IT was a night of radiant quality stars, in December 2010, at the State House, Banquet Hall of the Ghanaian Government, Accra,Ghana, where Professor Wole Soyinka was awarded the Millennium Excellence Award and Lifetime Africa Achievement Prize, alongside AshaHagi the Somalian activist and woman of courage.
Others equally honoured that night were Bishop Desmond Tutu, the fiery clergy from South Africa; Ismail Se Ragel Din, an international scientist of note from Egypt recognised for Scientific Research in Africa; Amaechi Ndili from Nigeria, for his contributions to Entrepreneurial Excellence in Africa; CyprilRamaphosa,the South African major investor and trade unionist, recognised for African Economic Development; Lord Paul Boateng, a member of the House of Lords in the UK, honoured for Action For Africa; James Wolfensohn, from the US, for sustainable development in Africa.
Also, to everybody’s surprise, Colonel Muammar AL – Gaddafi, the late maximum ruler of Libya, emerged a recipient of one of the awards for his contributions to African Unity; but Gaddafi never showed up, he was only represented by one of his top aides.
We were rocking on a boat of splashing colours into the night, especially when celebrities and heavies from all continents gathered in a place to celebrate the best of our world. Our own Asiwaju Bola Tinubu led the likes of Mr. BabatundeFashola, Governor of Lagos State; OgbeniRauf Aregbesola of the state of Osun and Dr. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State to the event. Mr. Kunle AJibade of The News Editorial Board, Jahman Anikulapo, formerly of the Guardian Newspapers; our very good friend, Makin Soyinka; MrAkeem Bello, S.A. to Gov. Fashola on media; Mr. Kunle Abimbola of The Nation Editional Board were present too.
Interestingly, we, my twin brother and I, sat next to Glo’s Chairman , Dr. Mike Adenuga’s table, another complete gentleman, who had come like others to honour Professor Soyinka, a towering figure in the art world, a man of fine reputation, whose performance in the African literary space has been very explosive.
Known and easily spotted for his magnificently snow white hair and benevolently soft and cherubic face, he is indeed a family man of great look and good attitude, a great international literary jurist, an African that can never be forgotten in a hurry, a priceless asset to Africa. He is so famous that street galleries, with arts’ hustlers in charge, adorn our public spaces with his portraits.
When it was Professor Soyinka’s turn to receive his award for African Cultural and Traditional Preservation, a storm of bubbles filled the hall. With the swiftness of a jungle lion, Professor Soyinka mounted the stage, looking like a starlet in white attires.
This proved to be a day of fulfillment for all proud sons and daughters of Africa. The late PresidentAttah John Mills of Ghana had this to say about Soyinka after the award ceremonies: “If Prof. Wole Soyinka is not tired now at his age we can’t afford to be tired”.
His usage of English Language is legendary; if you must take up Wole Soyinka, you must first take into cognisance that he easily disarms his opponent with his command of English Language. We tend to love him more when people call him Kongi, the Lion; these are not his real names, but have become strongly synonymous with Professor Soyinka over the years. In the midst of several violent and retrogressive African regimes, Soyinka was awarded the Nobel Prize For Literature in 1986, the first African to be so honoured.
In 1994, he was designated (UNESCO) Goodwill Ambassador for the Promotion of African Culture, Human Rights, Freedom of Expression, Media and Communication. He endured imprisonment for 22 months as Nigeria backslided into a 30-month gruesome civil war, surviving only on the jailers’ food.
A man of dogged determination, his writing always captures the picture of a continent on the brinks; through his writing he preaches that love is never found in the theatre of cruelty, that religious fundamentalism and fanaticism could be very alcoholic.
What makes us cry oils the wheels of his creativity. A man of large heart, he remains the symbol of political resistance in the flesh of undemocratic government. Even the hostile political climates of other nations of South America and Europe had so many times become the focus of his (writings) work.
Soyinka looks very different from every each one of us; he must have come from a revolutionary planet yet to be identified by man, he has continued to be a beacon of hope to men, women and children bound in straps of oppression around the world. Soyinka is like a musical note of high-pitched rhythms cleverly inspiring generations after generations, up to this present generations, after eight decades running. There are these dynamism, charisma and beauty surrounding his personality, becoming myths always and leaving this sense of satisfaction at the foothills of our eyebrows whenever we see his portraits.
As twins, Prof. Soyinka has been our idol right from our childhood days, facing up the skies and eagle-spread, we read his poems to ourselves on grass coated fields of our secondary school (Community Grammar School, Akanran) in Ibadan. Thirty years later,Prof. Wole Soyinka on a certain happy day spoketo us on phone. Talking to Prof. was a dream fulfilled; though poets ourselves, we drank from his own still waters of poetry to nourish our writing talent at infancy.
Let us share with you our experience one afternoon in Abeokuta, where Soyinka hails from. We were paying a visit to Chief DotunOyewole, the scientist of Abeokuta, a mentor to us, with his twin brother, the late Chief Femi Oyewole (the famous Oyewole twins). Dotun Oyewole is presently 94 years; his wife, Madam LapeOyewole, who died last March at the age of 84, said something about Prof Soyinka, that touched us so much.
“We were classmates with Wole. But suddenly, he was promoted from Primary 2 to5, leaving us all behind; we envied him, as we were not happy about the whole development. The news spread like a wild fire, without knowing it is pointing only to his future glory as seen today.”
She continued: “Later we got to know that Wole was not just pushed forward ahead of us because he was the son of a school headmaster or the teacher’s favourite, but that our teachers were able to see something rare and special in him, she went further, to be able to save this shiny star, he was given a triple promotion to be able to develop him and not delay his manifestation in life, she concluded, his brain runs at the speed of sound, this is the last standing of the literary prophets”.
One can see that Professor Wole Soyinka, from the onset has set forth at dawn according to the title of one of his books, in the African context and traditions, from which much of Wole Soyinka’s inspiration, has been drawn, Africans don’t want their good old ones to continue living when events around them are taken bad twists or shapes, “Ojuagbakiiriibi”.
Therefore, we wish Professor Wole Soyinka never live long to continue watching Shekau in his savage rats’ colony ranting and boasting on CNN and our National T.V Screen offending our sensibilities and consciousness as a nation, may he never live long to continue seeing wheat and barleygrindstones becoming ceased in the land, may he never live long to continue seeing gravestones becoming perpetually wet with innocent blood in Borno and Bauchi on daily basis, may he never live long to continue seeing the Nigerian project becoming a cracking dream on a daily basis, BUT, because this old man is naturally good, we pray, may he live long to see our Chibok girls returned safely to our hands, may he live long to see another Nobel Prize Winner For Literature and Physics emerging (out) from Africa, may he live long to see JospehKonnie, the jungle emperor, caught in the Uganda forest, caged and extradited to the World Court in Hague, to face criminal charges against the souls of African children and women, may he live long, may he live long, may he live long to become and break the record of the oldestwiseman in Africa.
Taiwo & Kehinde Oluwafunso, representatives of Panafest, wrote from Lagos.
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