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Professor Wole Soyinka

Africa's first Nobel Laureate in Literature

Wole Soyinka was born on July 13, 1934. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986, becoming Africa’s first Nobel Laureate in Literature. He has suffered incarceration, exile and numerous assassination attempts under different Nigerian military dictators as a result of playing his role as a social critic. He has continued to be the conscience of the nation, and an avowed critic of successive corrupt, inept, and abusive governments.

In naming the Centre after Soyinka, we seek to honour his role as publisher of the famous but now extinct pan-african investigative magazine, Transition, which he published while in exile in the early seventies. Transition was an inspiring media intervention in the debate for a democratic and accountable polity in Africa.

At the inaugural annunciation of the initiative, Soyinka’s significance was explained in these terms: “In the course of the past two generations of Nigeria’s history, no individual has epitomized the spirit of freedom than Wole Soyinka who is unarguably the zeitgeist of Nigeria’s post-Independence challenge with freedom, writing, justice, humanity, and democracy”. Soyinka represents the symbol and example of how “the vivid outlines and structures of a better society can be sketched through the resources and power of the human imagination.”

Wole Soyinka himself says: “On all levels humanity is involved and wherever humanity is involved, that’s my constituency.”

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