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Why I was absent from Achebe’s funeral, by Soyinka

Posted By : J Rock on Friday, 30 August 2013 | 10:33

• Says attackers are sowing poison
ALMOST one month after Nigeria bade farewell to literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, issues associated with the colourful rites of passage are yet to be exhausted.
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Wednesday came down hard on those he says are still ‘caviling’ at his absence from the  funeral of Achebe that climaxed on May 23, 2013 at his home-town, Ogidi, Anambra State.
In a statement issued Wednesday, titled “The Village Mourners Association”, the literary giant said he “is a solid believer in the collective rites of Farewell. I believe in Ritual. Humanity is often assisted to reconcile with loss in a collective, and even spectacular mode.”
And the choice to participate or not, he insisted, “belongs to each individual, including even those who arrogate to themselves the mission of imposing on others their own preferred mode of bidding farewell.”
To Soyinka, “these self-righteous clerics are dangerous beings, especially where they flaunt the credentials of secular learning and gather in caucuses of presumed Humanities.”
Soyinka, in a recent interview with The Guardian, had frowned on making his ‘absence’ from the funeral a subject of debate on the Internet.
Reacting to a question on his view about life after death, he had said: “Before I answer that question, let me make a plea. I want to request the media to stop creating problems where there are none. I am referring to… even after all one has been saying and writing, and through interviews etc. Even after …Chinua Achebe … his last tribute, the poem to show we should respect the dead, and that mourning is a continuous process… it is not just now that he is dead. I am shock to read online… it was actually sent to me something like, ‘J.P. Clark, Soyinka shun Achebe’s funeral.’
“For me, this is so mischievous and dishonest. If I didn’t go to the funeral, it was because I couldn’t. In any case, we all have our way of sending off people. I haven’t seen J.P. ... since we made that statement. I am sure that there were reasons why he couldn’t be there. There are reasons why I couldn’t be there. But my presence was still there. As far as I am concerned, I was heavily there. We all have different attitudes to this thing. The media, especially a lot of this Internet blogs and so on, should just lay off and stop polluting the airwaves with their own diseased antagonism which they want to foist on other people.
“Let people resolve their own relationship the way they want. They shouldn’t have imposed relationship. What is that? ‘Wole Soyinka, J.P. Clark shun...’ Shun is active. If ‘they couldn’t be present’ had been used, one wouldn’t have bothered, that is passive. ‘Shun’ means you take a deliberate action. What kind of nonsense is that?”
Part of Soyinka’s statement  read: “From the herd, the mindless Internet fiddlers for whom the landing of a planetary probe, or a medical breakthrough is simply distraction from fraudulent Internet mailing, nothing less is expected. What menaces the collective health of society is when the deserving highs of intellectual application of the former, become indistinguishable from the loutish low of the latter.”
The renowned dramatist, poet and social crusader insists: “I do not pander to the expectations of the sanctimonious,” noting that he could absent himself from any event, “for reasons that are personal to me.
“I can absent myself as the result of a mundane domestic situation, as legitimately as from a visceral rejection of occupancy of the same space, at the same time, in the same cause, with certain other participants.
“I may absent myself for the very reason of my disdain for that breed which is certain to cavil at the very fact of my absence.”

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