Posts Tagged ‘WRITERS’


October 18, 2020


Professor Soyinka Writes a New Novel at 86

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By Kunle Ajibade

Wole Soyinka at 86 will publish a new novel titled ”Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth” in November this year. News of the novel has been circulating secretively since Soyinka submitted the typescript to his publishers–BookCraft in Ibadan and Random House in New York– in June this year. Those who are close to the 1986 Nobel Laureate in Literature were expecting a new collection of poems which was in its final stage of editing, only for Soyinka to spring a big surprise with a novel of 524 pages in 23 chapters. Bankole Olayebi, who has been Soyinka’s publisher in Africa since 2016 is very excited about the novel. BookCraft has been rising gracefully to the challenge of publishing and distributing Soyinka’s distinctive books. Indeed, over the years, it has published more than 15 titles by Soyinka most of which are reader-friendly in their layout and packaging.

In his long and very productive career, Wole Soyinka has written many award-winning plays, highly lyrical poems, songs, political and cultural essays, five riveting memoirs, three full length satirical films, and only two high brow novels—”The Interpreters”(published in 1965 by Andre Deutch) and ”Season of Anomy”(published in 1973 by Rex Collings). ”Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth” will be his third published novel.

According to Bankole Olayebi: ”Wole Soyinka proves with this novel that he has lost none of his story-telling chops! A narrative tour de force, this novel has got everything— friendship and betrayal; faith and treachery; hope and cynicism; murder; mayhem and no shortage of of drama, all set against the backdrop of contemporary Nigeria. As you would expect from a Soyinka’s work, it’s got plenty of colourful characters, profound insights, witty commentary, and the most elegant language! In Soyinka’s expert hands, the apparently disparate strands are woven together with a master story teller’s aplomb. ”Chronicles of the Happiest People on Earth” is a great and unputdownable read from start to finish.”

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Professor Wole Soyinka

Here are short excerpts from the novel:

Let this cup pass….

It had been a long siege, aided by many of whom the hostage himself had scant or no knowledge but, finally, yes indeed, it was sweet victory to be savoured by the long embattled spouse, Mrs Jaiyesola Badetona. This was the icing on the cake of victory that had already been celebrated in multiple events, all framed devotionally – even down to the sumptuous feasting and souvenirs, grateful offerings by a spouse for a most unexpected upturn in the career of her life partner. That hitherto intransigent spouse, scion of a royal house, had eventually succumbed to her entreaties – and not even grudgingly. On the appointed day, he would observe every schooled detail of his ransom, and with precision. He consented to visit the Apostle, Papa Davina for a spiritual consultation. Prince Badetona’s elevation, on his own estimation, had been no less than seismic. Thus he had not hesitated to slaughter the fatted cow – he did pride himself after all as a traditionalist, nothing to do with being a scion of a royal house – so, sacrifice was expected, and he was not averse to spreading the fat among friends, colleagues and well-wishers. In any case, he could not fail to have been infected by years of association with the Master Party Soul of his close circle – Duyole Pitan-Payne, engineer and acknowledged leader of their eccentric Gong of Four – but that blithe spirit was in a class all of his own. The prince even conceded a Thanksgiving service – it rid the home of a lingering tension between husband and wife. That feeling of domestic persecution however was product of a series of mishaps, strange happenings over and beyond the elastic limits of coincidence, and of such persistence that even he began to lose confidence and permit chinks in his cynic’s carapace.

To make matters worse, such untoward incidents had followed the good news almost like a structured cause-and-effect, commencing so close to his career elevation that he did begin to wonder if there was not indeed a maleficent linkage. Good luck attracting bad, either through some quirky law of Nature’s balance, call it karma, ying-yang or whatever, or simply – as promptly concluded by his wife and extended family – enemy action! Have you sought divine intercession? At the beginning, he lived up to his name – The Scoffer. He preferred to knuckle down to preparations for the assignment at hand and his new status in life.

Money he was prepared to spend for celebrations but balked at the idea of submitting himself to divine busybodies in his earthly failures, successes, both, or absence of any. After all, he had succeeded in keeping divinities at arms’ length throughout a humdrum career– in his view, more accurately described as – lack of spectacular recognition. He preferred it that way. It enabled him to indulge in his favourite hobby, which was simply – problem solving, especial of the statistical kind. He had been, and still remained a reticent mathematical genius. That had its compensations, its material perks. An internal auditor but – with unaudited earnings. He saw no reason to complain or jubilate. It was all – strictly business and, Badetona was genuinely possessed of a retiring temperament. Left to him, he would even have discarded his princely title but, that was now part of his existence, and it also had its advantages.

