Wole Soyinka, the Seat and Loss of Values

    Professor Soyinka and the young man by the window

Akinyemi Onigbinde

“Ma pe l’aiye, oju mi o ni r’bi,ikan ni eniyan ma mu ni’be”

As a young man growing up in Lagos,  losing your seat to an elderly one in LMTS buses  was a regular feature of your daily  journey experience  from Yaba to Race Course, or on the  Yaba-Palm Groove traffic axis .An elderly person comes into those reddish buses, and all the seats are already  taken over by sundry passengers, including the young ones.It all depended on who  first make the move;  it was either the young one that would ask, “mama/baba e wa joko( …come over and take the seat), or it would be the elderly one, with all moral authority, that would demand of  the younger one “Omo mi, je ki ngbe e l’ese”, a fatherly or motherly request that the well-nurtured, recipient of good home training would oblige, either by accepting to be lapped or took a standing position in the crowded bus.

No one reminded anyone of a “right of sear”, a temporary conveyor of convinience , no  mention of ” attempt to deprive a younger one of his duly paid-for seat”.Today, that elderly one, in contrast to  my growing up experience , would be elbowed out of the way to allow the agile one gain access into a rickety bus, with a howling demented one called the ‘bus conductor’,suffocating you with illicit  air. 

Reading of the encounter  of Wole Soyinka with  a younger one is not the issue.The nauseating issue is the manner of responses, mostly hate-propelled in the camouflaged syntax of ‘ right protection’, ‘Soyinka sense of entitlement…is he the only Nobel Laureate in town’s, ‘the man is irresponsible to have taken over another person’s  seat’, so many diatribes over a seat the man easily gave up when the younger one asked for his “right”.No one, amongst numerous commentaries, more fueled by their politics and Soyinka supposed endorsement of Buhari presidential bid, in 2015, ever thought of a possible mistake by an 85year old man.

This thing happen, and travellers know of experiences when you arrive only to see another person on your seat, not necessarily with intention to deprive, but for sundry reasons, one of which to enable two ‘lost and found  friends,  to share promixity and catch up on a past to be exhumed during the opportunity of a  possible  6- hour journey.

Of course, you call attention to the error of ‘seat.They calmly explain the situation.If you insist he moves, but why unduly insist and ruffle a possible relationship.I personally love the aisle because I didn’t mind to be disturbed, but I am wary of inconveniencing others, disturbing people with my restlessness, often getting up to stretch my legs and chart up crew members for extra pints of wine 

As for a sense of ‘entitlement’,  many do not even know the man, beyond his polemics and essays in popular journals.His personal life disposition, outside of the popular space is hardly known .You will not get him to give up his hand luggage to allow you assist, as he saunters  into the departure lounge, pulling it behind him.Of course, many would try to assist  a figure like Soyinja, but not once, but twice had I been shoved off, with a gentle admonition “Akin, let me carry my burden, you have yours”

Well, I would not condemn the younger man, it was  his right of allotted space.I guess our value system, as Africans, enjoins us to indulge our elders, something we do to our fathers and uncles  at home. I am sure, if the guy had arrived and found his boss in the office, possibly younger, slightly older or of his generation on his ‘cherished’ seat, he was not likely to demand a seat swarp with him. Oh, he didn’t know Soyinka’s age, even if he didn’t recognize and appreciate the rare opportunity of sharing breathing space with such an important global icon.Well,  different value coordinate for different people.

Akinyemi Onigbinde

I recollect how much I cherished riding in Professor Olikoye Ransome-Kuti’s ‘danfo bus'(his personal vehicle) to Lagos, abandoning a staler transport means from Ibadan. The sheer  opportunity to be with a senior member of that iconic Kuti family, Fela own senior brother, made all of the difference in my journey convinuence.That was in 1981.But we live in different age, an age when the only Obafemi a first-year undergraduate knows , or have heard of,  was Obafemi Martins . Obafemi Awolowo, in his consciousness  lived in the biblical past,and possibly a myth. The gods must be angry with some of  us,  blessing  us with long life, with equal dose of absurdity 

It thus seems that you either choose to depart the world to be saved of absurdity, or vote for longetivity with a mixture of strange and abnormal daily experiences.Too many twisted minds roam our space I apologise for Wole Soyinka for a long life of productive engagement.Let his traducers hope for his age, and in good health