The 1st African Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka spoke
about his childhood during his 80th birthday
celebration in Abeokuta, Ogun state on Sunday.
“I used to go with my father when he hunted. It was
a mere air gun but was good enough for squirrels,
the wild pigeon and occasional rabbit. I was just
curious. One day I sat in the house’s frontage
waiting for him to come out of his bedroom so I
could accompany him.
“I just felt there was something about that part of
his gun which he used to pull. I tried the same
motion and it just exploded; but he knew it was his
fault so he never chided me. He knew he should
never have left that gun loaded and he knew me
enough to know that I had learnt that lesson and I
didn’t need to be reminded of it. Of course, there
was a sort of mutual standoff; I was not rebuked
but he knew I was not going to do it again.”
Reminiscing on his childhood years, Soyinka said
his bravery and sometimes cunning traits as a child
didn’t go down well with his mother who reasoned
that his over-confidence would harm him in
the journey of life.
The vintage author said, “When a child tries out
something which people, even adults, should
undertake with great caution, then they think that
child is over-confident and is going to destroy
“I think it stemmed from the fact that if I thought
about something which was possible, then I should
be ready to test it.”
“ I enjoyed trying out the practical side of science
at home— I used to perform experiments. Things
like that, you know, sometimes blew up in my face.
Same with putative artistry.
“I would re-arrange my mother’s shop because I
felt mine was the best way. I looked at customers,
studied them and decided which arrangements
would attract them more. She would give up and let
me have my way. After I had gone back to school,
she would undo everything.”
He said his early school days still remain fresh in
his memory, affirming that he was able to cope
with older boys as a 10year-old scholarship
student at Government College, Ibadan because his
unique approach to issues.
He said, “Those school mates of mine, they were
bullies. They were terrifying because they looked
big. Some of them, I am sure, had children already.
Some had moustaches and so they shaved every
“The ‘over-confidence’ that my mother used to
complain of saved me and put me in trouble also.
Because they were big they felt they should
trample all over me. I had no hesitation in taking
“It was a very good training because you defeat
people like that largely with moral persistence.
They knew they were misusing their power.
“Whenever they turned on me, being really small,
the bullying got really intense because these big
boys could not stand the idea that this rondo
(small) boy was sitting while others were standing.
They couldn’t stand it. They intensified the bullying,
which made me even more aggressive.”