Jaiyesola however saw it differently. The position lacked public recognition. A prince without a throne – it would not be the turn of his royal line for another century. And then, despite the streak of genius that he had exhibited all the way from schooldays and into public service, in her own parlance – nothing to show for it. She looked at his close circle of associates, some of them members of the prestigious Motor Boat Club of Ikoyi, or the Lagos Island Indigenes Club, Freemasons and Rosicrucians, and felt that Badetona was short-changed in social entitlements. The title of Internal Auditor sounded in her ears like a life sentence in solitary confinement on a diet of garri and water. So she took her case to God, albeit without her husband’s knowledge. Who was to tell her that it was not a wife’s duty to boost her spouse to greater heights?

Then commenced a series of omens. Prayers answered, and in such generous helping, Badetona began to encounter a flurry of mishaps that moved, in her view, beyond mere coincidence. First, his customised computer crashed. That was unprecedented. Next, he stubbed his toe against a protruding table leg – the left toe! – it was one of those ultra- modernistic designs that catered more to sensation than sense. Was it a coincidence that she had terrible dreams that same night? It did not take too long afterwards before the newly appointed Chief Executive Director locked himself out of doors, having left his key wallet in the office. Jaiyeola had also traveled for her Christian pilgrimage, undertaken two weeks after her return from accompanying her Moslem friend to Saudi Arabia for the lesser Hajj – both were followers of the ministry of Papa Davina’s Ekumenika. His phone battery also chose that night to run down – ah yes, the long-distance call from Jaiye in Hebron, with a protracted argument on why she should not fill her suitcase with holy water from River Jordan where her spiritual journey had next directed her feet.

The Scoffer slept that night on the back seat of his SUV, locked in the garage. He had returned late from yet another party in his honour, and his mildly groggy condition – he was a moderate drinker – wasted no time in sending him off to sleep. Opening the garage door for some fresh air the following morning, he heard a scrabbling in the top jamb of the door. Before he could look up to investigate, a scaly creature dropped, landed on the balding middle patch of his head, its thin claws instantly trapped in the surrounding tufts of foliage. Bade’s first thought was – snake! Next, scorpion.

He leapt out under imminent heart failure, uncertain how to deal with what he could not see, collided with the housemaid who was just reporting for duty. She took to her heels screaming for help against the intruder before she realised who it was. The mystery squatter seized on the confusion to escape, thus finally identified for what it was – a lizard. The maid would later narrate ‘the scariest moment of my life’ to Mrs Badetona on her return from pilgrimage.

Confronted with her report, Bade roared with delight and added it to her list of portents. His last contribution, a mere week earlier, was the black cat he had found sitting on his car bonnet as he stepped out of the supermarket. He relished the rapidly changing registers on her face, especially when he went into details over the one-sided confrontation. The cat refused to budge even after he had started his car and begun to inch forward – my dear, that cat, I swear, kept staring at me through the windscreen as if to complain she had been looking forward to the ride. I had to stop and engage the security guard to help shove it off, so I could drive off.

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Wole Soyinka’s new novel

Were all these little more than an occult build-up towards the piece de resistance that was yet to come? That momentous day considerately awaited his wife’s return from pilgrimage, so that news reached her within minutes of the occurrence. In Badetona’s own words – this one shook me to my binary heels! While Jaiyeola rubbed her hands heavenwards on receiving the news, giving further thanks that she had indeed made that year’s pilgrimage a dual purpose voyage of devotion – Thanksgiving and Protection – the prince found himself compelled to admit that something appeared to have gone loose since his elevation. All the euphoria of advancement evaporated with the horror that unfolded at the bus stop along Ikorodu Road, just before the Maryland overpass. And he had been caught within that event only because he, recently moved from a humdrum desk to head a brand new glamorous parastatal, Chief Executive Director on the rare Level 17 etc. etc. – known nation-wide as the Super Permanent Secretary scale – had chosen to queue at that bus stop like any common worker, awaiting a ride to his housing estate. He could have phoned a taxi company or flagged down one of the ubiquitous keke napep, the Indian import tricycle taxi. He opted instead for the commuter.

Badetona, one of the most ‘live and let live’, self-adjusting humans one could hope to encounter in a field of reversals, felt tickled by the notion of himself, a prince and super-sec, doing a little slumming, mixing with local, yet distanced commuters whom he normally viewed through the tinted windows of his air-conditioned, albeit battered SUV. Never in his life could he have envisaged the consequence of that crackpot decision as he stood in line. For once, the hardened Scoffer was forced to revise his calculations on the law of probabilities.

Badetona followed a pragmatic mode of existence that left him very much attached to his ancient, creaky but still serviceable SUV. A mere two days after his wife’s return from Saudi – he lost that argument, her excess luggage bulged with outsize sachets of certified holy water from the River Jordan, plus other objects of veneration from the tourist arc of holy sites – his long-suffering vehicle broke down along Ikorodu Road just before the turn-off for Gbagada heading for Oworonsoki. It took the form of a multilayered, cracked china rattle that he had never heard before, as if a box of domestic discards was being sorted for a jumble sale.

