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THE OPEN SORE OF A CONTINENT by Wole Soyinka

THE OPEN SORE OF A CONTINENT

A Personal Narrative of the Nigerian Crisis

By Wole Soyinka

Pub Date: July 25th, 1996
ISBN: 0-19-510557-5
Publisher: Oxford Univ.

 Nobelist Soyinka (Art, Dialogue, and Outrage, 1994; Ake, 1982; etc.) takes on the despotic regime of his native Nigeria in this series of scathing jeremiads. From its first days of nationhood, Nigeria has been plagued by an almost endless succession of violence, spectacular corruption (over $12 billion in oil revenues from the Gulf War just disappeared), and ethnic rivalries. The latest round of troubles began in June 1993, when national elections were voided by a repressive military coup. Soyinka himself went into exile, where he has served as a strong and constant protesting voice (even if, as he admits, he failed to vote in the elections). But the world took little note until the recent trumped up trial and hasty execution of writer Ken Saro-Wiwa along with eight other activists. But despite forceful protests and threats by other countries, the tacit fact is that Africa has been left to the Africans. Any solutions will have to be home-grown. So as Soyinka traces the roots of what went wrong in 1993, he also meditates on the meaning of nationalism and nationhood. This is a vital issue for a country as divided as Nigeria, its arbitrary borders enclosing innumerable tribes as well as three major religions. Soyinka's vague, half-hearted solution is what he calls an ethical ``remapping.'' This is to be accomplished by a series of regional conferences in troubled parts of the globe like Nigeria. As Soyinka notes: ``The history of many nations is so flawed that it screams constantly for redress.'' But as Canada has shown, even reasoned, ethical attempts at redress have proven difficult, although at least not fratricidal. Unfortunately, Soyinka's righteous, angry words are unevenly delivered. Often awkward, even strained, his prose has a rushed journalistic feel to it, certainly a far cry from the polish he displays as a playwright and memoirist.