Humanists UK is delighted to announce the appointment of its newest patron, Wole Soyinka. Soyinka is a world-renowned playwright, poet, and activist who joins a stable of over 170 Humanists UK patrons with distinguished careers in arts, literature, science, academia, politics, and community and civic activism.
Wole Soyinka – who won the 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature – is best known across the world for his rich literary work and his advocacy for freedom of expression once stating: ‘The greatest threat to freedom is the absence of criticism’.
Having spent time in the UK upon graduating from the University of Leeds, Wole returned to Nigeria and established himself as a dramaturgist writing plays that were produced in both countries, in theatres, and on radio. He has taught at a number of universities in Nigeria, the US, and the UK.
Soyinka has been a strong critic of successive Nigerian governments, most notably in 1967 when he was accused of conspiring with the Biafra rebels and was held as a political prisoner for 22 months, and during the regime of General Sani Abacha (1993–98), when Soyinka escaped from Nigeria on a motorcycle via the ‘NADECO Route.’ Abacha later proclaimed a death sentence against him ‘in absentia.’
Soyinka is also a formidably strident critic of Islamic fundamentalism. When presented with the International Humanist Award at the Humanists UK-hosted World Humanist Congress in 2014, Soyinka delivered a thought-provoking speech, ‘From Chibok with love’ on the horrors faced by schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram. He implored humanity to ‘Resist, Resist and Resist!’ religious censorship and ‘understand the historic partnership of religion and power on the one hand, and humanism and freedom on the other’.
Soyinka has published about 20 works: drama, novels and poetry. He writes in English and his literary language is marked by great scope and richness of words. You can see a full list of his works on the Nobel Prize website.
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented: ‘We’re absolutely delighted to welcome Wole Soyinka as the newest patron of Humanists UK. Wole is an inspiration to countless people across the world, known for his brave advocacy for free expression – even under extreme threats to his life – and his rich literary work.’
At Humanists UK, we want a tolerant world where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work helps people be happier and more fulfilled, and by bringing non-religious people together we help them develop their own views and an understanding of the world around them.
Humanists UK has over 170 patrons who support its work in various ways through their expertise and prominence in various fields. Existing patrons include significant figures from the spheres of science, philosophy, human rights activism, politics, the arts, and broadcasting. The President of Humanists UK is the anatomist, author, and broadcaster, Professor Alice Roberts. She is supported by Vice Presidents Professor Jim Al-Khalili, Professor AC Grayling, Shappi Khorsandi, and Polly Toynbee.