Born in the ancient city of Abeokuta, Ogun State on July 13, 1934, Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka clocks 82 today (Wednesday, July 13, 2016) with literary and political big guns around the world standing on their feet in honour of the 1986 Nobel Prize winner.
Popularly known as Professor Wole Soyinka, the octogenarian who has dozens of literary works – novels, poetry, drama, essays, articles – to his name, is a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University, and has taught at the universities of Oxford, Harvard, Nevada and Yale.
Indeed, Soyinka has lived a long life but his fame didn’t come cheap; he had many milestones to climb…
1. His marriages have qbeen through troubled times, first to the late British writer, Barbara Dixon in 1958- mother of Olaokun, former commissioner of health of Ogun state, then in 1963 to Nigerian librarian, Olaide Idowu- mother of three daughters, Moremi, Iyetade (deceased), Peyibomi, and a second son, Ilemakin and the last to Folake Doherty in 1989, to whom he is currently married.
2. He was imprisoned for two years by Yabuku Gowon – led government during the civil war ensued between the Federal Government and the Biafrans.
3. In October 1965, he seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and made a national broadcast demanding the cancellation of the rigged Western Nigeria Regional Elections; the government immediately declared him wanted and got him arrested.
4. Soyinka borrowed money from Femi Johnson – an insurance broking practitioner – to build his Abeokuta house when he could not access his bank account.
5. Wole Soyinka is not only a recipient of the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature; he is actually the first African to do so in 1986 enlisting him in the Guinness Book of World Records
6. Growing up under the watch of a firm Christian mother and father, an Anglican Minister, he went to church regularly and sang in the choir until he “lost his Christian faith”; presently he “has a good relationship with all various religions” but is an atheist, who also appreciates traditional religions
7. In April 1971, the Literature Professor resigned from Nigeria’s premier university, the University in Ibadan, to go on a voluntary, self-imposed exile arising from his deep concerns about Nigeria’s political situation.
8. He has remained an active voice in Nigeria’s political history, from the struggle for independence to the recent Chibok abduction. He was awarded the 2014 International Humanist Award after delivering his speech “From Chibok with Love” to the World Humanist Congress in Oxford, hosted by the International Humanist and Ethical Union and the British Humanist Association.
9. ‘The Invention’ was Soyinka’s first work to be produced at the Royal Court Theatre in 1957, his play ‘The Dance of The Forests’ was also performed in Paris.