Baba Soyinka: A Deity In Human Form, By David Oluwasegun Ogundipe
Permit me to protect myself from the fire power of seasoned and deft writers as I engage in this suicide mission- the mission to dare congratulate a literature deity and the unrepentant rain reputed for leaving guests disappointed at any show in the corridor of tyranny. That in itself, should not call for a need to purchase immunity at the very price of oratory prowess- what calls for it is that like the Biblical John said of Jesus that he is not worthy to untie the straps of his sandals, I lack the capacity to attempt a biography of the mysterious gunman. I do hope that Professor Niyi Osundare and the many Ìrókòs in the world of literature and activism would see my gut as a mere child’s play. I seek immunity- immunity from the reactions that follow when a child insults the Ìrókò tree. I cannot afford the expensive words and historic interjections that would capture Kongi in his true light, hence I see that as an insult. However, It is pertinent to discharge the burden cast upon me by my constituency- the little disciples of Soyinka, as the deity in facade clocked 81.
Without an attempt to do a review of the linguistic potency of that word ‘deity’, I shall drop my felicitation message for Baba as I swing the pendulum of reference between his work on the late D.O Fagunwa’s book, Ògbójú ode nínú Igbó Irúnmalè and the why author of ‘the man died’ would not die. I was born two decades and some years ago, obviously the reason why I cannot boast of being in the know on how Kongi lost his way in the Jungle as put by Professor Osundare, but I am certain of why Baba Soyinka found his way in the castle of history.
I remember years back when I stumbled upon one of Baba’s work, apparently, the first I would lay my hands upon. A conversation at night with a cockroach? Who talks to a cockroach was my question, basking in the euphoria of my 9 years old brain. It was an uninteresting one for me. At that age, we were used to neophyte writers eulogising the butterfly in simple language- anything above that is unworthy of a read. That would change a decade later when I read ‘the forest of a thousand daemons’ which was a translation of the earlier mentioned late D.O Fagunwa’s book. I was dazed by its content and the translation of the deity talking about numerous daemons and the sojourn of the brave Àkàrà-Ogun. When I was done with that book, I became an addict of all Kongi’s works. My verdict? If Baba Soyinka’s work ever appeared uninteresting- the reader may consider removing the lenses of parochial sentiment if he is sure that his intellectual status is fit to dine with Soyinka’s use of words.
Baba Soyinka is not just a writer, he is a wrighter. He is a stubborn activist, a thermometer with which the temperature of a dictator is measured, a deft speaker with a lion heart and he is a molester- a molester of wrong policies. Kongi did show on several instances that silence in the face of oppression is evil. Obviously, Wole would never get caught in the offside in the intellectual assessment of his book, the man died, because he would neither be cowed by oppression or tyranny. Baba would fight, he won’t give up. He may fight and run, but not to disappear, but to resurface later for a more fierce one.
With a zeal for a convincing lead to correct, leaving Baba Soyinka’s translation of D.O Fagunwa’s book does not do justice to him for anyone who wants to study him. With his incredible and intimidating literary skills, the true son of Soyinka leaves fingers itching to flip through the my next page in an attempt to discover the mysteries which he was set to unravel with translation in that classic work. It is no surprise that Baba got the highly coveted price- Nobel price- one well deserved.
I have met Baba, but Baba is yet to meet me- in his numerous literary magic in papers and takes on public issues, I have studied Baba and realized that he is a deity that need be pronounced one. How else can you describe the man who steals your attention with language and yet, holds no liability? How do you describe the Ijegba man who warned that ‘trespassing vehicles will be shot and eaten’ around his nature blessed territory? Yes, a deity is a preternatural or supernatural human or entity that possesses miraculous or supernatural attributes, powers or super powers- Baba Soyinka is no less one.
Baba is 81! Kongi is graciously mounting the hill of his ancestors- Kongi will go, but unlike others, he won’t go. The son of Soyinka is a cheat- he has cheated on death with his credentials and stay in life. He sailed graciously away from envy, sentiment corruption, evil and made impressions. Every man must fall, it is only the time and manner that differs- Baba Wole would go, but his works would keep him. For in Kongi, a thinker would discover reasons why the man died, but Wole Soyinka would not.
David Oluwasegun Ogundipe