Following the incident between an aircraft passenger and Professor Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate’s son Olaokun Soyinka has penned down an open letter to Tonye Cole who brought the incident to the public.
The young man had gotten to his seat to find Soyinka there. According to Tonye Cole, who shared the details of the incident, the young man told Soyinka that the seat he was on is his and he wants to sit there.
According to The Punch, in the letter, Olaokun shared a story about his father, concluding he has never ‘demanded’ respect, but ‘earned’ it.
He wrote, ”I am writing to thank you for standing up for my father, and for respect. You ignited a social media storm that appears to have had even more impact on aviation matters than iran’s recent downing of the USA drone.”
”Prof Soyinka’s inadvertent trespass into someone else’s ‘seat-pace’ has triggered numerous unguided missiles which are flying all over social media. 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 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 inevitavble ‘go -slow’ as people stopped to shake his hand. Most likely it was mere preoccupation with other matters.”
”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 issues of it. My irritation, however, is reserved for the social media warriors.”
He wrote, “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 (Wole Soyinka) would be the last person to make an issue of it. My irritation, however, is reserved for social media warriors.”
“Some vehemently defended the right of the young man to claim his seat. They hailed him for bravely standing up to oppression and divined how a young WS himself might have reacted in a similar situation. (He is an activist but a gentleman, so it is most likely he would have graciously given way to an elder who mistakenly sat in his seat).”
“Some criticised WS for attempting to callously deprive a youth of the fruits of his hard-earned money. One wag even suggested he might as well have insisted on having the pilot’s seat. Oluokun said the young man missed an opportunity of showing an act of kindness to an old man.”
Soyinka’s son said his father was disrespected and ought to have been treated better. He added, “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.”
Oluokun added that it was illogical to in one breadth judge Soyinka for occupying another person’s seat and at the same time insist that the young man should not be judged for having tattoos.
He added, “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. After all, he had just disregarded a convention that many hold dear.”
Soyinka’s son said this was not the first time his father would plead with someone to allow him to occupy the window seat. He said his father does so most times to avoid people who would usually stop at the aisle to shake hands with him on the airplane. Oluokun argued that his father was a national hero who had made many sacrifices for Nigeria. He recalled how his father fought several military dictators and even had to go on exile.
Soyinka’s son said when his father returned to the country in the last 90s, he was given a free first class ticket by KLM in recognition of his heroism. “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,” Oluokun said.
He said 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. He asked youths to remember that they would one day grow old and would one day rely on considerate fellow passengers or observant bystanders.
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