Wole Soyinka’s son Olaokun Soyinka has revealed that old age and its vicititudes is catching up with his father..
“My dad travels a lot and at his age we, his offspring, have been advising him to cut down. I hope if I get to his ripe old age I will still be as independent as he is…
“Though he does have the occasional mishap – I’m sure this is not the first time he’s occupied the wrong seat. It’s not a big deal and most frequent flyers have done it. I’ve not asked him yet, but if it was deliberate then, as my wife points out, …he was probably trying to keep away from the aisle to avoid the inevitable ‘go-slow’ as people stopped to shake his hand.
Most likely it was mere preoccupation with other matters
..”Certainly, will all become that person: a bit more frail every passing year, a little unsteady, occasionally absent minded, frustratingly blurred of vision. We will inevitably need to rely on considerate fellow passengers or observant bystanders. We hope they will anticipate and help. The future seems far away for youths, but soon enough it will be today’s young ones who are the elders. They may one day have to struggle to their feet to make way for youths bent on claiming their rights.
. Tonye Cole ignited a social media storm appears to have had even more impact on aviation matters than Iran’s recent downing of the U.S.A drone. Professor Soyinka’s inadvertent trespass into someone else’s ‘seatspace’ has triggered numerous unguided missiles which are flying all over social media.
The young man whose seat it was may have had a specific reason to insist on having his seat. He was within his rights, and WS would be last person to make an issue of it. My irritation, however, is reserved for the social media .
Do our online youths these days see it as a badge of honour to avoid the courtesies that we traditionally extended to our elders? Why do they insist on jumping to the most uncharitable conclusion? (‘It was deliberate. WS commandeered the seat’). Why did people insist on misinterpreting the events? Can’t an elderly man make a mistake?
I believe the learning point of this controversy lies in understanding the difference between right and entitlement. The seat owner had a right – that is enforceable. But the elder though he or she is entitled to some deference and respect, can only hope for it. In this case it was not given and WS, unhesitatingly moved seat.
To the online outraged, I would point out that those who like to see an elder given his due deference are entirely within their rights to judge the young man. And if they decide to add some profiling (the t-shirt, tattoo, face cap), please just ‘chop it’! He passed up a small opportunity to bestow an act of kindness, and commentators happily pointed out his emblems of youthful disregard for convention. Afterall, he had just disregarded a convention that many hold dear.Extending courtesies based upon age such as offering your seat in a crowded bus or lifting a heavy bag is not just a matter of convention or kindness but common sense. We will all become that person: a bit more frail every passing year, a little unsteady, occasionally absent minded, frustratingly blurred of vision. We will inevitably need to rely on considerate fellow passengers or observant bystanders. We hope they will anticipate and help. The future seems far away for youths, but soon enough it will be today’s young ones who are the elders. They may one day have to struggle to their feet to make way for youths bent on claiming their rights.
I have not commented on the fact that beyond being an elderly man, WS has served his country in a way that many would do well to emulate. I will leave that for others to go into. Our garrulous online youths, however, should not take freedom of expression for granted. In his day, the dictator Abacha tightly controlled the then novelty called the Internet. People spent decades in jail, being tortured for merely hinting at criticism of the military ruler. Our freedom to hold our leaders accountable is a precious right bought by the heroism of many; some died, some are still living. So, as you fight your battles of today, please do so with a sense of history.
On that historical note I will finish with an anecdote about Wole Soyinka and another airline seat. He returned from exile to Nigeria in 1998 for the very first time after Abacha’s demise. Although he had departed in secret four years earlier on the back of a motorcycle along a forest path, he returned home more publicly by plane. His first-class seat was given to him, free, by KLM. I