Funke Osae Brown
Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka is a writer whose works have transcended different races. His works were at the forefront of post-colonial emancipation in Africa. It is not a surprise therefore that his latest book, a collection of essays, Harmattan Haze on an African Springreleased on Tuesday at Terra Kulture, Victoria Island, Lagos, focuses on Africa’s post colonial experience in the new millennium.
The book which had earlier been published by the Yale University under the title, ‘Of Africa’, is published in Nigeria by BookCraft. The book is yet another way Soyinka condemns the racist view of the West about Africa. It speaks about language, spirituality, the conflict between Christian and Islam and suggests that the traditional form of worship is the way forward for a colonised continent.
Harmattan Haze on an African Spring was discussed by Oby Ezekwesili, former vice president, World Bank, Pat Utomi, an economist, Kanyinsola Ajayi, a lawyer, and Soyinka himself.
While speaking on the book, Soyinka said he did not want to be interrogated about the book. “I won’t submit myself to be interrogated. You will encounter the book under a different title published by Yale University. The difference is that Harmattan Haze on an African Springcontains an additional epilogue. I had an occasion to make a remark in an interview in the US after everyone picked on the racist view about Africa. I wrote the book as a response to that individual who made the racist statement.”
Ezekwesili said the book highlights Soyinka’s position on the contradictions on the continent and he takes the question of development to the individual. “What’s the essence of the Africa human being? Development is an old process the book forces everyone to interrogate. Is there a process of development that we have been alienated from as a race?”
Soyinka situates the process of Africa’s development to the law of gravity. He argues that the velocity of Africa’s development was largely stagnated by the history of slavery and colonialism.
“My mouth has gone sore about talking poor leadership. You can’t talk about development in Africa without taking into consideration slavery and colonialism. These are still dragging us down and we have not been able to overcome this. We constantly have to battle the problems that come from these two major impediments.
As a response to Soyinka’s view on colonialism and slavery, Ezekwesili argues that most young people on the continent have lost touch with colonialism and slavery. “More young people in Africa are losing touch with colonialism and slavery. When it comes to development there should be a space for convergence, between the old and the new, to enable a never again commitment from them.”
While asking questions from the interlocutors, Ajayi read the first few lines of Soyinka’s famous poem, ‘Abiku’. And he wonders if the child Abiku is a symbolic representation of corruption in the Nigerian society.
On his part, Utomi argues that corruption in the country is synonymous with Abiku because there have been no consequences for such act. “One of the challenges of living in Nigeria is doing something without consequence. There is a tendency to do it if there are no consequences for an action.
“Nigeria is reputed to be the tenth internet user in the world but how have we used this to create a new spring like the Arab spring? It is time for Africa to arise.”