Although I literally (and partially literarily) tread his (Soyinka) path, I never wanted to be like him; no, not like I gave it so much thought, but I knew so little of him, and yes, I rather would be myself. People have said we had the same footprints and may leave the same kinds of marks in the annals of mankind. They have likened the depth of my poetry and the skillfulness of my penmanship to his. What has startled me more is the profuse harassment by by-traders, market women and salesmen. They would boldly slam his name upon me in attempt to get my attention. Sometimes, I could be almost certain that I would be addressed as Soyinka whenever I was stepping out. Was it the hair or was it more? I could not be bothered as far as I left my own ink-mark in the deathless libraries. But this night, I stumbled upon some clips of this man, and for the first time, I more substantially understood the very essence and substance of him. Prior, there was only a little I knew of him from rumors and newspaper articles. I had not fashioned my lifestyle after him. I had barely read any of his books, nor was ever compelled to read any. Admittedly, I read Lion and the Jewel when I was only a boy, a curiosity hinged on finding out what he wrote that earned him the Nobel price. I barely made it through a few pages. No, not that I did not find his work charming, but it is custom to me not to read thoroughly owing to a laziness I can hardly shake away. Hell, I barely read my own works!
A peek into his depths and I felt vertigo overwhelm me. I listened to his words with such painful attention and scrutiny and I saw my feet more perfectly fitting his. Modestly put, I think we may have the same soul. His words were an echo of my imaginings so that it felt our voices intertwined. For numberless minutes, I was dazed to think I might actually be like this man. I mean, I may actually be him and not lose myself; and listen to him and not lose my voice; and read him and not… No, I don’t think I would read him.
I had been teased to say I looked like him in physical appearance – The full Afro hairstyle and puffy beards. Not to mention the irrelevance and triviality of the fact that we went through the same secondary school (Government College Ibadan). This again, couldn’t bother me much. But hearing this man speak with so much depth and wisdom and such simplicity commingled with a rare grammatical exactness was a whole new level. His words resonated experience; but more astounding was the confidence he exuded. He could call the President a crab and shake hands with the pope at will; and if he coughed, it was called wisdom. Instantly, having been harassed by his literary achievements and political impacts, I knew very much that I wanted to be like this man as the least of my achievements. My mind had conspired with my heart and so I was left with no choice than to idolize this god-man. I wanted to have such loud literary audacity that would quiver the world over. And as the most, I wanted to leave a larger footprint than he would ever leave in the hard and trying sands of time.
–Efe Ronald Chesterfield
Author, Comedy of Disgrace.