Scholars of Soyinka Generation Never Misled Africa


Prof Wole Soyinka

Somalilandsun- In response to a piece published by the nation describing  How Soyinka’s generation of intellectuals misled AfricaAlexander Opicho responds with SCHOLARS OF SOYINKA GENERATION NEVER MISLED AFRICA

I enjoyed reading Tee Ngugi’s articlepublished in the Saturday Nation of 11th November 2016.Tee, the author had fiercely Condemned the African scholars in the generation of Wole Soyinka for having misled the continent of Africa through their irrelevant works of literature. Tee was reacting to the Wolexit, a public declaration by Wole Soyinka that he would destroy his green card permission for staying in America and exit or move out of America if at all Donald Trump was to win elections for the presidential position. Tee, looked at this as a shirty and thoughtless act that does not help Africa in way of intellectual leadership. Tee was partially right,the Wolexit was supposed to have been perfected ten or even twenty years ago, however, scholars of Soyinka generation did not mislead Africa. Instead the literary movement of the Soyinka generation inspired Africa into the right intellectual and cultural direction.

Tee used Okot P’ Bitek’s Song of Lawino as an example of books that only misled Africa by only perpetrating out-dated and archaic culture. The point which he did not exhaust, still he could end up wrongly had he exhausted.The fact is that no African writer of Soyinka generation can be pointed out as a literary sham or a conceited intellectual misleading the continent of Africa. Tee’s example of Song of Lawino was just a literary subtlety. The mind and style of writing in the Song of Lawino was expected of any conscious writer from a post-colonial world. Okot P’ Bitek wrote more other formidable books apart from Song of Lawino. He wrote Song of Malaya to decry the cult of political assassination in Africa; this was his literary reaction to the death of Tom Mboya.P’ Bitek also criticized dictatorship and political buffoonery like that in the example of Id Amin Dada in the Song of asoldierP’ Bitek attacked crude African cultures like the oppressive dowry system among the Acholi in his White Teeth and then he cautioned and questioned the relevance of imperial religions like Islam and Christianity toAfrica in his collection of essays under the title Artist the Ruler, which also shares philosophical and intellectual themes with his other work of essays under the title African Cultural Revolution. In all of these works I have not seen where P’Bitek attempted to mislead Africa other than his palpable tireless efforts towards sensitizationof an African reader to self esteem, cultural dignity and intellectual well as ideological decolonization.

I at most encourage Tee to read Achebe’s two books; Troubles with Nigeria and The Education of a British Protected Child. Why these two books? Because these two books are written by a contemporary of Soyinka, and thus both Soyinka and Achebe are members of the generation which Tee has condemned as dis-educators of Africa.And also these are the simplest works of Achebe that one can read and easily understand. Like in the Troubles with NigeriaAchebe gave very practical solutions to Africa’s social problems like; political corruption , tribalism, injustice and the cult of mediocrity and other pertinent social challenges to Africa like what has to be the  nature of true patriotism. I don’t see where Achebe Misled Africa in these two books. Even when he was dealing with the Igbo question in the Troubles with Nigeria and the Biafra question in The Education of a British Protected Child, he remained intellectually objective to a standardthat conforms to technicalities of Nationalism as a fact of politics and statehood.

The Soyinka generation of writers was composed of men and women that attended The First International Literary and Cultural Conference at Makerere in 1962. Among them was Langston Hughes, Ngugi wa Thing’o, Achebe, Soyinga.Taban Lo Liyong, Ezekia Mphalele, Micere Mugo,Nadine Gordimer and very many others. They have all written in support of good governance in Africa, decolonizing the mind and sources of knowledge, linguistic freedom, ideology and liberation politics, gender and human dignity, religion and cultural dignity as well as very many other questions that affect social, technological and political spaces of Africa. For example,Langston Hughes remained so avuncular to African literature and politics of African nationalism through-out his life. He wrote against Slavery, racism, autoracism and colonial brutality. One easily affirms his service to Africa’s struggle andservice all those oppressed by forces of capital as employed by those suffering from colonial paranoia on reading his poem the Negro Mother.

I agree with Tee that when writing to be published by the Western publishers one is forced to write about cosmetic and extra-ordinary ideas in order to be accepted by the Publisher. This has been evidently seen in the position of the London based Nigerian writer Ben Okri’s attack on African writers as victims of memories of sorrow, pain, suffering and regret. These are the same economic forces that have made Binyavanga Wainaina to dwell on homosexuality in most of his writings not for anything else, but for the sake of winning the western audience.Unfortunaly,homosexuality and the social rights of the sexual minorities is not the most urgent or imperative question in Africa.

They are such non-issue themes in the current writings fromAfrica that make most of us to go back to the Soyinka generation of writers for serious literature. The Literature which had Soyinka and Ngugi to be detained, Alex La Guma and Mphalele to be banished from their countries, the literature that Made Okot P’ Bitek to be fired from the government job, the literature and revolutionary Intellect observed in the works of Abdalla Abdallatif, Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon, Leopold Sedar Senghor, Ali A. Mazrui, Samir Amir, Amilcar cabral and Julius Nyerere.The sensitive and pertinent literature like the one evinced in Soyinka’s Season of Anomie, a book which gave a clear diagnosis of Africa’s post-colonial  problem of political paralysis in the same measure as Ngugi wa Thiong’o has analyzed Africa’s cult of dictatorship among both the oppressor and the oppressed in the Wizard of the Crow without misleading  his continent of readers in any measure.


Alexander Opicho

(From, Lodwar, Kenya)