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Dilemma Of Soyinka’s Worshippers


Prof. Wole Soyinka

Prof. Wole Soyinka

DEAR Prof., I do not know how to introduce myself to you. I’m perfectly in order if I say I’m your son. At 81, you are old enough to father me. You may not know it, but the bond between us is even much stronger than that symbolism. How do I put it to make myself clear? Okay, I am your fan. No; not exactly! It is something still much stronger. Yes, I got it! I am your ‘worshipper!’

Although, the key word is accentuated for effect, I would still like to explain so that it is not taken off its context and given a completely different interpretation that could put me in trouble. I’m a Catholic and worship no god other than the Almighty Jehovah. I’m only saying that your standing in relation to mine in the literary field is like the standing between Sango and its worshippers.

That settled; I want to add that I started ‘worshipping’ you since my days in secondary school. While a few of my classmates avoided you like plague, saying your grammar was too ‘strong’; I had remained faithful all through. In fact, when WAEC, in the literature paper in 1980, mistakenly asked us to pick and appreciate any poem of our choice, I went straight for Telephone Conversation, which was a no go area to many a student. To tell WAEC that I dey too much, I had taken time to reproduce the entire poem word for word in a corner of my answer sheet before going ahead to analyse it as required.

Till date, yours and Kofi Awoonor’s Songs of Sorrow are still somehow stuck in my head. Most painful that Al Shabaab people killed that great poet in a shopping mall in Kenya, just like that. In the university, I studied Theatre Arts where a chunk of the course content was created around you. And wait for this Prof; until I started living in Lagos after my first degree, and started seeing you, flesh and blood, I had actually thought you were some spirit!

The many stories around you, kind of, helped to sustain the myth. One was that, you had torn your Third Class certificate to pieces before everybody’s eyes at the University of Ibadan because the university Senate had deliberately downgraded you as a punishment for your radical posture. They said you had applied immediately to Oxford, which was a better university to begin afresh and later came out with a First Class degree. The story continued that you were so outstanding even with only a first degree that there was nobody in Britain and the entire Commonwealth knowledgeable enough to supervise your post-graduate studies, as a result of which you were instantly proclaimed a professor, which is the highest title in scholarship.
Some other people said that in 1965, you had transformed to a spirit, appeared in the studio of the then Western Region Radio Ibadan, forced the announcer on duty at gun point to read your prepared statement demanding the cancellation of elections in the Western Region and vanished into thin air after achieving your purpose.

I’m not asking for probes into these tales to establish their veracity or otherwise. Good adherents do not look beyond the red cloth in search of what is inside the shrine. Prof., I simply want to remain with these original stories so that nothing shakes my faith in you. It is also not in the interest of your ‘worshippers’ for you to be unmasked one way or the other. Gods are gods because they are largely unknown. If in an unrestrained display of anthropomorphism gods become men, the universe will lose its mystique.
Prof, let me go straight to the real reason I am writing you. Time was when you spoke, it was taken that the oracle had spoken and all consultations and projections would cease. Things have dramatically degenerated and I am very worried. Now you talk just one thing and 10,000 folks will say 10,000 things contradicting you. Some people are explaining that it has become like that because the purity of the things you say has been affected by your old age. They are saying in effect that you don’t think well again! Ah, Olorun maje! People can be uncharitable!

Trust me Prof, I cannot allow anybody, no matter how highly placed or knowledgeable, to teach me nonsense about the one and only Professor Wole Soyinka of the universe. There is practically no correlation. What nature teaches is that wisdom comes with age and the older a man gets, the deeper his wisdom and so shall it be with you in Jesus Mighty name. Amen!
But Prof, these fellows are simply impossible. They insist that wisdom will rise with age only to a point after which both attributes will stop to be directly proportional in magnitude. They call it the ‘Point Of Diminishing Returns’ in the great journey of life and that it is either you are at that exact point or very close to it.

Oh, my God! They are getting me confused with big grammar. My consolation, however, is that you have more than enough grammar in your wordshop to explain better the issue they are struggling to explain so badly. Before then, I want to advise however that prevention is always better than cure. I mean, instead of exposing yourself for some small small boys called journalists to pick on, why not stay indoors and completely out of harm’s way.

Read what one wrote about you last week: “Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate and the wordsmith of Africa, is yet to hold a world press conference on the state of the nation to call for investigation into all the allegations or accusations. He is yet to even write his lengthy treatise with high-sounding grammar condemning the alleged record sleaze.”
The boy was referring to the big corruption story in town involving Senator Bola Tinubu and Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola and suggesting that you have not commented because it does not serve you to do so.

Times have changed Prof. The Man has Died in everybody in Nigeria. Since you are the only living man in town, I suggest you remain within bounds to avoid being contaminated. Prof, as your ‘worshipper,’ I am free, in fact, licensed to speak my mind and the truth to you. And the truth is that you have joined the Maddening Crowd and we, your ‘worshippers’ can no longer guarantee your sanctity. You can be desecrated by the unruly crowd and nothing will happen. This is precisely what is happening now.
Do know that as an oracle, others take anything you say as a piece of gospel. The difference will be lost if oracle talks the same way as ordinary men. For instance, only four or so years ago, you had said something about General Muhammadu Buhari and then came around this year to say the direct opposite. Oracle does not change like a kaleidoscope. And these press boys have been tasking you on that.

The story in town is that interests have blunted aspects of your hitherto sharp edges; hence, you no longer cut in all directions. Prof, I almost got mobbed the other day by one group when I tried to defend your closeness to Governor Amaechi of Rivers State. I said they should know that you love books and that your relationship with the governor had to do with the making of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, World Book Capital. They shouted me down; saying nothing in Amaechi connects him with scholarship. I was alone on your side and to save my head, I decided to remain quiet.
Shine your eyes Prof! Do not allow all these small boys calling themselves governors and party chieftains to mess you up. They have nothing to offer you. They do not know how you almost got hanged (by the way I also read Procession I – Hanging day) fighting tyranny. They are only around you to access the huge political capital that will come with your endorsement, short and simple.

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