Writers, unlike ordinary people, see things, events or situations vigilantly and critically. They are critic of social events; they comment on bad or wrong social behaviors; they appreciate the behaviors that are right to uphold the norms and the values of a given society. They show the society what exists in reality, but is usually unnoticed and ignored. A writer whether s/he is a poet or a novelist or a playwright tries to capture the real situations in the society and presents it with eloquent and beautiful language(s) that society can understand.
Writers are never afraid of making critical comments on politics; they demand liberty and freedom for their people, and they play a huge role in awakening the people so that they demand for their rights and their freedom. Usually, politicians see writers as threats because they have the power to convince or persuade the masses to support or oppose those on power. Perhaps, the saying ‘pen is mightier than sword’ effectively explains this situation. The political leaders who command hundred thousands of armed forces are always afraid of a single writer who only holds a pen. Thus, they intimidate, harass, jail and execute writers who write about their evil deeds.
In many circumstances, writers go to the extent of sacrificing their invaluable life by criticizing the political leaders and exposing their wrongdoings to the society. They address the pains of the society. They are born to live for their society. They are leaders. They are teachers.
For instance, Wole Soyinka, a Nigerian prolific writer (a poet and playwright) challenged the undemocratic, dictatorial and corrupt leaders of Nigeria in the 1980’s and 1990’s. He fearlessly spoke through his literature or works against bad governance and maladministration thereby exposing the suffering of millions of the Nigerian citizens. He was the voice of the Nigerian public. He was often seen as a hero by many. He never held himself back from making commentary when leaders use power for promoting their political and economic interests.
In Nigeria, people used to say “If Soyinka keeps silent, politicians in Nigeria are doing right.” The Nigerian public trusts Soyinka because he never looks back to write and comment when leaders use their political power for oppressing and exploiting the people. For this reason, on many occasions, Soyinka was imprisoned and at times made flee his country by the Nigerian leaders of the time. Many African writers faced the same punishment simply because they spoke on the behalf of their people. For example, Chinua Achebe, Soyink’s compatriot, was jailed and made flee his country; Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana was made flee his country and he lived most of his life in Senegal; Be’alu Girma of Ethiopia was executed for criticizing the military government of Ethiopia particularly in his book titled ‘Oromay’.
In countries where injustice, incompetence, inequality and despotism mostly prevails, undeniably, we need many more writers who are courageous enough to rationally criticize or condemn leaders when they use their power arbitrarily and when they are not listening to those whom they rule. We need many more writers who sharpen and broaden the mind of people to make informed decisions about themselves.
We need many more writers who don’t keep silent when the societies are manipulated, exploited and are deprived of their natural rights by the power holders.We need writers who take sides with the governed, but not with the governors. We need writers who are the voice of the voiceless, the helpless and the powerless. Above all, we need writers who live for their people; not for their bellies.