Literary icon Wole Soyinka turned 80 on Sunday, with friends and foes alike paying tribute to the first African to win the Nobel literature prize.
Dozens of literary and artistic events have been staged across the country over 80 days leading up to the birthday of the poet, novelist, playwright and social activist, whose works often satirised Nigeria's society and harshly criticised corrupt and inept leaders.
But such is Soyinka's popularity and stature that many of the targets of his criticism put aside past differences to honour the man who, with his trademark white afro and matching bushy goatee, is a beloved figure in Africa's most populous nation.
President Goodluck Jonathan praised his ardent critic in a statement on Saturday, hailing Soyinka's "life-long dedication and indefatigable commitment to using his acclaimed genius and talents, not only in the service of the arts, but also for the promotion of democracy, good governance and respect for human rights in Nigeria, Africa and beyond".
Former dictator General Yakubu Gowon, who jailed Soyinka for some two years during Nigeria's 1967-70 civil war, paid respect by attending a lecture in Soyinka's hometown of Abeokuta on Friday.
Soyinka, who looks several decades younger than his age, sprang to his feet and warmly embraced his former jailer as soon as he entered the lecture hall, sparking applause from the audience.
"I have come to Abeokuta for the sake of this particular man, to honour him," said Gowon, who imprisoned the writer on suspicion of support for his rival in the 1967 standoff that eventually led Nigeria to a 30-month civil war in which an estimated one million people died, mostly of disease and starvation.
The birthday events honouring Soyinka are due to culminate on Monday with a visit to his secluded forest residence in Abeokuta, the capital of southwestern Ogun State, and a presentation of one of his plays.
 
– AFP