He sighed, irritated that this should happen on a day when he happened to be at the wheel himself, having granted his driver a three day leave of absence to travel out to a village for the prelude ceremonies to a betrothal. His driver was taking a brand new wife. Bade manhandled the car into the slip road – fortunately traffic was light. The loafing area boys emerged from nowhere, as usual, to lend a hand. His mind turned, by long habit, to predicting how his wife would read this new interruption in routine and he smiled at the cleverness of a response that was already under formulation – well now, you’ve just returned from Jerusalem with a full bag of good luck pouches, talismans and reliquaries. You received predictions and prescriptions from the Senegalese marabout who scalped you and and your Moslem friend in Saudi for nearly half your shopping budget. How come there was no prediction of the impending crack-up of my vehicle engine. Definitely first round to him! And he was prepared for her retort – why should it take a marabout to repeat what I’ve been shouting all these years? Abandon that junk heap and get something befitting your position!

That was the moment he would deliver his coup de grace. Before she could enjoy the vindicated smirk of a long enduring wife, he would slam his hand on his thigh and silence her with his welcome surprise: ‘Quite right dear – let’s go. I was only awaiting your return to help me choose our new car. Ready? Too bad the new status vehicle decided not to wait. Worse, what followed totally wiped out any carefully rehearsed banter, witty repartees and silly teases, all ingredients to a married life that did not lack for genuine bonding and affection.

Bade truthfully regarded himself a lucky husband. It did not take long for an itinerant mechanic to appear – this tribe seemed to know just when disaster struck – or perhaps they operated a roving network, an urbanised bush telegraph. As always, they beat the state’s tow truck to the involuntary traffic obstruction.

A quick inspection, and the expert confirmed what he had already sensed – the engine was ‘knocked’, the affliction terminal. The private enterprise locally constructed tow truck was already in place, even before the professional verdict was delivered. Bade emptied the car of his brief-case and other contents, surrendered the car keys, crossed the road to the sleek bus stop, one of a series of implants whose sprouting had begun visibly to lift the body tone and morale of daily commuters. He took his place at the end of the queue, silently relishing his brief, voluntary demotion in social status.

His sigh exuded relief that this was the last week in his old office. He was in a relaxed, all-accommodative frame of mind when an event played out right in front of him, one that knocked out all mental rehearsals for a domestic playful interlude from the compulsive operations of his statistical mind. As he settled into position at the tail-end of that long queue, a man came up with a flattish object under his armpit, muttered an ‘Excuse me’ but also simultaneously shoved him aside. He whipped off the brown paper wrapping, and out flashed a machete. Badetona heard him utter a violent curse in some unfamiliar language, he heard a swish, and with that single stroke, lopped off the man’s head. The head fell against the reinforced plastic rain-guard that curved half-way from the roof of the bus shelter. It bounced off the ground, while the trunk sprayed him, as it fell, in a red, thick, viscous fluid, just like an errant lawn sprinkler. Ignoring the pandemonium that ensued, the assailant fastidiously wiped the machete on the clothing of the prostrate trunk, calmly restored it to its improvised paper scabbard.

A car drew up, again as if on a signal, the rear door flew open. In what some transfixed witnesses experienced as a coordinated slow and accelerated motion all at the same time – the vehicle swallowed the killer and zoomed off weaving sleekly through the Ikorodu road traffic, heading east towards the town of that name. A few moments for the prince to absorb what he had just witnessed and then, without further thought, he shook off his paralysis like the other commuters, took irrationally to his heels, stopping only when he had rounded the first corner and felt safe from the immediate rampage of indiscriminate head cropping which, all involuntary witnesses felt certain, would logically follow.

Such a blatant flash of lunacy did not seem destined to be a one-off act. Even those who had no idea what had happened did not wait to be enlightened – the screams carried their own unambiguous message – run! They galvanised even the slow-witted into one concerted response – follow the trail of panic wherever it led, with a few variations to throw off the contaminating scent of blood.

Badetona launched his limbs full stretch, heading for nowhere, everywhere, simply as far as his reasonably athletic legs could take him – he was an irregular weekend jogger, and never was the state sponsored jog-for-your-life campaign, and in accelerated tempo, more patriotically vindicated. He stopped only at the entry of the new supermarket just after Charley Boy’s domain, stopped to look back for only the second time that morning. Still unsure of what he should do, he ran inside, vaulted the exit turnstile and disappeared into a room whose half open door was marked: STAFF ONLY. He inhaled, exhaled, and inhaled to some inner dictated rhythm.

