made me rethink the priority of the Nigeria youths. Why are the youths not on the streets day in day out protesting for a better society? The Nigerian youths should understand that Soyinka has given Nigeria so much. While his contribution is still needed in a very unique way, we should not place upon him the burden of matching across Nigeria for a revolutionary transformation. He did all these when he was younger. He ran a fearless campaign against socio-economic and political dictatorships of the various hues of both the military and the civilian regimes. It is now time for the younger generation of Nigeria to wake up and take the burning touch from him. He had fought a good battle. But unfortunately this has not been the case which makes one wonder if the younger generation of Nigeria are all cowards. Where are those students that Soyinka taught in universities and colleges? What are they doing with the values, ideals and principles he imparted on them? Where are all his younger admirers who had been inspired through his books and the so many transformative socio-political speeches he gave? Practically, this is the bane with the Nigerian youths, inaction.
At his age, Soyinka does not fight for himself any more. He fights for the younger generations, who are in effect, showing lack of gratefulness to this manâ€™s contribution in Nigeria history by their lack of massive revolutionary campaign in Nigeria against corruption of our political elders. It takes the strains of Soyinka aging voice to remind us of the philosophy of civil disobedience as a powerful instrument of the people to crash the evils of the status quo. The fact is that we may not always have Wole Soyinka with us. This is the more urgent reason why we need urgent Soyinkaism and all the rational and practical discursive actions in order to re-direction our socio-political and economic nightmares in Nigeria and Africa. I bet next time, Wole Soyinka calls on a protest match, the younger generation Nigeria should, think again and be reminded of their absolute laxity in the face of blazing social retrogression.