Author, playwright, and poet Wole Soyinka has long been forthright about African democracy, especially in his home country Nigeria.
He has spoken up against military juntas and civilian autocrats alike, showcasing the eloquence you’d expect from Africa’s first Nobel laureate in literature, an honour he received in 1986.
While Soyinka (pictured) is often critical of Africa’s leaders, it is in support of strengthening democracy itself.
The 86-year-old—whose first novel in 48 years publishes in September—says that mission is why he is throwing his voice behind Bobi Wine in Uganda, whose opposition challenge against the 34-year rule of President Yoweri Museveni, 76, will yield one of the most closely watched elections on the continent. Ugandans go to the polls on January 14.
Robert Kyagulanyi, aka Bobi Wine, is the Ugandan pop star turned elected Member of Parliament who is now a thorn in Museveni’s side as the leader of an opposition challenge buoyed by millions of young Ugandans.
“Bobi Wine, for me right now, represents the face of democracy for Uganda,” says Soyinka, speaking from Lagos.
Perhaps the surest sign Bobi Wine may be a credible threat to Museveni’s rule is how brutally the administration has dealt with the 38-year-old politician and his supporters.
In November, more than 50 people were killed after opposition supporters protested the arrest of Bobi Wine and another opposition leader.
Soyinka says he has been watching Bobi Wine, whom he met in Nigeria in October 2019, for a while now.
“Even before [we met], I had taken an interest in his movement, his candidature, and his passion.
And I share it; I share every bit of it,” he says. Despite being an octogenarian himself, the professor says he is “fed up” with Africa’s leadership of “sick old men.”
Museveni, who is Africa’s third longest ruling leader, has claimed victory in five elections since 1996. It is estimated that some 80 per cent of Uganda’s population of 43 million was born after he first came to power in 1986.
Soyinka’s history with Uganda dates back to the 1970s, when he joined protests against the tyrannical rule of then President Idi Amin.
Indeed, Museveni first came to prominence also by opposing Amin’s rule, but as a young, military rebel leader (Reuters).