Safely ensconced in the safety of his home that evening, the event shared in all blood-soaked detail through a still shaky voice, wife and neighbours in attendance, the conclusion was inevitable, based on the unanswerable question: Why you? Ask yourself, why you? Of all the millions of people in Lagos, why you? Why did you have to be the one standing behind that victim, a total stranger! Normally you would be with your driver – how come you happen to be driving yourself today of all days? Why did you decide to take a bus when you could afford a taxi? What brought you there, at that very moment of his decapitation – you think it simply happened to happen? It was plain reading. The untoward had become too frequent of recent. All voices counseled a visit to the healing ministries – any one would do – but the clamour was near uniformly for – Apostle Davina.

When Jaiyeola summoned the maid to recount to sympathising visitors – for the tenth time at least – the lizard episode, all alternative or oppositional theories crumbled, the sequential logic was unanswerable. The garage lizard! It had landed on his princely head. A head had been cut off in front of him. Whose head did he think was primed to follow? No, no, no, did he have to be so literal? No one was suggesting it was a sign that he would also lose his head but, definitely, someone was after his, Bade’s head, in some form or the other. That was the message. If he failed to see that, to understand the generous warnings of Providence, it was pride, false pride, and what do they say goeth before a fall? Pride.

And who was the proud one? Answer: the stiff-necked Scoffer. If there had been an invasion of clan and long forgotten family branches after his promotion, news of his ‘narrow escape’ unleashed even more powerful waves of prayer counter-attacks. The palace sent a delegation, headed by a babalawo. Long forgotten relations who had recently surfaced to share in the bounty of service elevation returned in force, and they came with a supplementary canticle: it happened because you failed to see the divine intervention in your life! Worse still, how do you know there isn’t an even more glorious future ahead, one that however requires you to do this or that to consolidate your present preferment? There are deadlines in these matters. You miss the deadline and everything is reversed – it’s downward from then on. Only a few among the blessed few can pierce through the mystic veil and reveal all this to you.

If Badetona’s nerves had been shattered by the event itself, instigating nightmares that terrified his wife, then moved to infect her to a degree that even she began to have them in her own right, the swarms of intercessors soon completed the rout. Could there possibly be something in what they preached? Reconsiderations of allied experiences that he once instinctively waved off as comic incidents, began to nibble at the edges of cause-and-effect, or worse – chain reaction. And there was something else that even the wife did not know – the chickens were coming home to roost. Behind the calm, reassuring façade, Badetona was a much troubled man. Vague hints of storms ahead had accumulated lately, and these were not psychic storms. His pragmatic mind continued to string the seemingly mismatched pieces together – it all seemed extravagant, but he had begun to consider a grim possibility: the beheading – the time, the place, his presence, the victim – that none of these was an accident.

It mattered little from whichever direction it came, the prince admitted, he needed help. The saying among his people came to mind: that the man is first to see the snake but the woman who kills it – who cares, as long as the snake is killed! So, who was this man anyway? What powers did he exert to hold so many in thrall? No disaster, no exceptional event, no routine happening but he had ‘predicted’ it in his end-of-year prophesy – an annual ritual that laid out all divinely premeditated events destined for fulfillment during the year ahead. Whatever was not fulfilled had some rational explanation – including fulfillment itself, but not quite in the literal way the uninitiated could understand. Outside pressure could be shut out, ignored. When complemented by the silent protest and muffled sighs of a spouse across the breakfast, lunch or dinner table, it became a burden. Each long-suffering sigh spoke daggers of rebuke – there were malignant, diabolical forces at work, it was evident time for spiritual delivery. I know you have nothing against psychiatrists – so, why don’t you look at it as that kind of therapy? Every day, millions of your peers wake up across the world, look at their calendar to see when next they are due for a turn on the couch – even when they feel absolutely on top of the world. So, take the plunge. Treat the visit as merely marking a watershed in your career – anything wrong with that?

It all fitted in neatly, a statistical punctuation mark on the wobbly spreadsheet. Finally, the beleaguered man decided that he needed badly to be delivered from delivery. If that was guaranteed by a call on the devil in his lordly lair, maybe it was time he donned the cloak of veneration. He threw up his hands in surrender – all right dear, I shall go. The man intrigues me. Read: #EndSARS: How a woman’s campaign led to sack of top gov’t official »‘Chronicles of the Happiest People on EarthProfessor Wole SoyinkaLEAVE A COMMENTRelated Post

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February 25, 2017

Bayo Adebowale,the accomplished African Novelist and Poet will on Saturday,4th March 2017 be honoured with the prestigeous Chieftaincy title of ONIGEGE ARA OF IGBO-ELERIN by the Igbo-Elerin Council of Baales. This is a well-deserved honour coming from the Literary Icon’s kith and kin….
What a feat!
Congratulations, author of The Virgin, Out Of His Mind,Lonely Days, A New Life, Talent, African Melody, Oriki,Village Harvest, and A Night of Incantations!

