Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, speaks to The Associated Press during an interview at freedom park in Lagos, Nigeria, Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. Wole Soyinka, Nigeria's Nobel-winning author, sees his country's many problems — misgoverning politicians, systemic corruption, violent extremists, and kidnapping bandits — yet he does not despair. At 87, he says Nigeria's youth may have the energy and the know-how to get the troubled country back on track. He says Nigeria needs a "brutal" soul-searching and a leader who will "take the bull by the horns" for things to improve. (AP Photo/Sunday Alamba)

Nigerian Nobel-winning author Wole Soyinka has hope in young

Nigerian Nobel-winning author Wole Soyinka has hope in young

LAGOS, Nigeria (AP) — Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s Nobel-winning author, sees his country’s many problems — misgoverning politicians, systemic corruption, violent extremists, and kidnapping bandits — yet he does not despair.

At 87, he says Nigeria’s youth may have the energy and the know-how to get the troubled country back on track.

It is up to the new generation “to decide whether they want to keep going along the same chugging one-track train,” or chart a new course, Soyinka told The Associated Press.

Soyinka credits young Nigerians — about 64 million between 15 and 35 years of the country’s more than 200 million people — for trying to fundamentally reform the country. He cites the Oct. 2020 #EndSARS protests against police brutality, comparing it to the “positive watersheds of resistance” during the years of military rule Nigeria endured for nearly 30 years.

Although the protests one year ago ended in shootings and the deaths of more than 30 protesters, Soyinka says the widespread demonstrations organized on social media show the promise of the young to achieve change.

“The kind of energy and intelligence which created the #EndSARS movement is one, for instance, that can be used on a much broader scale to involve masses of people,” he said.

In his first novel in nearly 50 years, Chronicles from the Land of the Happiest People on Earth, published in September, Soyinka has created a fictional Nigeria rife with crime, corruption and chaos with an oppressive ruling party called the People on the Move Party (POMP). And the population is anything but happy, although there is an ironically-named annual Festival of the People of Happiness.

The satirical novel depicts a trade in human body parts — by a company named Human Resources — and a pastor of a megachurch who preaches Chrislam — a mix of Christianity and Islam. Yet Soyinka’s unsparing portrait of Nigeria is also mixed with a hopeful spirit.

From the Freedom Park in Lagos, Soyinka spoke to AP about his views of his country. Similar to the setting of his novel, Soyinka said he feels the current system in Nigeria is not a “working, productive” one.

In 2015, Soyinka endorsed presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari and asked Nigerians to forgive the leader of his past as a former dictator who ruled Nigeria from 1983 to 1985. Now Buhari is president and Soyinka is critical of him.

“Right from the middle of the first round of his government, it has failed on many levels and it is up to Nigerians to wake up and reverse the direction in which they are being taken,” the author said of 78-year-old Buhari’s administration.

He said Buhari has a record of “putting people in crates” when they do not agree with him, including separatist leaders Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu, currently in the custody of Nigeria’s secret police.

Soyinka says Nigeria started going in the wrong direction back in 1955 when the West African giant started to get “unearned and undeserved wealth” from oil.

“We didn’t manufacture anything from the oil, we just used it raw for what it is, sold it, took the money and wasted the money,” Soyinka, who in 1986 was the first Black author and the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.

“Productivity went down and the little economies which sustain a people … began to disappear,” he said.

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