Soyinka declined many requests to host his 80th birthday, says Amaechi
rivers State Governor Rotimi Amaechi has said many people applied to host the Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, on his 80th birthday but he refused.
The governor hailed the literary icon for accepting to be hosted by the state government.
He described Soyinka as a global achiever, who has been consistent in the literary world.
Amaechi said the Nobel laureate has also brought honour to Nigeria, despite the nation’s political travails.
The governor added that Soyinka’s achievements in and contributions to literature are globally acknowledged.
Amaechi, who is also the Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), spoke on Wednesday night in Port Harcourt, the state capital, at a dinner in honour of Soyinka on his 80th birthday.
The dinner was attended by Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi, friends and associates of the Nobel laureate, as well as many eminent persons.
Amaechi said: “I was quite elated when you accepted to allow us to host you to an 80th birthday dinner. I know how many persons applied to host you. I know how many people you also refused.
“I need to thank you for accepting the invitation by the Rivers State Government to host you to a dinner. The reason for this is basically the achievements that you have made globally, not just in Nigeria.
“You have, in the midst of our so many bad news, brought a good name to Nigeria. I will give you an example, like those days when Nigerians were very good in football. Wherever we went, we would say: ‘I’m from Nigeria. I’m related to Okocha or to Kanu’. That’s because the only good news then was just the football we played. But as things are, the football has joined so many negative things too, because we are not doing too well as we used to do. But you have remained consistent in the literary world.
“The good thing about your achievement is that it has to do with hard work. If you do not read, you won’t be a good writer. Nobody can tell you that once you wake up, you become a good writer. Reading begets writing and you must understand what you are writing about.”
Fayemi hailed Soyinka for standing out among distinguished writers in the world.
The governor described him as one of the world’s literary amazons.
He recalled that the Nobel laureate fought hard for the liberation of Nigeria from the Sani Abacha junta. Soyinka was once incarcerated for his activism against a “hostile” government.
Fayemi said Soyinka’s sense of justice, fair play, dignity for the human person and faith in good governance are among the attributes that distinguish him, besides his writing prowess, across the world.
The governor noted that those attributes endeared the Nobel laureate to Nigerians, who would always recall his active role in setting up Radio Kudirat to fight the Abacha junta.
He said Nigeria needs the experience and wealth of knowledge of the literary giant to get out of its troubled waters.
Fayemi also hailed Amaechi for organising the birthday dinner for Soyinka.
The Nobel laureate thanked Amaechi for the honour.
He told the distinguished guests that his health was energised by a good eating habit, including eating pepper and grape.
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