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February 24, 2012

Book cover

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday, February 24, 2012


February 21, 2012


Tuesday 21 February, 2012 Updated 15:55


Cancer researchers can take our gratitude for granted, but the ones among them who deserve extra acknowledgement are the pioneers in the uphill, often thankless task of public awareness – which applies to virtually every form of public hazard, the most personal being of course – human health. Even today, the battle has not been won. There is something fatalistic in human nature, which is not a bad thing. To cling desperately to life, to be governed in every detail of one’s existence by an obsession with prolonging one’s life, can sometimes appear as ludicrous and undignified as the irresponsible conduct of thoughtlessly throwing it away.

When I look back on the entire career of anti-smoking campaigns for instance, the campaigners often strike me as the unsung heroes of the battle against cancer. Why, I sometimes ask myself, has the battle been so rocky? We may as well acknowledge the commercial aspect – and here, I begin with the tobacco industry whose products till now, appear to be the frontrunner among the various contenders for cancerous provocation. The history of tobacco extends backwards probably into pre-history, which means that, today, a formidable global industry, now calculated in mega-millions, has evolved over centuries, providing a livelihood for billions – from plantation to crummy retail kiosks and glitzy supermarkets with enticing humidors.

That is the Number One obstacle. I find myself however far more intrigued by the obstacle that comes from human nature itself – indeed this is of greater interest generally, since it speaks to the innate contradictions that characterize that very nature, called human. This, I’m afraid, also speaks to strategies of attempting to wean people out of a habit that is considered detrimental to their well- being, the choice of techniques for imparting a message, as the consumer world knows only too well. Avoid this, eat this, don’t eat this – often tailored to commercial exploitation, creating a new consumerist craving, especially in rabidly capitalist societies. This can turn one in extreme opposite direction.

When you keep screaming at me that something is not good for me, especially when this is tied to selling me an alternative – it ends up as resistance to what amounts to vested interests, or simply overkill, thus alienating the badgered individual. The very sight of anorexic women who look as if they are at the terminal stages of cancer, for instance, but are held up in some countries as the ideal of beauty can lead to a total rejection that manifests itself through gravitation towards the contrasting ideal of beauty – such as the voluptuous graduates of Calabar fattening houses, products of three square meals of pounded yam with edi kia’ikong, interspersed with starch and banga soup.

This psychology of human response to any kind of stimulus – which lies at the basis of aversion therapy – requires more careful study. Sometimes, the opposite of the expected result is what takes place, owing to a failure to factor in such psychological ambiguities. In other words, the wrong approach to get people not to smoke may actually drive them to smoke, and we are not speaking here only of juvenile mentality, that peer craving alone among youths, a desire to be accepted by a macho in-group that makes the fourteen, thirteen, even as young as seven-year old take to smoking in schools. Or indeed early adoption of a role model who looks ‘cool’ with a cigarette in the hand, perhaps a film star. That same mentality is also manifested in adults whose supposedly mature minds actually find the forbidden intensely attractive. It is all part of the psychological quirks that underline human nature. Our earliest recorded instance – just to remind you – is the case of Adam and Eve. Consider the conduct of those two adults, alleged primogenitors of humanity. The tempting serpent should be read as a metaphor – there was no actual serpent as such in the Garden of Eden – if ever such a garden itself did exist. The serpent merely symbolized the hidden desire.

Among such extreme advocacy you may count some truly weird methodologies of totalitarian prohibition – such as the case of cities which simply declare their entire spaces of human habitation and non-habitation smoke-free zones. My recollection is that is was some obscure village called Davis, in the state of California, US, which took the lead in that direction, and declared itself a totally smoke free town as far back as two score or more years ago. If you were caught smoking within the City Limits, including within the walls of your own home, you could be run out of town, frontier style, tarred and feathered, tied backwards to a horse with the Mayor and councilors escorting you to the nearest border while the citizens pelted you with hoots and rotten eggs. It had to be the United States, the land of extremes and the original home of prohibitionism.

Diseases. In relation to cancer, long time direct exposure can be associated with the processes that lead to changes in cells, especially of the lungs and upper respiratory tract that van result in cancer. Now do we see how and why it is possible for the smoker to sometimes develop a carefree, indeed fatalistic attitude towards smoking hazards? Half the urban population of Nigeria – at a modest estimate – survive on generators. The expression ‘using fire to fight’ fire comes to mind.

Tobacco at least gives off a seductive aroma, unlike the fumes from a generator. One can imagine the addicted smoker shrugging, ‘What the hell’, when I urge him to ‘Kick the Habit or Kick the Bucket’. Those in whose hands the affairs of this nation have been placed – military and civilian – especially during the past four decades that oversaw the complete collapse of our electricity supply system, deserve to be dragged to court and charged with gross negligence leading to homicide, involuntary manslaughter, conspiracy to murder and, at the very least – being accessories to silent genocide. Mind you, they have undoubtedly created a special class of the affluent – the generator millionaires – and so I expect that instead of prison sentences, they will only receive national honours. May I propose for them a special category: Meritorious Order of National Population Control.

