The literary icon whose full name is; Akinwande Oluwole “Wole” Babatunde Soyinka was awarded the 1986 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Here are 20 facts Naij Shared about him:
1. Cars Are Not Allowed in His Forest
One strange thing about Wole Soyinka’s house apart from being located in a forest in Abeokuta, Ogun state is that he does not allow cars past a certain point. There are clear signposts instructing all to park their cars and proceed on foot. Many people find it very strange at first, but the literary icon is intent on preserving the purity of his surroundings. Here is one of the signposts:
2. Wole Soyinka’s first son has a black belt in Karate
Wole Soyinka’s first son, Olaokun Soyinka is the former commissioner of health of Ogun state, Nigeria. He has a black belt in Karate and is the result of the marriage between Soyinka and his first wife British multicultural educationist, Barbara Dixon. He is also a practicing medical doctor.
3. Wole Soyinka has been married to three wives
Soyinka has been married three times and divorced twice. He has children from his three marriages. His first marriage was in 1958 to the late British writer, Barbara Dixon, whom he met at the University of Leeds in the 1950s. Barbara was the mother of his first son, Olaokun. His second marriage was in 1963 to Nigerian librarian Olaide Idowu, with whom he had three daughters, Moremi, Iyetade (deceased), Peyibomi, and a second son, Ilemakin. Soyinka married Folake Doherty in 1989, to whom he is currently married.
4. Wole Soyinka is in the Guiness Book of Records
Although many know he is a Nobel Laureate, many do not know he is the first African to win a Nobel Prize for Literature.
5. Wole Soyinka fled Nigeria on a motorcycle once
During the military reign of General Sani Abacha, Wole Soyinka who spoke out against the government had to flee via the ‘NADECO’ route. (According to Wikipedia; The National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) was formed on May 15, 1994 by a broad coalition of Nigerian democrats, who called on the military government of Sani Abacha to step down in favor of the winner of the June 12, 1993 election, M. K. O. Abiola. The members mostly came from the southwest of the country. They quickly became the symbol of mass resistance against military rule). Wole Soyinka fled on a motorcycle to preserve his life. General Abacha proclaimed a death sentence against him “in absentia”. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to his nation.
6. Wole Soyinka was once declared wanted in Nigeria
Wole Soyinka was once declared wanted in connection with the NBC blackout in October 1965. He seized the Western Nigeria Broadcasting Service studio and made a national broadcast demanding the cancellation of the rigged Western Nigeria Regional Elections. He was subsequently arrested.
7. Wole Soyinka wrote poetry on tissue paper
While behind bars despite being denied access to pens and paper, he improvised. Soyinka wrote poetry on tissue paper, which was published in a collection titled Poems from Prison. His experiences in prison are recounted in his 1972 book The Man Died: Prison Notes of Wole Soyinka.
8. Soyinka wrote a play in one week
One of his greatest plays ‘Death and the King’s Horseman’ was written in just one week. The play was based on a real incident that took place in Nigeria during British colonial rule: the horseman of an important chief was prevented from committing ritual suicide by the colonial authorities.
9. Femi Johnson assisted Wole Soyinka with money
Femi Johnson the son of Mobolaji Olufunso Johnson (born February 9, 1936) a retired Nigerian Army Brigadier and former military Governor of Lagos State from May 1967 to July 1975 gave Soyinka a cash to start building his house in Abeokuta after the latter suddenly realized he could not access his money in his bank account. Soyinka was left devastated after Femi passed.
10. Fela is Wole Soyinka’s Cousin
Wole Soyinka’s mother was one of the most prominent members of the influential Ransome-Kuti family: she was the daughter of Rev. Canon J. J. Ransome-Kuti, and sister to Olusegun Azariah Ransome-Kuti, Oludotun Ransome-Kuti and sister in-law to Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti. Among Soyinka’s cousins were the musician Fela Kuti, the human rights activist Beko Ransome-Kuti, politician Olikoye Ransome-Kuti and activist Yemisi Ransome-Kuti.
11. He Bought A Land Rover And Traveled Round Nigeria
With the Rockefeller grant, Soyinka bought a Land Rover, and he began travelling throughout the country as a researcher with the Department of English Language of the University College in Ibadan. In an essay of the time, he criticised Leopold Senghor‘s Négritude movement as a nostalgic and indiscriminate glorification of the black African past that ignores the potential benefits of modernisation. “A tiger doesn’t proclaim his tigritude,” he declared, “he pounces.” In Death and the King Horsemen he states: “The elephant trails no tethering-rope; that king is not yet crowned who will peg an elephant.”