By Japhet Alakam
Despite the economic crunch biting the nation, organisers of the annual Wole Soyinka birthday celebration,Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange Project, WSICE 84, again rolled out the drums in celebration of the 84th birthday of the Nobel laureate, Prof. Akinwande Oluwole Babatunde Soyinka. This year’s edition which is the ninth in the series ended during the weekend at Abeokuta , the celebrants home state with a lot of programmes which included the essay competition featuring 84 students, creative workshop,DYOT and presentation of short drama sketches of WS and interrogation, dance , drama and music. There was also visitation by Governor Ibikunle Amosun and announcement of results and visitation by Prof. Wole Soyinka.
Themed, The Pursuit of Truth (Truth and the National Psyche), Lies and the National Psyche”, it examined the destructive and destabilising effects of “Lies” (including fake news) in national discourse and politics in particular and its unpalatable effects on our collective humanity.As usual, this year’s event featured 84 students, symbolic of Soyinka’s age, writing analyses of three of the Nobel Laureate’s poems in a reality television-like setting at the 1000-seater amphitheatre situated in the neighbourhood of the Laureate’s Autonomous Residency Ijegba (ARI) in the forested part of Ibara Housing Estate, Abeokuta.
The winning entries were actually unveiled some minutes to the commencement of the essay writing exercise and at the end of the keenly contested final essay competition, the results were announced and awards (for winners) and certificates given to all participants. A look at the result showed that for the second year running, Abia State took the first position as Master Onyemelukwe Brandon Obioma of Dority International school, Aba, Abia State essay was adjudged the best. He was closely followed by Mbagwu Nzubechukwu, from Federal Government College, Imo State, while the third position went to Okoronkwo Mmesomachi, also of Dority International school, Aba, Abia State.
After the essay writing in the atmospheric amphitheatre, the finalists were mentored on the importance of responsible citizenship, patriotism, education and importance of dreaming positively by a coterie of eminent dignitaries and leaders of thought including Mr Alistar Soyode, the founder of BENTv and a presidential aspirant; Mr Dayo Adeneye (D1), the popular entertainment broadcaster and current Ogun State Commissiomer of Information and Strategy; Professor Segun Ojewuyi, Theatre Director;culture scholar and Head of Directing at the Southern Illinois university, Carbondale Illinois USA, who is co-Executive Producer of the Open Door Series/Wsice ZMirage project; Dr Razinatu Mohammed, writer and Associate Professor of English and Literature at the University of Maiduguri.
From overseas, two of the guests Baretta Chullen and Susan Harrocks from the US, also spoke to the finalists on the importance of loving their country and working towards its advancement, inspite of the odds that may currently look threatening to their (youths) future. “Nigeria is a great place to be speaking as a first timer in this country,” stated Baretta, continuing “Nigerians have the warmest smiles I have ever seen…”.Later, the students visited Abeokuta’s famous tourist attraction, Olumo Heritage Site and also had a session of free creative expressions dubbed Do your own thing.WSICE is an annual programme initiated in 2010 by the management of ZMirage Multimedia Company led by the technical theatre exponent and businessman, Alhaji Teju Kareem and the US-based GlobalNewHaven headed by the Theatre Director and culture scholar, Professor Segun Ojewuyi.