Thursday, 24 July 2014

‘Invasion’ of Forest of Ijegba for Kongi at 80

By Anote Ajeluorou

It was his 1960 independence play commissioned to celebrate a new nation’s euphoric moment of freedom from colonial, British rule. But the staging was not to be. Wole Soyinka’s vision appeared too dark for a celebratory occasion, and the officials promptly rejected it. It remained largely a scholarly text ever since. Until…
  Fast-forward 54 years later, and the Forest of Ijegba, Abeokuta, comes alive with A Dance of the Forests. What was left unspoken need not remain so forever. A grand vision that suffered momentary abortion at birth need find outlet somehow. So, producers of International Cultural Exchange programme, Zmirage crew, which has celebrated Soyinka’s birthday in the last five years, turning it into one huge cultural carnival that involves children (80 this year), play performances, spoken word or poetry, a visual feast of the Nobel Laureate’s varied images, turned to the Forest of Ijegba for theatrical re-enactment.
  Indeed, Forest of Ijegba, home of the literary icon, is a study in primordial beginnings. With weird inscriptions about venturing vehicles being eaten alive at the entrance, it appears a forbidden forest, with overhanging trees and twisting scrubs and poplars, only a hermit could have conceived such a place for his abode. But Soyinka says although conceived to be as far away from the Abeokuta city as possible, the city has now crept close, a seeming violation of the isolation he so much craved.
  And then a pond-like valley creeps into view that at once reveals a lawn with fruit trees that shield a brick-walled building. Veering to the right, a circled lawn with what looks like a well in the middle, but too wide for a well - a decoration; and then a narrow path that leads on, the forest closing in as the path leads further on, the 80 white-clad female custodian of the forest with the lit oil lamps along the narrow path to the valley-stage below. Then a clearing, with cassava plants to the left, a lone building also and you enter a descent that leads straight to a valley that opens in a yawn right in front and to the left.
  The valley is the stage. The incline is what has been turned into terraced steps for the audience as it undulates forward to a base that flattens out momentary and then rises again to a hilly point just out of sight. But it’s the valley that is the stage and the hilly rise beyond. It’s ingenious, this piece of stage carved out from the heart of a forest. In daylight it looks ordinary enough, a valley being transformed into what it’s not. But when the lights come on and figures begin to move it’s as surreal as it can be, the invocation of the spirit world and the humans acting in a daze in a celebration that traps them in a never-ending maze between the then and now. The forest scrubs around stand sentry and eerie in the dark and changeling stage lights to lend weird effect to the spirit-worldly beings that alternate with humans. It’s an award-winning set design!
  It could not have been more ingenious, having to create a real forest, as stage to enact A dance of the Forests for the 80th birthday of the inimitable playwright, who saw his country’s checkered future history from the prism of his creative vision from the very beginning. In 1960 Soyinka didn’t share his countrymen’s optimism in the euphoria of independence celebration. He saw something darker, something horrible coming that needed expiating. Had his ebullient countrymen been patient and listened or watched the play with keener interest and taken its sinister message seriously, perhaps they (and we all) might have wiser, taken another path that led away from the slippery one taken and the catastrophic foreboding predicted would have passed for happier times.
  But no; they didn’t and the augury was left unattended to. With what result? It was vintage Soyinka, vintage village prophet seeing the unborn future and giving a warning. And as always, the prophet would not be recognized, would be vilified and chased away. But who remembers? Who cares 54 years down the line? Only a community of artists and co-visioners and co-prophets; that was why the Zmirage producers re-enacted the play, with Dr. Tunde Awosanmi (Department of Theatre Arts, University of Ibadan) directing, as celebratory and a reminder. More as a reminder perhaps, that the prophecy though envisioned, in typical Soyinkan dense idiom, hadn’t passed, still haunts the country 54 years after. If anything, the forest of Nigeria’s political woe seems to be closing in, shutting out the possibility of real celebration; it’s that woe that has been Kongi’s fight all his life…
  Ogun State governor, Ibikunle Amosun, was overwhelmed with joy after seeing the play. He could barely grasp the immensity and magnificence of the play executed in all its grandeur, and said to think Soyinka was just 26 when he wrote A Dance of the Forests!
  Clearly, A Dance of the Forests is a play that needs to tour Nigeria, or at least, parts of it, for a full exposure of the vision to a wider populace.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Staging The Siege Is Like Showcasing Soyinka’s Philosophy, Says Oguntokun

