Saturday, February 3

People thought I was an impostor when I said I was Soyinka’s son – Olaokun Soyinka


Dr. Olaokun Soyinka, the first son of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has recounted how being the son of the famous writer has earned him opportunities and knocks.

The medical doctor and former Ogun State Commissioner for Health made the disclosure in an interview with Daily Trust.

Asked whether being Soyinka’s son has created opportunities for him, he said: “Most definitely, although it has closed some too. He is very much against nepotism so he avoids trying to personally give his children an unfair advantage over others, however there are many indirect benefits.
“When I went to school in the UK, it was quite daunting. I was worried about racism on top of being a new kid who had joined late in the 6th form. However, my fellow students who had done O’ level English had studied ‘Telephone Conversation’. When they discovered my name and mentioned the coincidence I proudly informed them that it was my father who wrote it.

“I became the kid who was pretending to be the poet’s son. It was surprisingly difficult to prove who I was, but once I did I was granted an immediate pass to the ‘in-crowd’.

“The biggest advantage of being a Soyinka, and one that I still appreciate and enjoy to this day, is the fact that I can gain people’s trust more easily. When your motives are honest it is the most frustrating thing not to be trusted and indeed in today’s Nigeria it is dangerous to trust people with money or to stick to an agreement, or to go the extra mile to do a good job. I have found, however, that in some cases where I really needed a person to have that faith, to take a risk on me, I often heard the phrase, ‘the fruit does not fall far from the tree’ as they decided to take the chance with me. I have really appreciated that.

“We also say that to get on in Nigeria, it is who you know. Another advantage of the name has been meeting or getting to know people. My father knows many people and is known by many more. Often I meet people that I don’t know but who know me, or know of me, perhaps because they knew me when I was young or they knew my father had a son. That helps too.

“I am sure there are many instances in which I was not even aware that something went well for me because someone somewhere wanted to favour the name. I know some people reason that since he has done a lot for Nigeria, helping one of his offspring is the least they can do.

“The converse may be true too. There are probably situations in which I was quietly side-lined from something because it might have been thought to be too risky to have a Soyinka knowing about certain things.”

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