Mark, Amosun, Oshiomhole, others hail Soyinka at 80
Governors, lawmakers, scholars, critics and other frontline Nigerians yesterday poured encomiums on Nobel Laureate Prof Wole Soyinka on his 80th birthday.
They noted that Soyinka has been one of the most outstanding contributors to Nigeria’s educational growth, knowledge and global Literature.
Senate President David Mark said Soyinka is a rare breed of the writer and intellectual.
In a statement yesterday in Abuja by his Chief Press Secretary, Paul Mumeh, the Senate President said Soyinka has been touching lives and shaping the future of younger generations.
He said Soyinka brought pride and honour to Nigeria when he won the Nobel Laureate Prize in 1986.
Mark said: “Prof Soyinka is a pride to Africa. His kinds are few. We cannot appreciate him enough. His intellectual prowess is equal to none. Many successful Nigerians passed through him. Many more would profit from his fountain of knowledge and wisdom.
“As the erudite Professor marks his birthday, I pray and wish him good health, peace and abundant wisdom to continue to contribute to the development of Nigeria.”
He said the Senate and the National Assembly congratulated “this son of Africa and a true citizen of the world on this special occasion of his birthday”.
Ogun State Governor Ibikunle Amosun said Soyinka is an international and intellectual icon for his globally – acknowledged literary accomplishments.
The governor rued the absence of role models for the youth, adding that this does not augur well for the country and its future leaders.
He said this was the reason his administration was always celebrating good things about Ogun State.
According to him, this is to encourage the younger generation to emulate or learn good lessons.
Amosun spoke yesterday at the June 12 Cultural Centre in Abeokuta, the state capital, at a Wole Soyinka project to mark the literary icon’s 80th birthday.
The ceremony featured a spelling competition, a debate and reading contests among selected secondary school pupils.
The governor, who was represented by his Special Assistant on Media(Print), Mr Sola Balogun, urged youths to aspire to international intellectual figures, like Soyinka, who he said attained his global status through literary works.
Amosun said: “The nice things about Ogun State we are bringing forward so that the younger ones can learn something positive from them. Our youths can challenge themselves to be like Wole Soyinka, who was once a youth.
“You can study to be an international figure. The problem we have now is that we are becoming more and more bereft of quality role models for the youths. But all hope is not lost for Nigeria. We can still pick good role models for ourselves, and in the interest of the family, state and the country.”
Also, former Ogun State Governor Gbenga Daniel described Soyinka as a “rare breed and one of the greatest writers” that has ever lived.
In a congratulatory message, Daniel noted that Soyinka’s literary prowess and advocacy of native culture, humane social order and critiques of repressive military governments stood him out among his contemporaries as a fiery fighter and legendary statesman.
In the statement by his media aide, Mr Ayo Giwa, the former governor said: “Without any doubt, Prof Soyinka’s outspoken criticisms, which earned him extra-judicial arrests and imprisonment, shaped the political history of modern Nigeria in no small measure. They make his comments on national and international issues reference points at different fora.
“The award as a Nobel Laureate in 1986 further cemented his invincibility in his chosen career… No doubt, the ‘Kongi’ has etched his footprints in the sands of time.
“At 80, we cannot but celebrate this fierce fighter and legendary peacemaker whose patriotic ideals have earned a permanent place at national and international Halls of Fame.
“As one of the most celebrated sons of Ogun State, Nigeria and Africa, I share in the joy of the landmark celebration as Ogun State Government did on the occasions of the 70th and 75th birthday anniversaries. I wish the literary giant a very warm birthday and pray for his robust health in years ahead for more colourful years of irreplaceable memories.”
Rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi said Soyinka’s life and work are sources of inspiration to many.
The governor described the Nobel laureate as an innovative “social change agent” who is constantly seeking a better society for Nigeria, especially through his writing.
“Soyinka’s writings have been a source of inspiration to me. Through original insight and personal convictions, he has been driven by his regard for a fresh society that would subscribe to equity, justice and freedom. We hope to continue to draw for a long time to come from his example,” Amaechi said.
Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole said Soyinka remained a source of inspiration and pillar of support.
In a congratulatory message yesterday to the renowned writer, Oshiomhole said: “Over the years, whereas many to whom our nation has given so much often conduct themselves in a manner that undermines national unity. But, Soyinka, who has brought global glory to Nigeria, has done more to cement our nationhood without demanding much. You have not only written volumes seeking to cement our nationhood, but at some point even had to endure 20-month solitary confinement to keep Nigeria one.
“As a global statesman today, your greatness lies not only in your extra-ordinary literary talent and creativity but also the tireless energy you always exert in the pursuit of your convictions.
“For you, art is nothing if not deployed as a weapon to extend the frontiers of liberty and elevate the human civilisation. From your classic, titled: The Man Died, we draw timeless inspiration never to be afraid of telling truth to power. That it is more honourable to die fighting on our feet than on our knees before the oppressors.
“As a hardcore labour man myself with the privilege of leading the Nigerian workers’ movement as a two-term president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), I attest that you are a true comrade at the barricade in the true sense of the word.
“In the popular resistance of military dictatorships in the 1990s, you joined us on countless occasions on the street to fight for freedom. Even when the ‘Praetorian Guard’ drove you into exile and sentenced you to death in absentia, you never failed to connect with those of us left at the barricade at home to deepen the struggle for liberation.
“With the return of democracy in 1999, age would still not deter you from joining us in street marches against government’s anti-people policies, even in the face of the ambush of armoured tanks.
“For us, the government and good people of Edo State, you have remained a source of inspiration and pillar of support, in our determined effort to liberate our people from the shackles of political oppression by a few political ‘godfathers’ and expand, in a meaningful way, the frontiers of good governance, democracy and development.”
Acclaimed poet Prof Niyi Osundare said Soyinka’s contribution to Literature is groundbreaking.
He noted that the globally renowned writer is “epochal and phenomenal” in his writing.
Osofisan described Soyinka as “an outstanding personality”, adding that words are not enough for a tribute to the literary giant.
According to him, Soyinka is an inspiration to younger generations of writers.
He said: “One significant contribution, however, is his creation of what I will describe as a ‘condition of plausibility’ for the existence of an authentic African drama in the English language. After him, all of us became empowered, and credible.”
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