Monday, 15 July 2013

Soyinka at 79: My top secret

Soyinka at 79:  My top secret
• I had Second Class Upper not Third Class, says Nobel Laureate
For decades, Prof. Wole Soyinka has kept a secret to himself, his grade when he left University College, Ibadan. But yesterday, the Nobel Laureate disclosed that contrary to insinuations, he graduated with a Second Class Upper and not Third Class as widely believed.
Soyinka broke his silence when he hosted secondary school students from across the country who were in Abeokuta, Ogun State to take part in this year’s “Open Doors Series” project, an international cultural exchange programme to mark his 79th birthday.
According to Soyinka, he had kept silent on the matter over the years, but decided to open up for the sake of the children as mark of respect for them. The event, tagged: “Memoirs of our future,” was organized by a Lagos-based multimedia company, Zmirage and the state government.
Soyinka, who charged the students not to be dissuaded by negative things in the country, urged them to draw inspiration from the life of a 16-year-old Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in the head on October 9, 2012 by Taliban terrorists over her campaign for girl-child education in Pakistan. The girl addressed the maiden United Nations Youth Assembly in New York, U.S. last Friday.
Meanwhile, Soyinka has urged students, particularly those in violence-prone North not to be discouraged by Boko Haram’s menace. He advised President Goodluck Jonathan and governors to create conducive atmosphere for Nigerians to access qualitative education.
Malala called on world leaders to provide free education to all children, and further vowed not to relent in her campaign.
While answering questions from 79 students that participated in an essay competition to commemorate his birthday, the Nobel Laureate  said Nigerian students must not allow themselves to be discouraged by negative things.
His words:  “It looks very negative and hopeless. We must not allow ourselves to be discouraged. And the fact that people are still going to schools in those areas (violence-prone areas of northern Nigeria) shows that we should not be discouraged. You are not a complete human being if you are not educated, schooled or cultured.
“No matter what goes around you, you (students) must insist on your education. I am demanding from governors and the Federal Government to obtain the speech of that young girl (Malala), burn it into CDs (compact discs) and make it available to all libraries, schools and archives.”
Speaking on his grey hair, the ‘’birthday boy’’ who described his first teacher (one Mr. Olagbaju) as his role model, added that there was no mystery behind his grey hair.
On his aspiration in life, Soyinka said:  “I would have loved to be an architect, or a musician, but not an amateur but a trained one, and if I have the opportunity to sit behind a pilot in the plane, I would have loved to be an airplane pilot. When I left school, I wanted to be a journalist. I actually sat for an exam to be absorbed in Daily Times…but after the exam, I was told that I wrote a short story and not a news story. So, I was not taken. Thank goodness, I did not become a journalist’’.
Ogun State Governor,  Ibikunle Amosun, who described Soyinka as a ‘’world citizen’’ also urged the students not to relent in their educational pursuits. He advised  participants in the essay competition to emulate the life of Soyinka and be more studious, promising the commitment of the state government towards supporting the celebration of the life of Soyinka.

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