Of Albert Einstein and Wole Soyinka

There are some strange developments and coincidences happening between Germany and Nigeria, particularly as it concerns Albert Einstein and Wole Soyinka on the one hand and Berlin and Ibadan on the other. Firstly, Germany and Nigeria have the largest economies in Europe and Africa respectively.

Einstein and Soyinka have both been associated with the unconventional.

Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, Germany, a Federal Republic, and Wole Soyinka was born in Ake, Nigeria, now a Federal republic. Note that Ulm and Ake are both made up of three letters.

Einstein has been described as the greatest scientist of the 20th century and Wole Soyinka has been referred to as perhaps the world’s greatest living dramatist.

Einstein and Soyinka both won the Nobel Prize. They are both associated with social and political causes. Einstein loved sailing and relatedly Soyinka is a self confessed Sea Dog. Einstein and Soyinka are both known for composing and playing string instruments. In the case of Einstein it was the Violin, whereas, Soyinka plays the Guitar.

Einstein and Soyinka were at first not successful as married men. They both remarried. Einsten and soyinka campaigned against lives wasted by the first world War and Road accidents respectively. Einstein had a friend, a fellow physicist, Max Planck, then the recognized head of German science. He gave a lift of some sort to Einstein in the academic circles. He brought him into the fold of the Berlin Academy. Planck was President of the Kaiser Willem Society (now Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science).

Einstein and Planck parted ways.

Soyinka had a friend, the physicist, Muyiwa Awe, first President, Science Association of Nigeria. Awe was a member of the appointment and promotions committee of the University of Ibadan, just before a final decision was to be taken as to the suitability or otherwise of Wole Soyinka for a professorship. Soyinka did not bag the professorship. Awe raised a technical objection to the procedure of the committee. So revealed Awe in the book, Before our Very Eyes (Spectrum), a tribute to Wole Soyinka as edited by Dapo Adelugba.

Like Einstein and Planck, Soyinka and Awe parted ways at least spiritually. Soyinka did write in the Guardian Newspaper that Awe had a penchant for fouling up relationships.

Planck retired from the University of Berlin and Awe retired from the University of Ibadan. Note that Berlin is the political and cultural capital of Germany and Ibadan is the political capital of the Yoruba Nation, and used to serve as the cultural capital of Nigeria.

Interestingly, Ulli Beier, a German Jew like Einstein, has been described as the Father of Yoruba Culture in Berlin, the German Institute for Economic Research. In Ibadan it is the Nigerian Institute of social and economic research.

In Berlin we have the free University of Berlin, founded in 1948, the University of Ibadan was also founded in 1948.

Einstein went into exile, avoiding the German Military Dictator, Adolf Hitler. Similarly Soyinka went into exile to evade the Nigerian Military Dictator, Sani Abacha. There is the Albert Einstein society, and there is as well the Wole Soyinka Society.

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