Unarguably one of the greatest Playwrights in Africa, Wole Soyinka, turns 81 today and this generation is certainly lucky to have one of the biggest influences in Nigeria’s modern history, alive.
Wole Soyinka is being celebrated and here are twenty interesting facts you may not have known about him before now.
1. The Writer wrote one of his greatest works, “Death And The King’s Horseman” within a week.
2. Wole Soyinka is maternal cousins with the late great Fela Kuti; his mother Grace Eniola Soyinka nee Ransome Kuti was Fela’s father’s sister.
3. Wole Soyinka considers himself a “lazy writer”.
4.Wole Soyinka secretly and unofficially met with then Military Governor of Eastern region, Odumegwu Ojukwu, to avert the civil war he saw coming but the war still happened.
5. Wole Soyinka was arrested by the Gowon administration and put in solitary confinement during the civil war, he was denied writing materials, yet he wrote one of his best works, “The Man Died: Prison Notes” while in prison. Wole Soyinka reportedly wrote on tissue paper.
6. Wole Soyinka had his first child before he married the mother of his child, British writer Barbara Dixon (y’all can free Davido and the rest now).
7. Wole Soyinka revealed in an interview that he has “lost his Christian faith and has a good relationship with all the various religions”.
8. Wole Soyinka is particularly fascinated by the traditional religion, especially the worship of Ogun and he loves the Yoruba mythology which he has compared with the Greek mythology and which he says inspires a lot of his works.
9. At some point in his life, Wole Soyinka tried his hands on Journalism when he went in for a Daily Times interview, Soyinka was failed in the interview.
10. Wole Soyinka has been married thrice and divorced twice.
11. Soyinka and six others founded the Pyrates Confraternity, the first confraternity in Nigeria. Pyrates was founded to be an anti-corruption and justice seeking organization.
12. Soyinka has revealed that the 1986 Nobel Laureate prize he won, came as a shock to him.
13. Wole Soyinka’s first involvement with politics came through his mother Grace Eniola Soyinka, and Aunt, Funmilayo Rasonme Kuti when he participated with them during a protest against heavy taxation.
14. Soyinka has called the civil war, “politically incorrect” even though the series of events that led to it were, “morally unjust”.
15. Wole Soyinka has revealed that he knows late Dictator Sanni Abacha “would have died a happy man” if he killed someone like him.
16. Soyinka switched the tape of Premiere of then Western region, Ladoke Akintola, before a major announcement, with the new tape ordering the premiere to “Get Out”. Soyinka had to go into hiding after this.
17. Soyinka had to escape Nigeria through a motorbike during the Abacha regime.
18. Soyinka has been on self imposed exile at least twice during the Nigerian military rule.
19. Soyinka’s best friend is the late Femi Johnson, who has been described as one of Africa’s finest insurance broking practitioners. Femi Johnson a wealthy insurance broker, was one of the people who came to Soyinka’s aid to hide him or give him financial support many times he got into trouble.
20. Femi Johnson 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.
Bonus: Wole Soyinka dedicated his poem, “Elegy To A Nation” to great Novelist, Chinua Achebe when he was 70.