Soyinka warns Africans not to sell themselves to the Chinese

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Tavis Smiley

Soyinka on Tavis Smiley

I like to call him “the man”, many call him “the gadfly, and still others call him “Africa’s only Nobel laureate in literature.”  His real name is Wole Soyinka, Nigerian writer and author.

The New York Times thinks he deserves some kind of secular sainthood. He just published his latest literary work, “Of Africa”, and it is garnering a lot of attention.

Soyinka came to my attention while I was still in high school and studying African literature. Through “The Swamp Dwellers” for example, one of his best works, I learned such things as contrast and irony in literature. Today, while he is still a writer, he teaches at Loyola Marymount University (LMU) in California.

In this interview with PBS’s Tavis Smiley, the venerable writer offered some thought provoking words about Africa in the twenty first century.

On the question of African identity vis-à-vis African American identity, Soyinka said, “I don’t think the majority of Africans have any problems with identity at all.”

On the question of China’s presence in Africa, he said, “The important thing is for African governments and peoples to safeguard the freedom of choice that they have won, after years, decades and centuries of indemnity to European powers and to make sure they do not now sell themselves down the road”

On the question of a possible Susan Rice nomination as U.S. Secretary of State and relations between the U.S. and Africa in a second Obama administration, Soyinka told Smiley, “ Let me say that the progressive element, certainly in Nigeria, has a very good impression of Susan Rice.”

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