Above was the title of my tribute to our own world-famous icon, Professor ‘Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel laureate, civil rights crusader, playwright, hunter, connoisseur of wine etc, on his 70th birthday in 2004.
The tribute was published in major newspapers in June of 2004, three weeks ahead of 13th July,2004(the actual date of WS 70th birthday).I opened the tribute thus.
“Now, that the Committee for the “Soyinka Festival” has made public its series of programmes to commemorate the 70th birthday of the Nobel laureate, Professor ‘Wole Soyinka, who clocks 70 on July 13,this year, I am thrilled to pen this early morning tribute (alluding to the title of his autobiography, “YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN”), as I remember my past letters to the renowned playwright and social crusader in 1967 and 1975,when he was simply Mr ‘Wole Soyinka.”
(For ease of reference to my 70th birthday tribute in 2004 to Professor ‘Wole Soyinka, please see the Vanguard newspaper issue of 20th June,2004 and other major newspapers)
This is 2019, happy 85th birthday to the literary/stage icon, in whose defense in 1967, I, then a 17-year old Form 111 student of African Church Grammar School, Apata-Ganga, Ibadan, Oyo State of Nigeria, wrote a letter of appeal to the then military Head of State of Nigeria, now-retired General Yakubu Gowon, Ph.d .My appeals to Gen. Gowon, on behalf Prof. Soyinka, in 1967?
That Gen. Gowon either release Mr Soyinka (as he then was) from indefinite detention, without trial, at Kaduna Prison, or charge him (Soyinka, the detainee) to court. Same year (1967), I also wrote and posted by mail, from the Post Office at Oja ‘Ba, Ibadan, a letter of solidarity to the detainee, Soyinka, in Kaduna Prison.
When Prof. Soyinka was eventually released from detention in 1969, he formally acknowledged, with gratitude, my letter of solidarity to him in Kaduna Prison. He wrote, inter alia, “Your letter, among others, was handed over to me, on my release from detention.” He invited me to visit him at the University of Ibadan’s School of Drama (now called the Theatre Arts Department) where he was the Head.
Happy 85th birthday to you, Sir. May your labour for justice and freedom never end in vain. Amen.
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