Today, the African literary giant and Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka adds another year to his awesome reign on earth. Below are seven beautiful facts we discovered about him, which you might not be aware of.
– He has been married three times and divorced twice
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.
He has been married to his third and current wife, Adefolake Soyinka since 1989 and has three children with her. Adefolake is a former student of Soyinka.
– He lost the Oxford Professor of Poetry
Soyinka lost the race to be Oxford’s Professor of poetry to English poet, playwright and novelist, Simon Armitage after he was betrayed by Melvyn Bragg. What the Nobel Laureate missed out on is the second most prestigious poetry position in the UK.
– He fled Nigeria on a motorcycle hounded by Abacha
During the military reign of General Sani Abacha, Wole Soyinka who spoke out against the junta had to flee via the ‘NADECO’ route. Wole Soyinka fled on a motorcycle to preserve his life. General Abacha pronounced a death sentence on him “in absentia”. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, Soyinka returned to the nation.
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 favour 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.
– He wrote poems on tissue paper while in prison
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.
– He was a Professor at Obafemi Awolowo University
From 1975 to 1999, he was a Professor of Comparative Literature at the Obafemi Awolowo University then called the University of Ife. With civilian rule restored to Nigeria in 1999, he was made Professor emeritus. Soyinka has been a Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
– He has been named Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
This is a Nigerian honor first established in 1964 people who served and benefited Nigeria. Soyinka was awarded in 1986, the same year he won the Nobel Prize for Literature. The medal was awarded in 1986 by General Ibrahim Babangida, a former military ruler.
On Sunday, July 24, 1994, he threw away his ‘national merit’ medal in Tafawa Balewa Square. He got angry that police halted the march he led for the restoration of democracy, end to military rule and release of Chief MKO Abiola.
– He is not religious although his father was an Anglican minister
His father, Samuel Ayodele Soyinka (whom he called S.A. or “Essay”) was an Anglican minister and headmaster of St. Peters School in Abẹokuta. His mother, Grace Eniola Soyinka, owned a market shop, was active in the women’s movement in her community and also was a practicing Anglican. Soyinka, on the other hand, is an atheist. His beliefs contributed greatly to his writing.