Sunday 13 September 2020

About Wole Soyinka and Francis Oladele ... and Sani Abacha.

Wole Soyinka (left), Nobel Laureate, and Francis Oladele, Pioneer Filmmaker.

Wole Soyinka and Francis Oladele were drawn together as young men due to their respective talents in writing and filmmaking. Oladele co-produced (along with Ola Balogun) the movie version of Soyinka’s Kongi’s Harvest which was directed by Ossie Davis, the well-known Black American actor-director.

There might have been an interregnum in their friendship over the final cut of the movie, but if there had been a breach, both men were eventually reconciled, with Soyinka becoming a regular visitor to Oladele’s country house in Lapiti Estate, Oyo Town. It was there that Soyinka sought refuge while escaping the clutches of the security apparatus of General Sani Abacha, Nigeria’s feared military ruler.

After laying low for a while, Soyinka made his escape across the Nigerian-Benin Republic border, evading the sort of incarceration which had befallen him under the rule of Major General Yakubu Gowon , and, perhaps, a date with death, as was the fate of several who spoke out against the Abacha regime.

The episode is recounted in Soyinka’s 2006 memoir You Must Set Forth at Dawn.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

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