In a hall that was filled to capacity by some of the best brains in Nigeria on Wednesday, July 13, 2011, at the Korean Cultural Centre, Abuja, Dr. Barclays Foubiri Ayakoroma, an Author, Playwright, Culture Administrator and Theatre Practitioner, who is also the Executive Secretary of the National Institute for Cultural Orientation (NICO) did not disappoint as he delivered the theme talk on Wole Soyinka, a man he described as the William Shakespeare of Africa.
The event was the special edition of the monthly Play Reading Party organized by Arojah Royal Theatre Company in collaboration with the National Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (NANTAP) to celebrate the 77th Birthday of Africa’s foremost playwright, Prof. Wole Soyinka.
The Play Reading Party is an initiative that selects a play and hosts the author to a reading and interactive session based on the themes/subject matters of the play.
Although Ayakoroma as a playwright has been hosted in one of the sessions that featured one of his popular plays “Dance on His Grave”, this time, the Executive Secretary of NICO was to deliver a paper on a man whose play he participated for the first time as a sophomore in his University days.
Speaking on the topic “Wole Soyinka at 77 – “The Man, His Works, and the Impact on Society”, Dr. Ayakoroma brilliantly and succinctly took the audience through the journey of Africa’s most celebrated literary icon from childhood to his youthful days of activism in the academic precincts and the Nigerian polity, which sometimes led to his incarceration – and his numerous contributions to literary and academic development in Africa and the world. Highlighting his numerous contributions to humanity and society, Ayakoroma, creatively summarized and interpreted the life of Soyinka through his works.
“ Wole Soyinka, WS for short, the William Shakespeare (WS) of Africa, from Ake: The Years of childhood and Childe Internationale, is one Strong Breed and one of most rugged and militant Swamp Dwellers, who passed from Ibadan, the Penkelemes Years. As a patriotic Nigerian who was born into a humble family in Abeokuta, from Zia, With Love, has made serious impact on the society through A Dance of the Forests of Independence, and taking a literary Voyage Around Essay with Camwood on the Leaves. But in taking A Shuttle in the Crypt through The Road of open confrontation with retrogressive governments, he encountered Death and the King’s Horseman, at the crescendo of his literary career that earned him global accolades in the name of Nobel Prize for Literature. To avoid Requiem for Futurologist, he, King Baabu, sent Interpreters to The Trials of Brother Jero over Jero’s Metamorphosis in the Season of Anomy but the Open Sore of a Continent turned to The Credo of Being Nothingness because in A Play of Giants, The Lion and the Jewel insist that You Must Set Forth at Dawn because Madmen and Specialists must pay Opera Wonyosi in for there to be Kongi’s Harvest by the harvester, Kongi, himself”.
Ayakoroma who had performed a lead role in Soyinka’s The Road in his early days in the University was given a standing ovation at the end of the paper.
The occasion was chaired by the Executive Director of the National Council of Arts and Culture (NCAC) Mr. M.M Maidugu, represented by Mr. Dotun Osunsanya, H.O.D performing Arts Department, had earlier said an occasion like Wole Soyinka calls for celebration and reflection of his contributions to society.
Two of Soyinka’s plays: The Lion and the Jewel and The Giants were performed during the Play Reading Session. Also performed at the event was Ms Grace Jerry the current National Miss Wheel Chair Queen, whose performance also received a standing ovation.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Tunde Adeniran thanked Ayakoroma whom he described as a round peg in a round hole as the Chief Executive Officer of NICO. Prof. Adeniran also challenged Nigerians to embrace the reading culture that had produced people like him and Dr. Ayakoroma and the only way to achieve that, he said is to appreciate what Wole Soyinka represents.
Present at the event were Dr. Jerry Agada, National President, Association of Nigerian Authors (ANA), former Ministers, Dr. Imeh Okopido – Environment, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Education and a former minister of Defence. Also present were members of Nollywood, NANTAP, ANA and persons from all walks of life. Jerry Adesewo, the President of Arojah Theatre Company compere the event.