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Wole Soyinka Celebrates His 86th Birthday Today

Born Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka on the 13th July, 1934 into a Yoruba family—Remo—in the city of Abeokuta, Ogun State. He is a playwright, poet, essayist and an activist.

Uncommon Facts about him:

1. Although W.S was a chorister born into a Christian devoted home of an Anglican Minister and head master of a missionary school, he is today a devoted Ogun deity worshipper. This is contrary to the popular belief that he is an atheist. His writings, memoirs, interviews and indulgence has proved him to believe so much in the Yoruba tradition and Ogun deity. His book, Idanre was dedicated to Ogun deity. Every year he sacrifices a ram for his family—or, to be specific, for his children.

2. Opting for infantry in the Officer training corps, he was called up by Her Royal Majesty to fight in the Suez war of 1956. In his attempt to decline and avoid being court martialed, he feigned to speak only Yoruba and no knowledge of English language which was the language of recitation of oath to Her Majesty . He would later escape the camp and was saved from being court martialed after stating he was a second class citizen and not from Lagos which were colonial subjects. He also trained for the war in Hungary but dropped out on the order of his father.

3. He once held a radio station hostage with the aid of a gun. He ordered the tape of the premier’s election speech be removed and replaced with his own pre-recorded speech.

4. He once hid in the office and under a massive oak desk in Chief Awolowo’s office while Awolowo himself was imprisoned. He would later narrate the incident to Chief Awolowo years later.

5. He has been hosted by famous African leaders like Nelson Mandela, Thabo Mbeki, a younger Cyril Ramaphosa and so many other famous world presidents.

6. W.S travelled to Biafra where he held a meeting with Odumegwu Ojukwu and then with Victor banjo and Philip Alale. The latter two were soon executed by Ojukwu. It was from Victor Banjo that Soyinka first ever heard the name Olusegun Obasanjo.

7. W.S met Olusegun Obasanjo for the first time at a filling station in the middle of the night in Ibadan. He was to deliver a message from Biafra’s Victor Banjo.

8. Obasanjo had a gun under his garment which was a breach of the pre-arranged agreement. Obasanjo simply responded he is a soldier and shouldn’t be caught by surprise. Banjo’s message through Soyinka was to tell Obasanjo to allow unhindered passage of the Biafran soldiers to Lagos to seize power.

9. Ibrahim Babangida, as a military president, had twice paid him visits in his home. 10. Babangida also conferred on him the title of the order of Niger —CON honour. Although Soyinka was initially going to decline this honour except Babangida could prove his innocence in the assassination of Dele Giwa. Babangida, in his office asked Soyinka if he also believed the conspiracy about his involvement. No writer should ever look for prizes but, if one falls into your lap, grab it.

11. He is the founder of the FRSC (road safety corps) more especially due to the frequent accidents along the Ibadan-Ife road. He described the road as a slaughter slab, since he habitually scooped up his student’s brains after filling them with knowledge.

12. Babangida also confided in Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and J.P Clark to halt the trial of Mamman Vatsa. The trio were in a frenzy when the news Vatsa’s prompt execution broke out.

13. W.S was with IBB hours before a failed coup which almost claimed the de facto president’s life and was also present with IBB hours after the coup.

14. He is one of the few Nigerians alive who have ever set their eyes on the real Ori-Olokun after going on a failed mission to steal back the plaque with the approval of General Olusegun Obasanjo. The original bronze made Ori-Olokun was later found in a Museum in England instead of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

15.He speaks French

16. He was planning to take a nap when he was announced as a Nobel Laurette in literature. He was rumored to most likely win the Nobel prize in literature in 1985 but his hope was dashed and he refused to take the rumour serious in 1986 until he was announced.

17. While attempting to flee from Abacha via a boat and then a bike with his family in a night, he spotted an SSS agent and he had his pistol ready to fire and intent to kill him incase he attempted to apprehend him. On his successful escape to Benin republic, he was face-to-face to a Yoruba masquerade but still relaxed. Daddy is indeed a confident god.

18. He has lectured in world class universities e.g Oxford, Havard, Yale...

Wole Soyinka Celebrates His 86th Birthday Today