In his memoir titled ‘You Must Set Forth at Dawn’, Wole Soyinka narrates how Nigerian prominent playwright, Ola Rotimi was beaten by a soldier during a military regime in Nigeria.
Ola Rotimi was born on 13 April 1938 and died on 18 August 2021. Some of his popular works include:
- The Gods Are Not to Blame
- Our Husband Has Gone Mad Again
- Akassa You Mi
- Stir the God of Iron
On 13 April 2022 (his birthday), Google posthumously honoured Ola Rotimi with a Google doodle.
According to Wole Soyinka, the incident leading to Ola Rotimi being flogged by a soldier occurred during a roadblock ‘close to Ikorodu town, on the “old Ikorodu road” as it became later known, after the dual carriageway that now links Ibadan to Lagos was built’. There was the usual succession of roadblocks, with the ‘personnel at each hardly
knowing or caring what the dictator of the last—sometimes within sight of each other — had done’.
Ola Rotimi was a lecturer and dramatist at the University of Ife and he had his foreign wife and children in the car with him. A soldier came by and looked into the car asked for his papers, and then waved him on. Ola Rotimi pulled out of the line of queued up cars, ‘like others who had been similarly cleared, and moved’.
Suddenly, another soldier stepped out from the head of the queue and ordered Ola Rotimi to pull over. He was ordered to come out of the car with his wife and kids. He was accused of jumping the queue and his explanation that he had been cleared did not avail him. ‘“You jump queue, you tink say I no see you? You tink you be big man so you no fit wait like everybody?”’, said the soldier.
Ola Rotimi was subsequently flogged in the presence of his wife and kids. Soyinka wrote that the recollection of Ola Rotimi’s ordeal, would sometimes jerk him awake covered in sweat in the middle of the night.