As with the human body, there are indeed many forms of behavioural cancer. To begin on a universal scale, I would certain describe racism as such, with South African apartheid being a spectacularly malignant form that was just as spectacularly placed in remission by that remarkable medical team, led by Nelson Mandela. Next, if you regard the entire African continent as a political body, dictatorship definitely qualifies for such a diagnostic classification – cancerous. Africa was once described by an African-American legislator, in a moment of frustration, as a beautiful lady that had been gang-raped by a succession of sex maniacs. Admitted, that analogy is not inappropriate. However, I am more inclined to see the continent as a victim of serial cancerous attacks that acts true to type, leaping from one part of the body to the other. No sooner is it stabilized in the liver than it erupts in the spleen, next we hear of it ravaging the testes, next the lungs, only to find suspicious lumps appearing in the breasts. They turn out to be malignant tumours that, in recent times, required the mobilization of a relay of traditional healers from Egypt, Libya, Morocco etc to flush them out with shock therapy, massed incantations in the streets and town centres, sometimes accompanied, alas, by blood transfusion from septic surgeries. But the disease has lurked in the bone marrow for nearly half a century and all we have been engaged upon is curing this part or the other – Liberia one day, Nigeria the next – instead of embarking on that most painful, most elaborate and invasive of all cancer treatments – a complete marrow transplant. It is that procedure that makes the cancerous analogy so appropriate, since we are able to monitor the process of the healthy marrow fighting back, pushing out the diseased cells, until the entire continental body is, some day, declared totally cancer free.

Then there is, in my estimation the most notorious cancerous growth that can afflict a body – I leave you for now to guess what that might be. Different societies tackle the affliction in different ways – in the communist days of the Republic of China for instance, the ‘magic bullet’, taken literally, was the most favoured form of treatment. It made its way through the body and homed in on the malignant formation in one direct hit. Cancerous cells, we know, have learnt to lie low, then burst out with renewed vigour, capturing territory, attacking other organs and finally overwhelming the rest of the body. Even the sturdiest organs eventually succumb. This social affliction that is patterned on cancerous advance is one that this nation knows to its cost. It is not unique to the nation, but in our case, only one technical word fully captures its remorselessness: metastasis. By now of course, you have already discerned what that cancer is called: Corruption!

Regarding our mystery, slow but guaranteed Silent Killer, I do not know of any branch of medical science that is devoted to it. Perhaps a branch of psychiatry. Maybe we should just assign it to the theologians. Certainly there is a vacuum in assumption of responsibilities, since the state does not yet accept that combating this hidden scourge is a legitimate preoccupation, and this is perfectly understandable. You can budget – as we hope will happen – for the kind of initiative that has brought us here today – cancer of the body – but how do you justify budgeting for cancerous souls? It borders on the metaphysical, and yet its corrosive powers are quite palpable and may affect the very destiny of a people, of a nation, enfeebling both to a point of inability to function rationally or with dignity. With cigarette addiction, you can label cigarette packets, tax delinquent companies, impose huge fines on those who have been caught forging statistics on nicotine content of cigarettes. Slogans come easy: SMOKING IS BAD FOR YOUR HEALTH. PREGNANCY AND SMOKING DO NO GO TOGEHER. SMOKING KILLS. Or my own concoction – KICK THE HABIT OR KICK THE BUCKET, that last being under patent. If I see it on any anti-tobacco billboard, cigarette pack, television screen or whatever, I shall sue! You are all witnesses.

In this case however, how does one even begin to diagnose this particular form of cancer, every bit as lethal as the physiological disorder, much less address it openly, and yet it is here. It has been inseminated and it is proliferating. One feels it, reads it, smells it, one can almost touch it, so palpable is it in its effects. It is especially present in governance, and we know how readily this percolates down through the body politic which looks up to governance for leadership and direction. Its malignant cells are being injected into the blood stream of the nation.

Let me waste no more time on riddles, especially as I suspect I have proffered sufficient clues. You would be justified in thinking that my mind is on bigotry, especially of the religious kind. Fanaticism. Intolerance. Hatred of all but whatever is of your own conviction. Inability to see that there is more than one route to the uncovering of life’s mysteries, or partaking of the banquet of life, and that the regulation of differences, just as in the human body, is the key to functioning society. That first-line enemy is indeed Bigotry, but no, we have long by-passed Intolerance as a contagion in its own right, and are left with the consequence, which is even more efficacious in its ability to spread and paralyse a people’s will. That leaves only one candidate – the fallout from intolerance, especially of the fanatic, homicidal mind.

