Author of popular children’s book ‘Igho Goes to Farm’ and Head of Politics at The Guardian, Mr Anote Ajeluorou, has urged President Muhammadu Buhari and his Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to name the National Theatre in Lagos after black Africa’s Nobel laureate in literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka. He made the recommendation as part of activities marking the eminent poet, polemicist, activist, and playwright’s 86th birthday.
Ajeluorou said Soyinka’s pioneering contributions to the emerging theatre practice in the country placed him in a firm position to be so honoured. Although he lamented that Soyinka might not have done enough to spread the gospel of theatre infrastructural development across every nook and cranny in the county, he said the foremost artist’s singular prowess in fictional writing that saw him bringing world acclaim to the country and continent as first black Africas Nobel Prize winner in 1986 earned him the deserved honour of the theatre edifice being named after him.
The children’s author also said such honour done to an icon of the humanities would provide added impetus to younger writers to strive for more excellence as ambassadors of the pen profession. He also lamented that the noble and humanistic virtues and values that Soyinka stands for – in terms of his writing to change society, his activism and sundry crusaders to make Nigeria a better place – were daily being eroded because the Nigerian society is yet to tap into Soyinka and other eminent writers’ social vision.
According to him, “Nigeria is where it is today stagnating because the noble visions of founding humanists like Soyinka, JP Clark, Chinua Achebe, Christopher Okigbo, and Buchi Emecheta have not been mainstreamed into social consciousness. Strangely, these men and woman of noble and compelling vision still occupy the periphery of society. He also lamented that their legacies were yet to be properly appropriated to build a better Nigerian society. Elsewhere, these men and women would be the very standards by which society is modelled. Sadly, the Nigerian political construct is not wired that way, but in ways that leaves much to be desired. Does anyone wonder why the country has continued to drift?
“But it is not too late to retrace our steps and redeem the past, reorganise the present, and reshape the future. That may have begun with the transfer of the National Theatre to private concerns, led by the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Bankers’ Committee, to develop the theatre and run it profitably. Similar culrural edifices can be built and named after our literary, iconic ancestors like Achebe and Okigbo and Emecheta to immortalise them and be handed over to private hands to run as well. Clark, too, deserves such honour even while he is still alive. The University of Lagos has done him similar honour. But a national one is well-deserved and long overdue.
“The sole motivation for such honour is to inspire society to a higher ideal as the lives of these men have exemplified. In any case, in which area of human endeavour has more honour and accolade come to Nigeria than in the area of creative and joirnalistic writing? Nigerian writers have won all known global honours available in writing, from fiction to journalism – Nobel, Booker, Orange, Caine, Pulitzer. So dedicating national edifices to some of them, especially pioneer and trailblazers like Soyinka, Achebe, Clark, Okigbo, and Emecheta is even tokenism, to say the least. Soyinka and his tribe of writers have done more for fatherland than has been acknowledged and that they have been accorded. While others undermine the country and tarnish its image, our heroic men of letters are bringing glory. Now is time for playback that is well-deserved.”