You Must Set Forth At Dawn By Wole Soyinka
Asking much questions in the long run makes one look stupid, either by the frequency of the questions, or by its very nature. I have questioned the status of Nigeria as the giants of Africa; I have asked why Golf is an entertainment, or why I still don’t have beards at this old age, and recently at a writer’s symposium I asked a question that proved to be quite stupid. My question was why Wole Soyinka is revered as a great writer? Why did he win the Nobel price? Wasn’t the award just a concession to the African race? I won’t go into the furrow this question caused at the symposium, but the insults I received were well cultured and polite, and they spurred me into research.
I soon came across my best work by the author; You Must Set Forth At Dawn. This memoir gives details of the author’s participation in the political struggles of Nigeria. As I read, I began to see why the author is so revered. His writing prowess threw me directly into his experiences. I felt them like my own. It was me that was there that night brokering peace between Biafra and Federal forces. It was me that raided that house in France to retrieve the Stolen Nigerian artifact. I was the hunted man fleeing my country on motor bike through the smuggler’s route. Through the book, I was present when Soyinka hijacked a Radio station at gunpoint. I felt his fear at the death sentence placed on him by the military. I felt his loneliness and longing for home while on exile. I was even there with him in jail.
The book brings out Soyinka as not only a man of humour, but also as a man whose love for justice and good governance trumps personal gain. This memoir filled me with admiration for the resilience of the character, and a longing for what could have been, If only we had set forth at dawn to save our nation.