By Anote Ajeluorou

On July 24, the Command Performance of Sam Omatseye’s historical play, The Siege will be staged at MUSON Centre, Onikan, Lagos to draw attention to raging issues of religious bigotry and nationalism. In this interview with the director and some cast members, the essence of the play is made manifest, as it affects current realities in Nigeria. Excerpts:

Oguntokun: “I’m a theatre producer and director and my theatre house is Renegade theatre. I have been in the theatre business for a decade. Sam Omatseye is the writer and executive producer of The Siege. He conceived the idea of the play, which is based on an original happening. Charles Gordon was a British Army General, who was in charge of Sudan, Khartoum in the 19th century. He was asked to leave Sudan by his government, which felt they couldn’t hold Khartoum anymore but he thought he could hold it for his country. So, he refused to leave.
  “Unfortunately, he met a man who was as zealous and strong as him in the person of the Mahdi, who fought to hold his country back from the British. The play is about the siege the Mahdi laid on Khartoum with Gordon unwilling to give up the city. It led to the death of Gordon during the face off between Gordon and Mahdi’s men. The play’s about people who hold and believe in their own ideologies; the two men fundamentally believed in the cause they were fighting. It’s based on true-life story.
  “The writer is telling people to sometimes look at both sides of an altercation. Sometimes people just believe that because I’m a Christian or Muslim, others cannot have another view point; it’s dangerous, and vice versa. A Muslim cannot try to impose Shari’a, for instance on others, be they Christians or not. In any situation where two sides are fighting, each must try to look at where the other is coming from.
  “Elections are coming and people tend to feel that because you come from a particular side of the country you shouldn't vie for the position. We are very tribal people. Individuals look at tribe first before the country. That is one of the lessons we want people to take home. Always allow room for the other side because that other side has a belief that is as valid as yours. The play forces us to look at situations objectively.
  “I hate it when people say Nigeria got independence. Independence from what? What were we before? We were a people before Britain came; we had a government no matter how it was. The colonial master had the mentality that they were superior. So, that’s what The Siege is about. No side can claim to be superior to the other. It’s wrong.
  “You know, Boko Haram says a certain way of life is wrong. That is The Siege because it is wrong for them to say that, or that they will destroy the way of others just because you believe in your own way. It is wrong. The Siege teaches us to live and let live. We can actually live side by side. It’s a large world and we live in a large country that can accommodate all of us. This is the same situation in Cambodia when a certain dictator came in and killed every journalist, every professor or intellectual; in short, he killed everyone who could use pen and paper. He murdered millions basically. It was wrong. If your ideology or belief says don’t go to school, then don’t, but stop someone else from getting educated.
  “Wole Soyinka is a foremost proponent of live and let live. It’s not that we must stage one of his plays to celebrate him but this is like showcasing his philosophy. As long as a belief does not lead to killing people then let it be. That’s how best to celebrate Soyinka who strongly believes in freedom. This is the Command Performance of The Siege. I would like the play to go beyond Lagos but that’s for the executive producer. The play is unique and even the lines in verse form are unique as well.
  “It’s poetic, an epic play; it’s a play that everybody should see and appreciate. Unfortunately, infrastructure for theatre is not very strong in this country. If I have a venue paid for it will allow me to show it for four or five months. The play speaks to society and the situation on ground, how people should relate and treat each other with respect. The Siege takes a serous look at bigotry and exposes it for what it is. It has 16 cast members, and will run for one and a half hours because there will be dances. So, there’s fusion of play and dance.
  “It’s challenging because it deals with another culture, and we have to be careful that we stay true to the Sudanese culture it’s set in terms of dresses, music and mindset that existed at the time, etc. we have four British actors among the cast. We are taking the play to Edinburgh this month but as a director, the situation of theatre in the country is affecting us so much, especially the shortage of venues. The only venue we have for plays apart from the National Theatre is MUSON Centre. There are other places that they call theatre but they are not. They are just spaces or halls, which aren’t good for play production.
  “We have artistes all over Nigeria, at the National Theatre but there’s nowhere to ply their trade. To tour a Nigerian play abroad is cost-intensive; you have to apply for visas, as there are no grants or endowments. Imagine that the only person that brought a Nobel Prize to Nigeria is a poet and dramatist; that is Wole Soyinka but there’s no single endowment fund for those areas by government or any philanthropist. We have many theatre-loving people but the problem is that there’s nowhere for them to go and see a play. Which theatre will they go? This play at MUSON Centre will be filled to capacity. People need to relax after a hard day’s work”.