I am speaking therefore of – Fear. The very morbidity of Fear. Fear as the product of terror, Fear as the real permissive environment of the cancer of Intolerance. Fear as the enervating prelude to the deterioration and total collapse of the body politic. Fear as the determinant of social and political decisions. Fear as the governing factor even in the choice of life-styles. Fear as the regulating quotient in day to day calculations, bearing even upon the most mundane activities, personal and collective. Fear as the Silent Censor even in utterances, leading to lies, half-truths, outright deceptions, rationalisations, double-talk. Fear as the wages of injustice, leading to appeasement and humanity’s abject surrender.

I have dwelt on this theme before now, in my series of BBC Reith lectures, under the title of CLIMATE OF FEAR. Permit me to state clearly therefore that I distinguish between Fear and Caution. As the very title of my address indicates, I place the dogmatic mind and the fatalistic as two sides of the same cancerous coin, both deleterious impingements on rationality. To cower before a dogmatic, unproven prohibition is just as irrational as to act in defiance of its validity through a carefree, dismissive attitude. The former stems from fear, the latter from mere bluster, bravado, throwing caution to the winds. Neither truly reflects man in the plenum of his intelligence. In that same vein, I distinguish between the Strategies of Peace and the Rites of Appeasement. When a nation is under attack, it is the easier choice to diminish the rights of the innocent, the victims, and concentrate near exclusively on the Vaseline approach, the appeasement of killers, massaging the tumour of unconscionable, arrogant, boastful, homicidal menace, easy to forget that victims are entitled not only to protection but to compassion, collective indignation, and restitution. In these times we live in, the primacy of victims has been disproportionately, grossly, unconscionably deficient on the scales of equity, almost to the condescending level of tokenism, and the cause is the triumph of that cancerous growth silently infiltrating the cells of the body politic – Fear, and its main companion stalker – Impunity. It has manifested itself through a number of acts, impudent demands, and in the very demoralizing language of a number of official pronouncements. Fear can become a habit, an addiction, and the nation, as a vital entity, had better understand that, if it truly wishes to survive, it must also learn to kick the habit, or else – kick the bucket.

Doctors, surgeons, psycho-therapists, healers of varying traditions – all will agree that, under cancer, the body is a war zone. The body politic is no different, and this national body is pre-eminently so. But let there be no mistake – it is not terror that is the cancer, but Fear. Terror is mere pustule, a noisome excrescence. That it often results in human suffering does not change its real nature. And there I find myself at one with our wave theorist – we are indeed back to the territory of primordialism, since Fear is a product of Nature. It is indeed Nature itself, and the battle against Fear is equivalent to taking on Nature as adversary. Now, Nature – that, as adversary, is truly worthy of our respect, not Noisy Killers, and the noxiousw agencies of terror. So, let us take our cue from the doctors who have chosen to confront the very origin of life by taking on the ontology of cancer, and make the right and dignified existential choices. A life lived under fear is the choice of a cancerous life-style, oscillating between fatalism and dogmatic submissiveness. If we must adopt a dogma at all, permit me to propose this over-arching rendition: Just like cancer, the fear of Fear itself – is the beginning of wisdom.

•This is an abridged version of paper delivered by Professor Wole Soyinka at the launch of the Cancer Centre last week

Tags: Backpage, Cancerous Life Styles, Dogmatism, Fatalism, Featured


August 4, 2010


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The New African Talking Drum – A Poem by Tony Marinho

By Tony Marinho Published July 11, 2010

The dreaded new African talking drum

Drums damaging every eardrum

Day, night, its message, a bush fire,

Consuming village to presidential villa

It talks in all 340 tribal tongues

Drumming into dreams, destroying sleep and lungs.

But no one dances in the noisy polluting heat

Of the new African talking drum beat

President to prostitute

Restaurant to research institute

Police to petrol station

Right across the darkened nation

It drums a dirge, mourning

From dusk to dawning,

www – the world wide waking,

As power dies again, again, and again.

Nigeria requires a 100,000Mw revolution in energy

Making every city an electri-City.

To be truly ‘I fine pass my neighbour’

Silence the new African talking drum – the generator.

– Tony Marinho

‘I fine pass my neighbour’ is colloquial for a small family size generator



The many sided coin and other stories

Bobo learns to fly

Deadly cargo!

The Epidemic

Introducing: The Manopause Man Aka Mr Man O. Pause and the Manopause (Strategies for Communication in Southern Afr)

The victim




June 26, 2010


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One of the author’s works was adapted into a Tunde Kelani Film, ‘The Narrow Path ’ Photo: AKINTAYO
The writings of a village man
By Akintayo Abodunrin
June 20, 2010 01:16AM
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Novelist Bayo Adebowale dabbled into poetry some years ago with ‘Village Harvest’, a collection of poems. He has since published ‘A Night of Incantations and Other Poems’ and ‘African Melody’.

