Soyinka’s Chronicles Of Happiest People at Orisun Gallery
Orisun Art Gallery, Abuja, recently, played host to the Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka. The gathering, which was organised for the reading of his new books — Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth and Trumpism in Academe, attracted art lovers, literary enthusiasts and a host of government officials.
In attendance were serving senators, including Orji Uzor Kalu, Abiodun Olujimi, Smart Adeyemi, Seriake Dickson, as well as the Chairman, Senate Committee on Culture and Tourism, Rochas Okorocha.
They all gathered to identify with their colleague and the brain behind the gallery, Senator Olubunmi Adetunbi.
Soyinka, who was later conducted round the gallery that is located in the Central Business District of the Federal Capital Territory, described his experience as civilisation coming to Abuja.
“I am glad to say that Abuja is becoming more civilised every day,” he answered when asked his view of the exquisite gallery that houses a huge collection of art pieces.
The lawmakers also took turns to appreciate the gallery after which some of them pledged to join force with Senator Adetunbi in promoting arts, by ensuring that it receives desired attention from government through enabling legislations.
Former governor of Abia State and Senator representing Abia North, Orji Uzor Kalu, admitted that he is an arts lover. He stated that while he may not be acquainted with any big name in visual art, he nevertheless shared his excitement and enthusiasm for the arts in general.
According to him, he has been liaising with his colleagues to fashion out how arts could be used to usher in desired peace in the country.
“Arts always make meanings to me. I love arts and this is what I am discussing with my colleagues to see how we can engage the arts in creating peace in the country.”
The former governor and publisher also disclosed that he is an art collector with a large number of art works for his pleasure.
Former Governor of Bayelsa and Senator representing Bayelsa West, Seriake Dickson commended Senator Adetunbi for promoting Nigerian arts.
“Some of us, who are lovers of arts, are impressed with what Adetunbi has done here. That is the reason I came to identify with him,” he stated.
But before then, Professor Soyinka took his audience through the deplorable state of the nation.
Reflecting on Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth, which came after several years of suspended writing, he stated that the period of “neglect” was not deliberate. “It took so many years to happen but that is the process,” he added.
Are Nigerians really the happiest people on earth?
Soyinka explained that the book’s title, though ironical, has elements of truth. He stated that while Nigerians are confronted on all sides with socio-political and economic challenges, the most times, choose to act to manifest happiness whenever opportunity for celebration comes.
On the medium of expression, he said: “I never pretended to be a novelist. I have always been a theatre person, a poet. This is not my type, it is other people’s type” He, however, noted that it is the phenomenon that usually dictates the medium of expression. “It is an irony but in some ways, spoonful of truth.”
Considering the present state of the nation, Soyinka described himself as a prophet that missed his callings.
He went on to blame the nation’s woes on extremism, fundamentalism and bigotry. He also identified religion without spirituality as one of the problems of Nigeria and accused religious leaders of contributing in bringing Nigeria to its knees.
Still on the security situations, Soyinka said he does not believe that unity is attainable in Nigeria under current systemic failure.
Responding to a question from Senator Rochas Okorocha if he could write a Nigerian story that will evoke patriotism and inspire unity among the various tribes in the country, the playwright stated that no amount of narrative will be able to unite the people of Nigeria without restitution and justice.
He explained that those in the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps, who had lost relatives and loved ones to extreme violence, will find it difficult to embrace any story on unity except they got justice.
He said, Nigeria has lost a key opportunity to unite; adding that he does not believe the present government can unite Nigerian state from the systemic failure it has suffered.
“We had a critical moment and we lost that moment. The moment when this country could have come together; having the sense of oneness and belonging – we lost that moment, that vision of oneness.
“There have been more than one moment and we lost the moments. Will another one come? I don’t know. Right now I don’t see it under this government, quite frankly.
“There is a failure, a systemic failure in present governance and I don’t know who can put it together. These days, I try to go some days without reading the newspapers. It is so depressing,” he said.
However, in spite of its challenges, Soyinka said he personally believes that Nigeria should not break up but remain one entity. Yet, he considered it wrong for the government to continue saying that the country’s unity was non-negotiable.
For Senator Biodun Olujimi, the gallery is a beautiful place. To her, having Professor Soyinka reading from a visual art gallery was all about knowledge and intellectually.
She noted that listening to the playwright gives wisdom, especially on all that he said about the country and the indivisibility of it.
“For once, I heard someone said something out of the ordinary. He said that all the protocols that were breached over the years and what people are agitating are situations we can sit down again and talk about.”
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