…Celebrating Wole Soyinka’s 88th birthday anniversary
Speakers in the advocacy session of the 2022 edition of the annual Wole Soyinka International Cultural Exchange, WSICE, holding virtually on July 13, have been unveiled by the organiser. The WSICE 2022 programme will feature three core events: July 12 pre-event activities, July 13 Advocacy Forum & Culture House Reception & Students Essay Writing & Youths Essay Writing and screening of three films
BASED on the theme ‘Citizenship & Nation Building… The case for Rights, Freedom & Justice, speakers will discuss the essential ingredients towards effective mobilisation of the citizens for nation building. The theme, explained the Executive Producer of the WSICE project, Dr. Teju Kareem, is to capture the main issues of preoccupation in the socio-political situation of Nigeria in the global space.
The advocacy session will be prefaced by Prof. Segun Ojewuyi, the Dean of College of Arts & Media, Southern Illinois University (SIU), Carbondale, Illinois U.S., and co-Executive Producer of WSICE.
The lead speaker is the famous lawyer-political and human rights activist, Dele Farotimi, who is renowned for his consistent critique of the prevalent political system in Nigeria, as well as the activities of the political elites via his writings and diverse broadcast mediums. Easily remembered for his pro-bono legal service and material support for the victims of #EndSARS shooting at the Lekki Tollgate, Farotimi is also a regular columnist and writer via his well-subscribed website www.delefarotimi.com, as well as his plethora of commentary on national affairs on major television and radio stations and social media platforms. He is the author of two best-selling political treatise: Do Not Die in their War (2016) and Imperative of the Nigerian Revolution (2019)
Other speakers are the actor-social activist, Bimbo Manuel; the social worker and woman rights activist, Ier Jonathan and the broadcaster-rights activist, Ireti Bakare.
To emphasise the involvement of the youths, which is one of the cardinal objectives of the project, two youth activists have been included in the line-up; and these are Adamu Garko, a writer-teenage activist, who won the annual WSICE essay competition in 2014 and Okere Chukwuma Christian, a 2015 participant of Wole Soyinka international essay competition.
Goodwill messages are expected to be delivered by a professor of English Literature at the University of Abuja, Razinat Muhammed, a professor of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences and Director of the Chinese Studies Institute at San Diego State University, U.S., Lilly Cheng, the Managing Director of Tanus Communications and a close associate of Prof. Wole Soyinka, Yemi Ogunbiyi (PhD), and associate professor and chair of the department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security, and Global Governance, and Executive Director of the Center for Peace, Democracy, and Development at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, Darren Kew.
The session will be moderated by a performance poet and youth activist, who is currently a student of Lagos State University (LASU) and a past host of the Youth Advocacy session of the programme, Victory Ashaka.
WS88: Celebrating the Icon:
The edition, as is traditional since inception, is to celebrate the 88th birthday anniversary (July 13) of Wole Soyinka, the “Global Humanist”, who through “his exemplary life choices and over six decades of illustrious careers of writings, activism and agency of numerous and varied interventions in global affairs, has helped to shape the cause and course of our collective humanity,” stated Kareem, Chief Executive of Zmirage Multimedia company, the main corporate promoter of the project.
Overall Project Mission and Principle:
The WSICE is organised on the platform of the OpenDoor Series Project WS, an international cultural exchange programme designed for the purpose of using the platforms of Arts (literary & performing) and Culture to affirm and uphold the dignity of man. Focusing on the youths as the future of humanity, the ICE seeks to foster unity among mankind regardless of race, age, gender and faith. The project uses the instrumentality of the arts to evaluate developments in the society and proffer solutions to challenges confronting the unity and sanity of our common humanity, and development of our world. Though the base is Nigeria, the world in general is the WSICE’s turf of engagement.
Advocacy Forum: The overall theme for this year’s edition is CITIZENSHIP & Nation Building… The case for Rights, Freedom & Justice, which is to capture the main issues of preoccupation in the socio-political situation of Nigeria in the global space. Speakers at the advocacy session will discuss the essential ingredients towards effective mobilisation of the citizens for Nation Building.
Youth Session: The students/youth segment is about Educational/Intellectual engagement of the youth through Essay Writing Competitions. The annual competition featuring Senior Secondary School students from around Nigeria writing on the theme: The Intervention of the Youths in a New Dawn, which is to examine the role(s) the youths could play in the process of birthing a new Nation through Nigeria’s current political preparation towards 2023. Winners of the Essay writing competitions will be unveiled on July 13, the actual birthday of Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, who is the patron saint of the project.