Colonialism is not something I’m proud of as an English person, British actor, Quin

“I’m Sam Quinn, an actor and I live in London. This is my third time in Nigeria. It’s good to be back in Nigeria. Charles Gordon was a very successful military figure. Being Gordon is an interesting role to play. Colonialism is not something I’m proud of as an English person. It’s a dark chapter when you consider what happened to local people. It’s a difficult role to play being the bad guy.
  “Both key players were very religious and strongly believed that God was on there side. It’s challenging role because I’m not a Christian; I just believe that one should just do what is right. I love Nigerian audience; they are fantastic. Their applause, their cheers and their response are fantastic. They ginger you to give your best.

Ola Rotimi Fakunle (who bears the name of a late literary icon as well as a character in the writer’s bestseller, The Gods Are Not to Blame).   

“I’m playing the Mahdi. It’s very challenging role because I’m trying to become a Sudanese. I’m doing so much research on the characters. The script is very inspiring because basically, what happened to the Sudanese is not different from our own experience here. The play offers us an idea of how our people, our forefathers who existed at that time were treated.
  “It talks about a lot of things like the Berlin Conference where Africa was shared among European countries. It gives us a background of the Africa we used to have. It’s good to know our root so as to solve our problem. The play is not just about Sudan or Nigeria but the entire world. It’s good to listen to people who are agitating for something. The Mahdi, for instance, was not fighting a religious war but he was a Muslim; he was fighting to free his country from foreign rule. It’s good to look inwards. I believe so much in the course of the Mahdi. I have to know all the nuances of the Mahdi’s religion so I don’t desecrate it”.

We hope other companies will join in supporting the arts, culture, says Atawodi

By Anote Ajeluorou

LAST week new Pan African literary prize entrant for first time authors, Etisalat Prize for Literature worth £15,000, unveiled this year’s jury members to the media in Lagos, with jury member for last year, Dr. Sarah Ladipo Manyika, as chair of judges. Manyika teaches Literature at San Francisco State University, U.S., and will be assisted by award-winning British-Sudanese writer, Jamal Mahjoub, Francophone writer, Alain Mabanckou and Zimbabwean writer and filmmaker, Tsitsi Dangarembga.
  But of immense significance from Etisalat was the invitation to other Nigerian companies to join in supporting the country’s vibrant art and culture sector, which currently suffers dire neglect in terms of sponsorship. This crucial call was made by Head, Corporate Communications, High Value Events and Sponsorship, Ebi Atawodi, who commended the efforts of two other companies currently supporting the other two literary prizes originating from the country – Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa and The Nigeria Prize for Literature.
  Atawodi said while the other two prizes were sponsored by the respective gas and telecommunication companies, the Etisalat prize originates from within the company as part of Etisalat’s corporate vision to give Nigeria’s arts and culture a handle to flourish, especially in an environment that has become increasingly philistinic and harsh to ideas of the mind that art and culture represent. She noted, “We applaud other companies supporting arts and culture and we hope other companies will join in supporting Nigeria’s arts and culture. While those other companies sponsor those prizes, we own and initiated this prize as part of our corporate philosophy”.
  Her boss and Managing Director, Mr. Matthew Wilsher, also said though a company’s sponsorship is usually based on the visibility and market share value of such effort, supporting a prize like this wasn’t based on such consideration, but basically as a way of showing that “Etisalat cares about people’s lives. Supporting literacy is important to us and Nigeria. The prize differentiates the Etisalat brand from others”.
  Wilsher said he was proud of the maiden edition of the prize last year that Noviolet Bulawayo won with her book, We Need New Names, adding, “The whole contest was a tremendous journey. We have a long-term commitment of building an unrivalled prize for African writers. We’re grateful to the judges, who are renowned writers the world over”.
  He felt grateful also for the giant leaps his company has made since its incorporation to some 19 million customers and Etisalat being a billion dollar company. According to him, “We’re supporting culture like literature with this prize. Young writers can enhance the flame behind African literature by giving it more publicity and focus”.
  Although August 8 is deadline for submission of entries for this year’s prize, the original date, May 12 for the announcement, didn’t hold, as it came a clear two months after. No reason was advanced for this lateness. However, the longlist will be out on November 3 and shortlist on December 8 while the prize will be given early next year.
  The prize has a board of patrons, which include some of Africa’s finest intellectuals – Ellah Wakatama Allfrey (OBE), Dele Olojede, Ama Ata-Aidoo, Margaret Busby (OBE), Prof. Kole Omotoso and Zakes Mda.
  At the unveiling, Manyika expressed delight at being invited to take up the jury chair, saying how satisfying it was to have been a part of the inaugural edition of prize in 2013. She said, “I’m delighted to be asked to chair a group of judges. This is a huge prize for literature, not only in Africa but the world. We want it to continue and get even better. The prize is very unique, very thoughtfully put together. It’s Africa’s most prestigious prize. Having to purchase 1000 copies of shortlisted author’s books and go on tour are unique features of the prize; it’s very exciting for the writers and their readers.
  “The 2013 longlist was uniquely different; it had six women, five Nigerians and three international publishers. So, there was a lot of diversity. I’m hoping for more diversity this year”.
  Although Mahjoub and Mabanckou were absent, Zimbabwe’s Dangarembga (author of Nervous Condition and The Book of Not) made it and praised the prize as a “wonderful and amazing initiative” and expressed how honoured she was to be invited to be a judge. She equally expressed her excitement at the prize, saying, “I’m excited we have the prize; it shows we haven’t been put out of context. We want to see the prize progress”.
  Dangarembga also said, “We need to consume our own literature; we need to know ourselves. I hope writers will feel challenged by the prize, make them feel bold, to present new voices and characters and to encourage publishers to take on new writers. I look forward to it”.
  Explaining away the non-inclusion of Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka in the profiling of African writers at the award ceremony last year, Omotoso said it was clearly an omission. He, however, said amend was made when the three writers visited Soyinka with signed copies of their books to him to apologise.
  Olojede, publisher of rested NEXT newspaper, dashed hopes of the prize money possibly being raised higher from its current £15,000 for now. He said, almost as if begrudging writers such would-be fortune, that a prize shouldn’t be a money-guzzling affair but purely as a means of recognition.
  Already, the promised book tour for the authors has started, with Nairobi, Kenya, being the starting point. Other cities will soon follow suit to experience the authors, the prize sponsor said.

