Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has broken his silence on the recent aircraft seat controversy which has gone viral on social media.
Oil Mogul, Tonye Patrick Cole had narrated a story about how a young man ordered Professor Wole Soyinka, Nigeria’s only Nobel laureate, literary giant, gadfly, an octogenarian, globally and nationally respected figure out of his seat, on a flight.
Tonye Cole did not indicate whether it was a local or international flight, but the story posted on Sunday has elicited outrage and condemnation of the young man, for committing sacrilege. Some others have sided the young man for insisting on his right.
Soyinka, in a statement on Saturday described what transpired as a non-issue. He wondered about the massive publicity it generated.
The Nobel laureate suggested humorously that airlines could impose a fine on passengers who took the wrong seat on boarding, even for a second to raise money in pursuit of health issues across the world.
“I don’t know how much airlines succeed in raising for their charity drives through those envelopes they distribute to passengers into which their captive donors are exhorted to deposit their loose change before disembarking. Such monies are then distributed to worthy causes all over the world, especially in the pursuit of health.
“What I am convinced of is that they would generate a hundred times more if they were more creative. For instance, they could impose a fine on passengers who take the wrong seat on boarding, even for a second. One can only rejoice in the thought of such benefits to humanity in its efforts to eradicate all kinds of diseases, especially malnutrition, and ensure the supply of nutrients that prevent the premature onset of brain impairment,” he said.
Soyinka added that “those who permit themselves to be persuaded, even for one second that I, Wole Soyinka, having wrongly identified a seat number like millions of travellers all the time, and all over the the world, would then attempt to consolidate the error in any form, through act, word, or gesture, qualify to be the first beneficiaries of this vastly improved humanitarian policy.”
Below is Tonye Cole’s story posted on Instagram
I met one of the greatest Nigerians walking the earth today and as with other times, he was genteel, witty, forthright and humble. My smile gives me away as he permitted the picture whereas he would have preferred to get back to his newspapers.
Then we boarded the flight and after assisting him with his bags, he took the window seat and promptly started reading again.
A few minutes later this young man, baseball cap, t-shirt to show his muscled chest and tattooed biceps boards the plane and tells Prof he is on his seat (which he was). Those of us including the cabin crew tried to reason with Bobo Fine to let the old man be but the chap refused. He insisted Prof should vacate his window seat, which the old man quietly did for his original aisle seat next to him.
I couldn’t understand how we got to this point where we no longer have respect for elders, even if are so ignorant of the great global personalities in our midst. Is it too much to ask that an elderly man be allowed to remain in a seat allotted to you in the same business class cabin and the same row?
Na wa o!