Africa Is Indebted To Soyinka’s Generation-Pres

President Mahama together with President Paul  Kagame, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Emeka Anyawoko observing the National Athem at the ceremony. Photo Vincent Dzatse

President Mahama together with President Paul Kagame, Prof. Wole Soyinka and Emeka Anyawoko observing the National Athem at the ceremony. Photo Vincent Dzatse

President John Mahama has paid glowing tribute to African literary icon, Wole Soyinka, for projecting African culture and arts to the rest of the world, through his writings in the period following de-colonisation.

He said “Professor Soyinka and the writers of his generation, not only revised and debunked the stereotypes of the inferiority of the black man, but also cautioned Africans that in trying to right the wrong picture of the continent, they should not be zealots”.    

President Mahama was speaking at the launch of a book titled, ‘Crucible of the ages: Essays in honour of Wole Soyinka at 80,” at the State Banquet Hall in Accra on Tuesday.

The book, a compilation of literature from the 1960s by Professor Soyinka and his generation, was co-edited by Ivor Agyemang Duah, Development Policy Advisor of the Lumina Foundation, and Dr. Ogochukwu Promise, Chief Executive of the foundation.

The function was attended by President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, who launched the book, former President John Agyekum Kufuor, ministers and former ministers of state, state governors from Nigeria, poets, pan-African writers and diplomats.

President Mahama intimated that the writings of Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize in Literature, “registered on the minds of those of us growing up in the immediate post-independence era,” acknowledging that, indeed, his own modest contribution to literature, ‘My first coup d’état? was inspired by the literature greats of Soyinka’s generation.

“When last year, Ivor Agyemang Duah extended the invitation to me to contribute a chapter to this book, from the perspective of a third generation African leadership, I became more aware of the influence of Soyinka’s generation on ours,” he added.

“For those of us who transitioned from reading mainly European and American literature in school to reading stories in the African setting, we cannot under-estimate what the literary arts did for the good image of Africa.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to these creative minds,” President Mahama said, noting that the continent had suffered from slavery, colonialism, military dictatorship and many contemporary challenges that needed to be overcome.

He observed, however, that the novels, poetry and plays of the Soyinka generation gave Africans greater confidence in their heritage and society.

President Mahama noted that under the oppression of unconstitutional rule, many writers of the Soyinka generation had to endure self-imposed exile or imprisonment, but observed that Professor Soyinka had always spoken his mind without fear or favour.

The book, he said, would help to define for future Soyinka readers his craft, intellectual prowess, genuine patriotism and love for Africa.

Performing the launch, President Kagame delved into the writings of Soyinka about the transformation of Rwandan society years after the genocide, and lauded his outspokenness.

He also commended the Ghana Battalion which helped in keeping the peace in that country at the height of the conflict in 1994, singling out the bravado of Ghanaian General Henry Anyidoho and his lieutenants, who stood their ground even at the peril of their lives.

President Kagame stressed the importance of stable governance institutions and systems in Africa, aside the need for a leadership of transparency and accountability.

In his remarks, Professor Soyinka used the platform to lambast the activities of the Islamist militant group-Boko Haram-which had unleashed terror on many innocent Nigerians under the pretext of promoting Islam.

In an apparent criticism of President Goodluck Jonathan’s approach to tackling the threat posed by Boko Haram, Professor Soyinka, noted for his outspokenness, averred: “You call for dialogue and you don’t even start the dialogue; you call for appeasement and you don’t even adopt an appeasement tactics.

“We are threatened at this moment; our occupation, our literature is threatened…We have a situation where our consumers and our audience sent to school are kidnapped,” he said, in reference to the 200 abducted girls from the town of Chibok.

“The tentacles of that kind of anti-humanism have already spread to other parts of the nation,” said Professor Soyinka, adding, “As writers, our business is humanity, especially when they are threatened. And when their dignity is assaulted, our dignity too is affected.”  By Samuel Nuamah












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