Soyinka: The man, his polemics and activism

By Anote Ajeluorou

“The artist has always functioned in African society, as the record of mores and experiences of his society and as the voice of his own time. It’s time for the artist to respond to this essence of himself”. These were the words of Nobel Laureate in Literature, Prof. Wole Soyinka, also known as Kongi, to many of his admirers, as far back as the 1960s. For those writers who are still hesitant on what the role of the artist should be in society, this credo laid out by this inimitable African cultural icon is invitation at self-examination.
  Soyinka’s life has borne out this credo in all its manifestations. Even the manner of protesting the limit placed on when a child should start school in his days is instructive of a child who would rebel against every known and established norm that runs contrary to logic. At three, he announced his intention to start school; this was when school age was six! He was to have his say and way, and today the world is better for that rebel spirit.
  Soyinka’s activism and anti-establishment posture found solid expression during his days at University College, Ibadan, when he founded the Pyrates Confraternity along with some of his colleagues. The brotherhood was aimed at abolishing convention, reviving the age of chivalry, ending elitism and tribalism. After reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island Soyinka and his mates were struck by the lives of the pirates as narrated by young Jim Hawkins. The original seven founders of Pyrates Confraternity are Wole Soyinka, Muyiwa Awe, Ralph Opara, Pius Oleghe, Ikpehare Aig-Imoukhuede, Ifoghale Amata (patriarch of the Amata acting family) and Nat Oyelola.
  In 1960, prior to independence, Soyinka was commissioned to produce a play to enact the dawn of a new nation. But like the visionary-prophet artist that he was and has been ever since, he saw beyond the mere euphoria that the period engendered. Nigeria was in celebratory mood for nationhood. The festivities were what held the most promise for a majority of the people, especially government officials who saw a chance to occupy vacant seats the departing British had held. They did not want anything to rock the boat of their utopia. But Soyinka saw otherwise. He saw beyond the banalities the independence festivities offered and rose in warning, like an elder who would not allow a goat to suffer birth pains in tethers!
  But the messenger and the message were rejected. His play for the commemorative occasion A dance of the Forests did not see the light of the day. Its message, which the new nation was to swallow in bitter lumps barely seven years into nationhood in a bitter civil war, cast a gloomy aspect over the celebration. In panic, the officials rejected it. They could not connect independence conviviality with the theme of gloom the play projected.
  The ‘Gathering of the Tribes’ referred to in the play is, therefore, the new Nigerian polity. The Tribes’ celebration is, however, dented by the fact that the commissioned totem, which was supposed to represent the spirit of the gathering, turns out to be a sacrilegious epitome of evil and the representatives of the ‘proud’ ancestral past turn out to be victims of past despotism and violence crying for justice. The work ends in a spate of negative prophetic utterances and a climactic failure to lead a half-child (abiku) to safety. The play, therefore, aims at countering the (now) unfounded euphoria of the independence days. Why celebrate the birth of an abiku? But, like the officials in the play, the Nigerian officials in charge of the independence celebrations rejected the play.
  But the play’s prophetic import has abided, as Nigeria has floundered from one extreme of suffering from being unable to fulfill its potential as land of promise to yet another, now insurgency. It is this perennial failing in a country that should celebrate in abundance that Soyinka’s rebellious spirit cannot admit. And so he holds up those responsible for it to give account. And since they cannot give account, they become object of his scorn and venom.
  For Soyinka, literature should carry the burden of morality in social relations. And like the ancient griot, he applied literature for the service of humanity, especially in a continent known for repressive regimes and their attendant poor economic foundations.

