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Wednesday, October 14, 1998 Published at 17:48 GMT 18:48 UK

World: Africa

The political life and exiles of Wole Soyinka

Wole Soyinka: Second return from exile

Lagos correspondent Hilary Andersson profiles Wole Soyinka
Wole Soyinka won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1986, and is by far the most prominent of the dissidents who fled Nigeria while it was being ruled by the late General Sani Abacha.

He left Nigeria secretly in November 1994 after the miltary ruler of the time, General Sani Abacha, confiscated his passport.


In the run-up to his self-imposed exile, Mr Soyinka had led protests against military rule and in support of recognition of Mashood Abiola, the presumed winner of the 1993 presidential election.

His campaign included urging Nigerians not pay their taxes.

Mr Soyinka was mainly based in the United States during his recent exile where he spent much of his time teaching. He also published a political diatribe against the regime of General Abacha, called The Open Sore of a Continent, in which he called for tough sanctions.

The ethnic divide

The Nobel Laureate is from the south-western Yoruba ethnic group, like Mr Abiola, who died in detention in July this year. Most of Nigeria's rulers since the country gained independence from Britain in 1960 have been from the North.

Mr Soyinka was born in Abeokuta, just north of Lagos on 13 July 1934, the son of a primary school head. He was educated in Nigeria and England, and went on to teach drama and literature in Nigeria, England and the US.

In the late 1960s, during Nigeria's civil war, Mr Soyinka was arrested after travelling illegally to the eastern breakaway province of Biafra.

He escaped and fled to Britain, but was returned to face trial and was jailed for two years.

With the end of the civil war in 1970, Mr Soyinka was released. He went into exile in Europe and Ghana for six years.

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14 Oct 98 | Africa
Soyinka flies back to Nigeria

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