“There is no strict demarcation between prose and poetry,” he states while explaining why he took up poetry. “If you are writing prose and poetry, you are virtually writing on the same plane; using almost the same diction. So, poetry can be prosaic and prose can be poetic. If I want to express my ideas in a compact form, I dabble into poetry but if I want to expand what I’m writing, I dabble into prose.”

An interesting feature of ‘A Nights of Incantations’ is its exposition on incantations, an aspect of Yoruba tradition. The poet highlights malevolent, benevolent and propitiatory incantations in the work and explains his action.

“All the three are aspects of our culture and tradition. When you are angry and you think you have an enemy, you can recite incantation that will bring down God’s anger on him.

“In the same token, if you find yourself in a difficult situation and you want to escape, you can recite incantations that will save you. When you burn roots and leaves of trees to cure yourself, you propitiate with them and you recite special incantations for that.”

He adds that the collection has sections on curses, desperation, voting and protest because, “It’s part of the culture of the people to curse. If you feel wronged by your detractor or your foe, you can curse him. When you curse, it’s a general phenomenon, not just in Africa but in other parts of the world. When you say may the devil take you, may you go into perdition or things like that in anger, it’s part of the culture. It is common to find people cursing their enemies. Those who have caused harm or brought unhappiness into their life.”

But is it Christ-like to curse?

“Don’t you think that even in the holy Bible we have things like that? Why is Jerusalem cursed? ‘If I forget Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning.’ Have you forgotten ‘woe unto you that betray the son of man? All these woe are curses in the Bible, they are reflected in Christian liturgy so you cannot say these things are not evident in the Holy Bible. Even in churches you curse the enemy. You bring fire down upon your enemy. May the enemy be consumed by the fire of the Holy Ghost. I have gone to services in churches where they devoted a large part of their prayer to cursing the enemy. ”

The Virgin

‘The Virgin’ published in 1985 is Adebowale’s first novel and arguably his most popular. Two villages go to war over Awero, the major character who loses her virginity contrary to tradition. Though virginity appears somewhat trifle for villages to war over, the former Deputy Rector, The Polytechnic, Ibadan, insists that “The cause of the matrimonial problems of nowadays can be traced to virginity. The lack of trust in your wife, the suspicion the wife has of the husband can be traced to virginity. If your wife did not come to your house as a virgin, it will continue to haunt you throughout your matrimonial life. But if you met your wife a virgin, you will have implicit trust and confidence in her that if she can keep herself like that, I should trust her to a large extent. Mistrust and suspicion can be traced to virginity so it is relevant even nowadays.”

He also discloses how the novel was first adapted into the short film, ‘The White Handkerchief’, and later the feature film, ‘The Narrow Path’, by Tunde Kelani’s Mainframe Productions.

“It was Tunde Kelani who came to tell me that they are interested in the story. He told me what will change and what will remain. He told me the title will change and that the ending would also change because in the novel, Awero did not commit suicide but she did in the film. He said the impact will not be felt by viewers if she walks away. If she commits suicide, they will know that there is a good reason for war.”

The self-confessed writing addict who took up the art in 1963 also reveals what made him adopt the tack he did in ‘Out of His Mind’, his second novel. “It’s not everything that you tell your wife in real life. It’s not that you want to harm her but out of consideration for her flexible mind. You say instead of disturbing my wife, let me get over it. I can always tell her later. It’s the same with Alamu. They were newly married and he didn’t want anything that will upset the lady, hoping that sooner or later he would sort the problem. In any case, if he divulged the secret to the wife, there would be no story to tell again. The suspense will not be there again.”

Starting out

“I started with short stories and I have over 100 published short stories. It might interest you to note that my novels are adapted from my short stories. ‘The Virgin’ is from a short story ‘The Wedding Day’. I expanded another short story, ‘Burden of a Secret’ into ‘Out Of His Mind’. It’s the same with the short story ‘Lonely Days’ and the novel also so titled. I have been expanding on my short stories.

“Right now, I’m on another one, ‘Beyond Control’ and it is also adapted from one of my short stories titled ‘Tanko’s Exit’. There is not much difference in the technique of writing short stories and novels because they are all prose so I find it convenient. It is only that you have to be more compact, straight to the point in short stories whereas in the novel you have the liberty to expand and to explain certain process.”

Inspiration and influences

Adebowale was inspired to write by reading literary works. “I started telling myself this is something I could do too. I began by criticising the works of writers I read, and then I started writing.” Though the works of authors including Edgar Allan Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Alex Dumas, Charles Dickens, Chinua Achebe and Cyprian Ekwensi among others influenced him, his primary influence, “is my background as a village man.”

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reader comments (1)

Posted by Olajide on Jun 25 2010
Having been taught by Dr Adebowale while I was at The Polytechnic, Ibadan I believe he has the prowess as exemplified in his novel. He is a man to celebrated always.

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