You must set forth at dawn

Is an autobiography by Wole Soyinka, I think his second. If you have not read any work by W.S, then I recommend you read this. When I finished reading this book, I felt a desire one to meet Wole and the next was to ask myself what I have done with my life. This fellow, Wole, has done so much with his life from a young age and he is still going strong.

In this book he tells of the theft of artifacts from West Africa (Benin, Nigeria) by the British government or is it British Museum (are they different?) and an attempt to recover one particular burst of a god and the scandal that ensued. Of how the issue was mishandled by the police or was it a case of betrayal by the government?

He tells us of his meetings at Aso Rock with the different occupants of that seat except Abacha with whom he said he would not share a table with.

And of his home in Abeokuta. Of his hunts in his backyard. Of his collections of art pieces and the cousin who sold them while he was jailed.

It is the story of a Road Safety Corps started by Wole after he got tired of seeing the brains of his students and colleagues plastered on the tarmac near his university.

It is the story of Ogun, his protector god or is it as Socrates would say, his daemon? There is the story of his drive into Lagos when Abacha deposed the despicable Shonekan.

It his about his tempting of fate and maybe protection by the gods? Who can say? Or about his being sought by the killing squads of Abacha and how people within the dreaded SSS who were sympathetic to the democratic forces always passed on information to him and others.

It’s about the detained passports, restrictions on travel and freedom of movement. Or his daring escape in the early dawn through Benin to Paris then USA when Abacha through his killer squad wanted him dead.

It’s about the complicity or duplicity in world leaders to fail to sanction Abacha. Of the death of Saro Wiwa. It’s about Femi, a man with a generous appetite for good food and a great friend.

He talks about his enduring friendships with Femi and other writers and dissidents.

Of all the dictators Nigeria have had, I think, reading Wole, Abacha was the worst of them. Paranoid, a killer with no qualms. Calculating and cruel with the mind of a lizard (his words, not mine).

This book is also about death or should I say, murder most foul. Abiola the democratically elected president at the fall of Ibrahim Babangida is put in jail then Ernest Shonekan is appointed interim president before being deposed by Abacha.

I would like to know from Nigerians if any reads this blog how they could vote for Obasanjo and Buhari, the two having been military dictators? How would they believe Buhari would address corruption when he as head of the petroleum industry condoned it. A man who as dictator banned democracy and so on. It is something I really would like to understand. But I digress.

He talks of the Nobel Prize for Literature, his reactions and those of the Nigerian state. Of his involvement in the struggle for return to civilian rule during the different military dictatorships. Of his involvement in trying to get Mandela and Buthelezi to meet and end the violence before the first elections at the end of the apartheid regime.

He writes of their efforts to reach Ngugi Wa Thiong’o when he detained by the Moi regime.

Of the diplomatic mix-up with the Egyptian government at the beginning of Africa Cup of Nations.

He writes of the moment in the streets of New York where he tried to intervene in what seemed a case of domestic violence only for the victim to plead with him not to injure the aggressor. And the realisation that he was a black a man intervening in an all white affair.

It is also about his views on violence and of when he thinks it is appropriate to use violence, for example, to oust a regime that is ruling through violence. A regime that has in its activities dehumanized the population and there is need for the ruled to rise and challenge their oppressors. He finds gratuitous violence despicable and war inhumane.

You must read this book.