Culture House Reception: This is a session of free cultural expressions by the youth participants in the project, featuring storytelling, spoken word, poetry, musical and theatrical performances, film screening, etc. It is also the day the WSICE Honoured Guests (student-participants) usually have engagement with the WSICE Patron, Wole Soyinka at his Autonomous Republic of Ijegba (ARI) residency in Idi Aba, Abeokuta.
Film screening: A new addition to the programme line-up of the annual WSICE programming content, the Film screening session is in partnership with the Black Film Center & Archive at the Indiana University Bloomington. Dotting on the theme, “Soyinka, Citizenship, and the Moving Image,” the session will hold July 12-14 featuring three films in all: Kongi’s Harvest, So Be It and Culture in Transition – each day will feature the screening of a film. The last day of the screening, July 14th, will be followed by a conversation that will have as panellists: Rejoice Abutsa, PhD student at Cornell University, Deji Toye, lawyer, culture writer, Essence London, PhD student at Indiana University and BFCA staff, Dr. Tunde Awosanmi, theatre director, Scholar, University of Ibadan, and Dr. Akin Adesokan, Director, Black Film Center & Archive, Indiana University, Bloomington, U.S., who will moderate the session.
Designed to be held at multiple educational venues, especially university campuses, the chosen venue for the first leg of the screening is at Crown Art Factory (CAF) located on Awofodu Street, Somolu, Bariga Lagos. The CAF is the performance base of the popular performing company, Crown Troupe of Africa led by Segun Adefila. Other venues for the screening will be unveiled later.
Citizenship: This is indeed very apposite now in the context of the discourse around Nigeria’s quest for nationhood. The agitation by different nationalities for separate identities, and the consequential rise of separatists has spotlighted the need to re-examine the whole notion of citizenship, especially as it relates to the variegated components of the so-called Nigerian nation. And in particular, with the reluctance by the government of the day (and a section of the political elites) to hearken to the persistent call for Restructuring or to even tolerate the agitations by peoples across the spectrum, the problem around appropriate definition of citizenship will always arise.
Nation Building: This is the major preoccupation of Nigeria and its people as we prepare to transit to a new political dispensation. And it is naturally tied to the question of citizenship. Nations are built by people who subscribe to be members of the ‘family’, and who must be properly mobilised to believe themselves as bona fide citizens with all the perquisites that come with it. It is impossible to build a true nation without a well-mobilised and convinced citizens, who believe that their rights, freedom and Justice are guaranteed in such a nation. As the aphorism goes, you can only help build a house that you believe belongs to you, or in which you would always be wanted, or respected.
It is common knowledge that respect for rights of citizens have been grossly endangered in the country, and the situation has worsened in present dispensation, especially with recurrent illegal arrests and detentions and other forms of subterfuges against the people by both State and non-State actors. For citizenship to be affirmed and mobilised for nation building, respect for rights has to be entrenched.
Freedom: The space for freedom of expression has gradually shrunk substantially in the past few years, unhelped by the consistent push by the federal government to introduce anti-media freedom laws that tend towards the era of draconian military regimes. A dangerous addition in recent years has been the trampling on freedom to life by non-state actors, who seem to take advantage of the general state of impunity in the polity to constrict the freedom of others.
Justice: As the WSICE Poetry laureate, Efe Paul Azino says:
Justice has been kidnapped in my country,
no one’s willing to pay her ransom.
She was absent at the tribunal when the verdict was given,
so the marauders were declared winners,
though we know the votes were phantom.
Chaos convulses the land;
the tranquillity’s been shattered,
We can’t piece together the peace.
Justice has indeed become the greatest victim of the impunities that currently rule the country. Many of the citizens have been short-changed in their pursuit of justice for their rights and cases, and have thus lost confidence in the state to serve them judiciously. This is one of the reasons many of them are taking the laws into their hands. This is exemplified in the rising cases of jungle justice and wanton killings in several parts of the world. This again is a factor adversely affecting the affirmation of citizenship as a process towards nation building.
Organised and Sponsored by Zmirage Multimedia Ltd (Nigeria & UK) led by Dr. Kareem, and jointly promoted with New Global Haven led by Prof. Ojewuyi, the OpenDoorSeries continues to enjoy support from Ogun State Government. Ibikunle Amosun & Co remains the WSICE foundation, and long-standing supporter. The project also enjoys academic and technical supports of San Diego State University’s School of Theatre & Television (headed by Prof. Niyi Coker Jnr) and Chinese Institute (headed by Prof. Cheng), Dr. Awosanmi of Department of Theatre Arts University of Ibadan and a host of other supporters.