July 13, 2014
Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah on Friday preached to Prof. Wole Soyinka to “return to the Lord,” as he walks toward the sunset.
Speaking in Abeokuta, Ogun State, during the 17th Wole Soyinka Annual Lecture Series, to coincide with the 80th birthday celebration of the Nobel Laureate, it was an event organized by the National Association of Seadogs.
Kukah, who argued Soyinka’s place is already assured among those in the pantheon of the great men and women of letters said, “One last word: Prof, had you listened to your mother, life would have been easier for you. Remember she warned you: ‘Wole, Itirayi ni gbobo nkan.’ Perhaps it is just as well that you did not believe in merely trying for them, you would not have had a Nobel Prize. For a failed trader, failed farmer, a soldier on AWOL, you did well by choosing Literature and Art.
“Unless the British come to arrest you for court martial, I wish you many more years of good health, joy and peace. As you walk towards the sunset, turn to the Lord and may He let His face shine upon you and bless you,” Kukah added.
Challenging the next generation of writers of Soyinka’s legacies, Kukah further argued, “The challenge now is not so much what the celebrant’s legacy should be. His place is already assured among in the pantheon of the great men and women of letters. The next generation of writers must address the questions of the relationship between Life and Art.
“Perhaps we are can argue that the writings of the celebrant have attempted to use art to imitate life, drawing inspiration from the realities of the society, warts and all. What we now need is new generations of Nigerian artists, who will make Life imitate Art. By doing this, they can hold before us a world that is not here, but is possible. They can offer us a vision of a society that is not here, yet but one to which we can align our politics, religion and culture as a people. They can summon to bear our burden with joy, to conquer our darkness with courage. That is the only spirit that can summon us to say, ‘Yes, we can, and Yes, we Must.’ It is the only spirit that can bend the arc of justice in our direction,” Kukah said to the audience.
“This is the spirit that rallied the Chinese to undertake the long trek. It is the spirit that summoned the Mau Mau to defend their land. It is the spirit that flowed in the veins of Nelson Mandela. Let me illustrate, with the late President John F Kennedy.
“John Kennedy’s Presidency was short, but historic, for due to his application of an incredible vision and imagination of possibilities. When he promised Americans that they would land a man on the moon, it sounded like madness. We now know better. He imagined the creation of a non-racial and equal society. In a national broadcast on June 3, 1963, he proposed legislation to end discrimination, and hasten integration and equality. Five months later, he was dead, but the project was irreversible. On July 3, 1964, his successor, Lyndon Johnson saw to it by signing the Civil Rights Act into Law. Lofty as this idea was, law by itself is not self-actualizing or self-enforcing. While the struggle went on by other means, Hollywood stepped in. Hollywood chose the theme of inter-racial marriage to make the point,” Kukah concluded poignantly.