WOLE SOYINKA AND MY DISGRUNTLEMENT
BY EKANPOU ENEWARIDIDEKE
Dear Soyinka, I am disgruntled. Because I am disgruntled, I have decided to communicate with you. I have decided to communicate with you because I am disgruntled. And this is even the first I have chosen this epistolary path to reach you and the propellant of this choice is a superior reason.
The great Soyinka, in writing this letter ‘prompted’ by Timiebi’s departure as the only ‘item’ on my table I feel obligated to bring you back to your dead days when you wrote the philosophically spellbinding book THE MAN DIED and said: ‘I address this book to the people to whom I belong, not to the new elite, not to that broad stratum of privileged slaves who prop up the marble palaces of today’s tyrants’ (The Man Died, 15).
Similarly, this letter is specifically addressed to you who understand the agonies of being systematically quarantined, the agonies of non-commiseration, the agonies of being starved of psychologically stabilising words, when a loved one dies, not to those Soyinkas who are accidentally Soyinkas by name without the known characterisations of Wole Soyinka. By this categorisation I specifically refer to those who bear the name Soyinka hoping that they would be automatically favoured by God to be ‘Soyinkaised’ in temperament and intellectual build. These are the wishful thinkers who thought they could ride to a world of huge literary success by merely being congenitally associated with the name Soyinka.
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From what I have read about Soyinka so far I believe Soyinka strongly believes in the weaponisation of language as a potent mechanism to fight, disorientate, destabilise and deaden the capacity of the vindictive power-wielders to inflict endless stream of atrocities on the poor oppressed people. This your known thought that ‘Language needs to be a part of resistance therapy’ is also a characterisation of Timiebi who often uses her philosophy of ‘Wiyouism’ to appropriate language and fight against human rights violation in any corner of her environment of habitation – though her engagement of language as a weapon is lexically different from yours but merges with yours in its essentiality and target.
In actuality, you are a story-teller like Timiebi my mother whose stories are larded with complex constructions. Your stories are often told in plays, poems, novels, essays and lectures while Timiebi’s stories are orally delivered with rich communicative devices to a massive crowd of compulsive listeners. You are all great story-tellers in divergent ways.
The time-tested tradition in all ages remains that when a fellow story-teller is endangered or mortally wounded, sympathies of solidarity are normally deposited at the doorstep of the person as a visible carrier of the psychological balm or opium for the physical agonies. My mother Timiebi who had a lucrative career of storytelling from Akparemogbene in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State through Oyangbene, Ekameta and Ayakoromo to all the cities in the world is dead, but now awaiting final burial rites on 25 November 2022 in Oyangbene town.Right from the moment of her noble death, no creative ennoblement has come from either you or the Association of Nigerian Authors.Are storytellers not worthy of admission and membership of the Association of Nigerian Authors?Are storytellers not even worthy of condolatory thoughts at the time of their retirement where they are ignobly denied membership of ANA?
Timiebi retired from this earth in 2020. Right from that time till now, no condolence or poem either mourning Timiebi’s departure or celebrating Timiebi’s literary achievements has come from you Soyinka who was looked upon by my mother as a literary gold. It was our expectation that you would pay a condolence visit or send creative condolatory ennoblemen cast in any of the three genres of Liteature where you are the accredited literary king of words.
Soyinka, your literary kingship of words is such that words always obey you without caviling anytime they are summoned for any assignment even within the shortest notice but more often than not, without any formal notice because words are your indentured labourers.
Your friend Segun Sowemimo the Journalist died some years ago under brutal circumstances in the hands of soldiers ordered by a ‘Military Governor of the West’ and you traced him with all the creative energies in your world until you got a cablegram that had the message: The Man Died. This dead Segun Sowemimo was referentially ennobled by you through your creative deployment of linguistic resources at their best dance in the book The man Died. Why has no ennobling deployment of language directed at Timiebi been heard from you since her retirement from the mother earth? Could this linguistic silence from Soyinka be rooted in the fact that Timiebi was not a journalist like Segun Sowemimo?
High Chief Ekpemupolo Thomas Osen of Gbaramatu Kingdom in Warri South-West Council of Delta State died in September 2016. Thomas Osen was a recognised fighter for justice ‘as the first condition of humanity’ – as you are always known for up till today. He was brutally beaten by soldiers based on orders from above. In the guise of searching for Tompolo and Niger Delta Avengers, Thomas Osen was subjected to a brutal treatment by the soldiers. He was immediately flown away for medical treatment. In the progressive deterioration of his condition in a hospital in Warri Thomas Osen’s lower limb was amputated and in the end he died from the complications caused by the amputated lower limb. The circumstances that led to the death of Segun Sowemimo, and Thomas Osen, the father of High Chief Tompolo, were very similar. Thomas Osen was your supposed friend as was Sowemimo your actual friend – that Sowemimo for whom you let loose your spellbinding verbal atomic bombs of targeted conscientisation and reawakening ‘in another being’ in a society mortally gripped by dictatorship.
Because everybody believed Thomas Osen was your friend, Tompolo, Hon.George, Ghana, Joy Pondi, Godfrey Pondi, His Excellency Kingsley Otuaro, Chief Dennis Otuaro, Richard Ebibofa, Dauyougha Goldcoast, Hon. Julius Pondi, Chief Kestin, Dr. Paul Bebenimibo, Benike Joseph, King Alfred Izonebi and Hon. Macdonald Igbadiwei and I expected you but you did not come. You could not even dignify Thomas Osen with a condolatory letter creatively crafted. Was it because Thomas Osen was not Segun Sowemimo the journalist, only in whose behalf you could send all the words in the dictionary on errand?
Occasioned by your absence there were indignities and agonies of wounded pride thrust on the dignitaries who believed you would definitely come for Thomas Osen’s final day on earth. The indignities and agonies of a wounded pride suffered that day because you did not turn up for Thomas Osen’s final burial day have since been buried under the ground. Nothing is held against you again since Gogi the great great grandson of Ezaigba provided a believable alibi for your absence through his article entitled ‘DEATH OF SOYINKA’S EKPEMUPOLO’ published in the vanguard of 9 November 2016.
Soyinka, you did not come when Thomas Osen died and now your fellow storyteller called Timiebi is dead and you are yet to come too. Even if you are yet to come, your coming must be preceded by condolatory messages of creative ennoblement but none has come from you. It is as if a dog had died – which is a reminiscence of your position often referenced in The Man Died: ‘the man died, a dog died, the matter is dead’ (The Man Died, 23). This is the root of my disgruntlement in this letter. Why must a remarkable storyteller die without a creative condolatory ennoblement from the Nobel Laureate?
Somebody is definitely disgruntled here.It is the son of Timiebi who is justifiably disgruntled here! Even with my feeling of disgruntlement at you, I would like to add that the final burial rites of Timiebi Maika Ekanpou, the creatively quarantined storyteller, have been fixed for 25 November 2022. It would be deeply appreciated if you the only great Soyinka, the revered Nobel Laureate, the man at ease with all the three genres of Literature, the Commander-in-Chief of words, could grace the final burial day, but where this proves an impossibility, you could graciously send a creatively cast ennobling condolatory communication to us in place of your physical appearance.
The whole world now awaits Wole Soyinka’s delayed creative ennoblement for Timiebi Maika Ekanpou and it may come before she eventually journeys home on 25 November 2022 at Oyangbene town in Burutu Local Government Area of Delta State…
- ENEWARIDIDEKE, writes from Akparemogbene, Delta state.