THAT was Soyinka’s first encounter with Nigeria’s barefaced official distaste to any form of critical and even contrary views. It was to continue through his midlife till now when he attains 80, as he navigated from one form of ugly encounter to yet another. But his stated credo, which is also his guiding political philosophy, regards the artist as the voice of vision, which he was to become at considerable cost.
  In October of 1965, Soyinka was arrested for allegedly seizing the Western Region radio station and making a political broadcast disputing the published results of the elections of that year. The elections set the region ablaze, as they led to the most ugly outcomes, as they denied and thwarted the people’s will Soyinka, as a crucial part of his activist intervention in the politics of the day, moved into the Ibadan radio studio to switch the tape of Premier Ladoke Akintola’s broadcast. The aghast public, instead of hearing the Premier’s voice, heard another voice hectoring the Premier to ‘Get out!’
  Soyinka was immediately identified as the ‘mystery gunman’ who did the damage. He was declared wanted. He went into hiding, traveling to the Eastern region to be with Sam Aluko, who had taken appointment at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, after he had been hounded out of the University of Ife by Akintola’s goons. In December of that same year, he was acquitted for want of evidence.
  He wrote “Emergency Sketches” in 1962, and pressed lampoons on Dr. Moses Majekodunmi who had been appointed as the administrator of the troubled region.
  He waged consistent wars with the goons of the Premier of the Western Region, Akintola, who had fallen out with the party leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
  For visiting Col. Chukwuemeka Ojuku as part of efforts to stop the breakaway Biafra Republic, Soyinka was detained by the Federal Military Government on the orders of Yakubu Gowon. The country was teetering on the brink of Civil War following the controversial January 1966 coup carried out by army majors led by Emmanuel Ifeajuna and Chukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu. The revenge coup of July 29, 1966 undertaken by Northern soldiers, led by Murtala Mohammed, in which the Head of State, General JTU Aguiyi-Ironsi was murdered alongside his host Adekunle Fajuyi in Ibadan worsened matters.
  Soyinka led a group he called the “Third Force” to counter the dangerous war propaganda raging at the time. He also outrageously countered the mantra formed with Gowon’s name, to wit, “Go on with one Nigeria,” with his own dictum: To have one Nigeria justice must be done! His imprisonment resulted in the prison memoir, The Man Died. He spent most of the prison term in solitary confinement, but he would not allow his mind to be broken by his captors.

