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Wole Soyinka still hopeful for Nigeria despite current misfortunes

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Sunday Alamba/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved


Wole Soyinka, Nigeria's Nobel-winning author, sees his country's many problems — misgoverning politicians, systemic corruption, violent extremists, and kidnapping bandits — yet he does not despair.

At 87, he believes Nigeria's youth may have the energy and the know-how to get the troubled country back on track.

Soyinka credits young Nigerians between 15 and 35 — about a third of the population — for trying to fundamentally reform the country.

He cites the #EndSARS protests a year ago against police brutality.

"The kind of energy and intelligence which created the #EndSARS movement is one, for instance, that can be used on a much broader scale to involve masses of people," he comments.

Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, the first Black African to do so.

Now he's published a new novel, his first in almost 50 years.

In "Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth" he has created a fictional Nigeria rife with crime, corruption and chaos, governed by the oppressive People on the Move Party (POMP).

The people it portrays are anything but happy, despite the annual, ironically-named, 'Festival of the People of Happiness'.

It's a parody of the real-life Nigeria of today under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari.

In 2015, Soyinka endorsed Buhari for president and asked Nigerians to forgive his past as a former dictator in the 1980s.

Now Soyinka is critical of Buhari.

"Right from the middle of the first round of his government, it has failed on many levels and it is up to Nigerians to wake up and reverse the direction in which they are being taken," he says.

The author believes Buhari and his administration have been unable to tackle the extremist violence that's led to thousands of deaths and the mass kidnappings of schoolchildren.

"They refused to take action at the right time," he says. "They compromised. They appeased. They excused. They even historicized the danger, the reality. And in the process, we lost our humanity completely."

Soyinka admits he is not as strong as he once was, but he's tired of reading his own obituary.

In Nigeria, fake news reports about Soyinka's death are rampant.

"I am getting bored with dying," he says. "I am just bored each time I read my obituary. It's been going on for years."

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