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The Man – Died Soyinka’s Repudiation of Complacency


If the enemies of Christ had known that his crucifixion would subvert their evil plans against him and put the crown of glory upon his head, they would not have killed him. The greatest mistake made by those who conceived, hatched, and executed the 1966 pogrom against Igbos and followed it up with a war of attrition, was the framing and imprisonment of Wole Soyinka.

He was arrested for denouncing the war in Nigerian newspapers, visiting Eastern Nigeria and attempting to get the world to stop supplying arms to both sides in order to “end the secession of Biafra, and the genocide-consolidated dictatorship of the (Nigerian) Army which made both the secession and the war inevitable.”

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While he was in prison, he wrote and smuggled out a letter which proved (based on what and whom he coincidentally met in the prison) that Gowon’s government delibrately ran a policy of genocide. When they got to know about the letter, they framed him and tried to murder him.

Repudiation of complacency

This book has several themes. The most compelling of all was Soyinka’s repudiation of, and hatred for complacency, which informed the title of the book: The Man Died – the man dies in all who keep silent in the face of tyranny, a title which came to him through the real life tragedy of one Mr. Segun Sowemimo, a journalist who lost one of his legs as a result of beating he and his colleagues received from Nigerian soldiers. Soyinka followed Sowemimo’s case, even when he was out of the country, he sent cables requesting to know what had become of Sowemimo, until his cable was replied: the man died.

Before Sowemimo, there was Gozo Nzeribe, arrested for an undisclosed offence by Gowon and his Gestapo, and cast into Dodan Barracks prison. Nzeribe was brought out everyday for flogging. One day, he fought back. They locked him up in a solitary cell and starved him to death. Both Sowemimo and Nzeribe died. The question Soyinka did not explicitly ask here is: between Sowemimo and Nzeribe, in whom did the man die?

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