LIKE his famous Abiku poem of the child that dies and keeps coming back to haunt the parents, so,too has Soyinka kept faith as the gadfly of Nigeria’s leaders, who, it seems, swore not do the right thing by the people. As a humanist, he would not sit still and watch things go wrong, which explains his constant struggle with the authorities. However, tired of merely venting tirades against the authorities as a frontline activist, Soyinka rolled up his sleeves in 2011 to join the political fray. It was the launch of a new political party in Nigeria. He was elected unopposed as the national chairman at the party's convention. Characteristically, however, he refused to run for office.
  By so doing, Kongi was following the examples of the likes of Leopold Sedar Senghor and Antonio Augustinho Neto - poet/leaders of Senegal and Angola, men who didn’t wait for the politicians to fail and then complain about bad politics and leadership. They got involved and set the tones for what leadership should be. Unfortunately, Soyinka didn’t go the full hug as those two exemplars. He stopped short; he did not wish to seek for office. He merely provided a platform for youth action, the proverbial future leaders of our time! And for riding the country of endemic corruption.
  The aim of the party The Democratic Front for a People's Federation, according to him, would be a political party that reduces corruption and improve conditions in health and education. In his own words, "I wish to emphasise that function, and it is clearly meant both as a warning and exhortation. Above all, the DFPF is a party for frustrated youth and uncomfortable ideas.
  “The DFPF for now is disinterested in the overall national scene. But after taking control in one state, one council, one ward, would begin to reach out through example to others, gradually evolving a civic rule that governs and performs through mutual collaboration. Let this party resolve to overturn the iniquitous arrangement by which the national cake is swallowed entirely by those whose appointed task is to serve the sovereign electorate.
  “Is it really impossible to have a voice unless you are swimming in billions? Institutions are pauperized and degraded. The gutters run with filth while the legislators run with the money".
  Soyinka based the ideology of his party on youth participation and activism, as the fulcrum of national rebirth, as youths are more impatient with the slow pace of development that has tended to stagnate their creative and unused talent and spirits. For the Nobel laureate, "I do not give a blanket exoneration to the youth. Some of them are more corrupt than the most corrupt military or politicians. But among them you have idealistic, committed young people of integrity who would just like a platform, a political platform, away from what this country has been able to offer them so far".

SOYINKA’S activism stems from his avowed belief that art should serve humanity, especially the vulnerable segment of society by bringing about a change in society that can help such people actualize their dreams. The revolutionary tool Soyinka proposes to use for this end if the theatre, which speaks the ordinary man’s language. But beyond theatre, he has also appropriated the press conference medium, with the press as a strong ally in his fight for social justice and equality for all citizens.
  And so, while setting out on his literary journey, he’d stated, with regard to his use of theatre thus, “First of all I believe implicitly that any work of art which opens out the horizons of the human mind, the human intellect is by its very nature a force for change, a medium for change. In the black community here, theatre can be used and has been used as a form of purgation, it has been used cathartically; it has been used to make the black man in this society work out his historical experience and literally purge himself at the altar of self-realization. This is one use to which it can be put.
  “The other use, the other revolutionary use, may be far less overt, far less didactic, and less self-conscious. It has to do very simply with opening up the sensibilities of the black man not merely towards very profound and fundamental truths of his origin that are in Africa in suddenly opening new a means of making the audience question an identity which was taken for so long for granted, suddenly opening the audience up to a new existence, a new scale of values, a new self-submission, a communal rapport. By making the audience or a member of the audience go through this process, a reawakening has begun in the individual, which in turn affects his attitude to the external social realities. This for me is a revolutionary purpose...
  “Finally and most importantly, theatre is revolutionary when it awakens the individual in the audience, in the black community in this case, who for so long has tended to express his frustrated creativity in certain self-destructive ways, when it opens up to him the very possibility of participating creatively himself in this larger communal process. In other words, and this has been proven time and time again, new people who never believed that they even possessed the gift of self-expression become creative and this in turn activates other energies within the individual. I believe the creative process is the most energizing. And that is why it is so intimately related to the process of revolution within society”.
  This revolution, which the stage or theatre can engender, his it extension in society in Soyinka’s consciousness. It’s this revolution that he has continued to project in his political and social activism.
  Soyinka might not have been on the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) group, but he lent such force to the anti-military efforts that it became so portent to cause the military serious headache. In particular was his unabated harassment of Gen. Sanni Abacha’s military regime with its ribald bloodbath. Like many others, he was on the top list of those marked for death. When the manhunt became too intense, he fled through the border to escape.
  As part of his commitment to the struggle for a free and democratic Nigeria, Soyinka set up National Liberation Council of Nigeria (NALICON) in 1995. Like NADECO, NALICON’s mandate was to oust the military from power. It was the same year that Radio Democratic International was established to further push for the enthronement of democracy in the country. But just before the station started broadcasting operations, wife of MKO Abiola, Kudirat, was gunned down in Lagos. She’d championed campaigns for the release of her husband and his swearing in, believed to have won June 12, 1993 elections, as president. This senseless murder caused Soyinka and other promoters to change the name of the station to Radio Kudirat Nigeria.
  With this station, Soyinka and his colleagues in the struggle for democracy harassed the military relentlessly. It became the single most effective weapon in the arsenal of the pro-democracy struggle. It told a different story to the outside world about abuses and repression going on in Nigeria.