Nobel Laureate, Professor Soyinka: A National Icon, A National Treasure And An Institution
Wednesday, 21 July 2004
Professor Akinwale Oluwole Soyinka is an international citizen of Nigerian descent. He has had a remarkable career in writing, all types of writings. He is an enduring and endearing public figure of international noteworthiness; He is at once an unassuming and gracious man, with high intellect and incredible influence on Nigerians and others; Professor Soyinka is a national treasure and a national icon, and forever young.
Even when others disagree with him, it is a certainty, that such disagreements, and those doing the disagreeing, do not and have never, questioned the Nobel Laureate's selflessness and patriotism; From the pre-civil war years, to the present day Nigeria, Professor Soyinka, has remained engaged and committed to everything that is good for Nigeria, Nigeria's unity in diversity and oneness, Nigeria's development, advancement and progress.
Professor Soyinka's influence on my aspirations to become involved in public policy debates/discourse, arose from my reading enjoyment of his famous writings, as a Public Intellectual, I am talking here about, one of his famous works, "The Man Died" The man died, for me, is a gun-blazing metaphor for common good, or general good. The man dies in any of us, who would look the other way, when there is injustice.... the man dies in any of us when we are quiet, complicit or become willingly ignorant of the suffering of others… and as a notable Nigerian writer put it recently, in an article at Kwenu.com, Nigerians, indeed all humans would do better to see coffins as the sad end of a life and instead of seeing “coffin, as just a mere piece of wood, being ferried across town”
And so it is, then, the the man dies in all of us, when we think of the coffins, arriving for the journey's for our neighbor, symbolizing the terminal state of all lives, as just a piece of wood from across town... coffins are the harbingers of the ends of what could have been, coffins are not just another piece of wood from across the neighborhood, coffins of the dead in Darfur Sudan are not mere pieces of woods in other lands, it symbolizes the sufferings of our African brethrens and the man dies in any of us, lacking the courage to speak the truth to the powers that be.
Nobel Laureate and Professor of theater and dramatic arts, literary arts, languages and restless activist septuagenarian Kongi, has taught us, never to retire from the fight for public good.
Professor Soyinka is not famous for the number of houses and cars or girlfriends, he is not famous for earthly material possessions, he is famous instead, for his selflessness, for his intellectual dexterity and for remaining a rebel with a cause, even after all these years!
He has tussled for with the worst of dictators and tyrants that were at one time or another at the Nigerian political stage and Professor Soyinka is still standing! Nigerians will do well to emulate the selflessness of a Soyinka, instead of aping the mindless millionaires that we now have in Nigeria, those overnight millionaires transmuted by their friends in governments of greed and avarice, those millionaires who are not millionaires based on any productive activities or venture.
Those overnight millionaires who have never produced anything!
We should all aspire to leave our society with the output from our towering intellectual power, even at life’s dust, Professor Soyinka has emblazoned indelible imprints in the minds of Nigerians and other citizens of the world, he has stamped the sands of time with his footprints with his life’s work and that is surely better than anything money can buy, Nigerians will do well, to live like a Soyinka, instead of aspiring to live lives like the “money-miss-road(s) greedy and corrupt persons.
Professor Soyinka like Shakespeare, George Elliot, Mark Twain etc will be remembered for generations and generations, not for how many millions he had in Nigerian or Swiss Bank accounts, but for his intellectual power and output and for putting such intellectual capacity that he posses, into use for the good of all.
We hope Nigeria becomes a better place for all, by the time Kongi turns 80!
Professor Soyinka is at once an embodiment of selflessness and an epitome of intellectual sturdiness both of which he has for decades, used fearlessly for the service of our nation, this, to me, is what the Kongi means, he is a Public Intellectual par excellence. I cannot believe he is just seventy years old! I feel as though, I have read him for a hundred years! Many more years Prof!
The man dies, in any Nigerian, who neglects to do his national duty, or carry out his obligations and responsibilities, whether as a private citizen or public office holder; All Nigerians must engage in acts, that will turn Nigeria into the country where all Nigerians are equal, united and prosperous, in our wonderful diversities