He said even though African countries had long gained independence from western powers, "the slave mentality continues to govern our thinking and our writings".
Prof. Soyinka was speaking on the topic: "Race and Solidarity in a ‘Versus’ Syndrome" at a ceremony to mark the 17th International African Writers’ Day.
The ceremony, organized by the Pan African Writers Association (PAWA) was under the theme: "Language, Literature and Society in a Fractured World."
Prof. Soyinka said African writers and intellectuals had a duty to move away from what had held Africans bound and to focus on how the peoples of the continent could harness their rich resources for the their progress.
He said there was a limit to what extent Africans could blame the colonialist and neo-colonialists for the woes of the continent and that African leaders were as guilty as the colonialists for the current state of the continent.
The Nobel Laureate said the "we and they syndrome" had assumed a new characteristic, saying, it was not just about Africans and the west but also more so about Africans and their own leaders.
"We can blame the west for a lot of things but we can’t blame them for what is happening in Zimbabwe right now – neither can we blame them for one man’s attempt to truncate rule of law in Nigeria and stay in power for a third term," he said.
Prof. Jophus Anamua-Mensah, who presided at the ceremony, said he agreed with Prof. Soyinka, in that most Africa writers focused on the negative events of "our past" and strengthened the slave mentality more than encouraging people to progress.
He said the reading culture had dropped drastically on the continent and as a result African writers had also lost the courage to write.
Prof. Anamua-Mensah blamed Africa’s woes, characterized by disease, hunger, conflicts and poverty, on the high level of illiteracy due to lack of reading and writing.
"Lately we see more of text books than supplementary readings like novels, fictions and history in our schools and that is affecting the use of language on the continent," he said.
Prof. Anamua-Mensah said government should set up a fund to support publishers to produce more African writers’ series for schools.
He called on PAWA to also collect manuscripts from individual writers and establish a supplementary fund to publish them for the benefit of the masses.
Prof. Anamua-Mensah said there were many possibilities for Africa in building and properly using literature and language, adding that the universities and colleges had a role to play in ensuring the proper use of language and literature for the benefit of the continent.
Prof. Atukwei Okai, General Secretary of PAWA, said in the midst of the fractured world, characterized by the global financial meltdown, disease, conflicts, climate change and others, some African shone.
He mentioned the Black Satellites, who won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, Efo Kodzo Mawugbe, who won a BBC Players Writers’ competition, but said on the flipside, unacceptable incidences, like the massacre of Africans by their fellow Africans, also occurred on the continent.
The 17th International African Writers’ Day would also be marked by a serious of conferences and lectures during the week. SOURCE