Home News Soyinka: I Wish Chinua Achebe Had Not Written ‘There Was a Country’

Soyinka: I Wish Chinua Achebe Had Not Written ‘There Was a Country’


By Adeola Ogunrinde

Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, may have raised another issue, which may pitch him against some Igbo elites in the country. He said he wished the late Chinua Achebe had “not written the book ‘There Was a Country’ or had written it in a different way”.

The late Achebe, another nobel laureate, took on former Premier of the defunct Western region and Federal Minister of Finance during the civil war, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, in the book. Awolowo was said to have given the military government of General Yakubu Gowon the idea of blocking food supplies to the Eastern region during the war.

He was said to have questioned the wisdom in sending food items to the same people waging war against the country.

The blocking of food supplies to the East had sounded the death knell of the country’s 30 months civil war over the declaration of the Republic of Biafra.

In the second part of his interview on Channels TV Books Club aired on Tuesday night, Soyinka, however, said sentiments as expressed by Achebe in his book would show that “Biafra is still in the heart”.

The nobel laureate had earlier in the first part of the interview called on President Muhammadu Buhari to employ more diplomacy in handling the recent agitation for the Republic of Biafra in the South-east led by the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.

Soyinka described the late Awolowo as the most thinking leader of the Yoruba nation. “He thought things through well”.

Responding to a question and allegation that he did not want anyone to share the stage with him, he denied saying such, stating that what he said which might have been misinterpreted and “deliberately misinterpreted by Adewale Maja-Pierce is that there was no competition between him and the late Achebe.

He said there is no completion in the work of arts, asking rhetorically whether people can compare oranges with apples, water melon or bananas.

Soyinka, however, said he had shared podiums with the late Achebe on many occasions and had watched him teach, disclosing that he was a better teacher than him. “He had patience as a teacher which I lack”.

He said contrary to the choice of Achebe’s book ‘Things fall Apart’ as favourite of many, he likes ‘Arrow of God’ more.

Asked about his own favourite book in his collection of works, Soyinka said it was difficult for him to single out a particular one, saying writing is a question of his mood.

Responding to another question whether he believed the death of late founding Editor-in-Chief, Dele Giwa, was by the government of the day, he said it was an easy question for him to answer but that he would not.

But he said: ” I believe I know who is responsible and why he was silenced. I believe the truth would come out eventually and like the death of the late Bola Ige, I believe I know who organised it and who carried it out”.

He described the two assassinations as the most traumatising, “though there are others too,” adding, however, that any government serious to get to terms with who killed them can do so.

“If Buhari government is serious on the issue of political assassinations, he can untie the two deaths because, “the clues, the leads are there. I’m stressing that of Bola Ige because it is still fresh. That of Dele Giwa is cold and is getting colder by the day.”

He said he believed there would be many witnesses ready to testify in respect of the killing of Ige.

Soyinka said what is most important to him now is the pursuit of peace. “I have always valued peace and quietude but more than ever before I value my peace now,” teasing the ChannelsTv Books Club interviewer as intruding on his peace.

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