September 5, 2020

Green Cards, Green Gods

By Wole Soyinka






In Atlanta, the President of my university, William Chace, prompted by my Head of Department, Rudolph Byrd, had initiated the process for acquiring a Green Card.

The routine – for the edification of the uninitiated – required you to remain within the United States until all processing 

was completed. If you are obliged to travel out, you must apply and then you are placed on ‘parole’.

A most tedious, frustrating process, especially on return.

You are shunted from the immigration booth straight to a waiting room where you had no choice but to wait and take your turn.

On those unlucky arrivals where planes are filled with would be immigrants without documentation or with dubious papers who preceded you to that holding pen, one could spend up to four or five hours before being summoned to a window. There your face would be vetted, aligned with your papers, you answered vapid questions, and then received an entry stamp. The process has improved since then, I am informed, but at the time, arrival was unpredictable. No matter, you bore it with a grin, more accurately a grimace, and a silent curse on Sani Abacha and his breed. Life would be easier, you console yourself, once you had that plastic card in your wallet.


From London, the frantic messages began to fly. Kayode Fayemi, Sola Adeyeye, representatives from the German, Italian, Scandinavian etc. chapters had begun to check in, plus some advance NALICON members.

Four, three days to go. I had changed flights I no longer recollected how many times.

Tony Enahoro was already comfortably ensconced in London, holding his interminable meetings with his lieutenants but also pursuing useful contacts with British establishment….

The unifying meeting was however the awaited icing on the cake of resistance.

 If it flopped, there was only one obvious person to blame – WS.


Let’s get WS a Green Card-William Chace, President of Emory University in Atlanta, 1995-2003

Finally came the moment of decision…….It was one of the saddest letters I had cause to write during that period, informing William Chace that there was no predicting when I would see him next, since this was an assignment that was critical to what had taken me into exile in the first place.

Excerpted from Interventions VII, the seventh in a series of monographs authored by Wole Soyinka, published by Bookcraft. The series documents public and personal issues in which he has been involved, ‘for the Records’.

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