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The Young Man Was Right To Ask To Sit on the Seat He Paid For



I remember seeing this thread by Twitter user @OmoGbajaBiamila over the weekend and just laughing endlessly. He shared how he boarded a flight and found a woman on his seat. He politely told her she was on his seat and she dismissively asked him to look for another.

Let’s cut the long story short, Oga changed it her sha, and she got up. Everyone everywhere, who read it, acknowledged that the woman was wrong.

Sahara Group co-founder Tonye Cole shared a similar story on his Instagram page, and thank God we have a frame of reference.

Tonye Cole shared how a young man with a “baseball cap, t-shirt to show his muscled chest and tattooed biceps” (because, you know, we’re supposed to get some idea of him from his muscles and tattoos) asked Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka to stand from a seat that was rightfully his.

They tried to “reason” with him, but the “chap” refused. Wole Soyinka, ever graceful, stood quietly. Here’s how Tonye Cole concluded:

I couldn’t understand how we got to this point where we no longer have respect for elders, even if [we] 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!

See, it is this kind of behaviour that has led Nigeria to where it is. And that’s not an exaggeration.

What is right is right and what is wrong is wrong. It’s time we stopped falling to the charm of influence so much that we forget what is right. It wasn’t Wole Soyinka’s seat, he shouldn’t have sat in it. And the “chap” was well within his rights to ask Wole Soyinka to vacate his seat.

It’s typical of Baby Boomers in Nigeria, and, again, it’s why our country is the way it is. They’re so easily dazzled by influential personalities, by power, that they happily surrender their rights. And the “relationships matter” hashtag Tonye Cole added indicates why they often do so: because they want that access to power. Look at the aides to these politicians, look at how they permit and excuse the trampling of the human rights of citizens. Why do they do so? This is how it all begins.

Tonye Cole was talking about “respect.” See, we need to get rid of this idea that respect is something that goes only one way: someone younger to someone older. Respect is reciprocal. These elders need to quit bullying people because of their age. Also, how exactly is it disrespect to ask what is rightfully yours? If anything, Wole Soyinka was in the wrong here. He shouldn’t have sat there.

Personally, I would have been too tongue-tied to ask Wole Soyinka to stand. I am such a fan. But that doesn’t mean the “chap” was wrong to ask what was rightfully his. He was absolutely right.

Wole Soyinka stood “quietly,” and we can surmise from this that he knew the “chap” was right. Soyinka sounds like the kind of person who would have asked for his seat when he was a “chap” himself. His politics certainly indicate that.

We must also address the comments of people like Kate Henshaw and Mo Abudu, who described the incident as “sad.” Mo Abudu said, “That young man will get what he truly deserves.”

Well, he already did: His seat.

Niyi Ademoroti is the Features Editor at BellaNaija and an MFA candidate at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. His writing has appeared in AGNI, Hobart and The Republic.


  1. Miss Afrique

    June 24, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    VERY WELL WRITTEN!!! I mean, this is bull crap! Only in Africa will an issue of a paid seat be transformed into a sob story on age and respect. I would also like to add that not everyone has the same values or morales, so everyone should learn to respect themselves in public settings at the very least. I am glad the young man stood his grounds with all his muscles. Tonye Cole describing him was really uncalled for, it was especially demeaning for a great man like Mr. Soyinka to be made to seem so little based on physical appearance. My rant must end here before it spirals into something else. Thank you.

    • ND Babe

      June 24, 2019 at 10:28 pm

      Oh dear. Just wrote my epistle and then saw this. ??????? Well written counter!

  2. Friday’s Other Child

    June 24, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    I’m really glad that someone has given an alternative view on this. In my opinion Tonye Cole’s comments were completely inappropriate and the reference to the man’s physical appearance completely absurd.

    The point can not be made strongly enough that this thinking, this normalisation of relinquishing power to those we believe to be privileged and more deserving has and continues to lead to the complete erosion of morales, character, nation building.

    It’s terrifying to think that decision makers and influencers in this country don’t see the man (not Chap!) was well within his rights.

  3. Lilo

    June 24, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Well written. mo Abudu ‘s response infuriated me more so then the actual drama. I mean he will get what he deserves as in, God will avenge Soyinka or he won’t have seat on his return flight? I’m not understanding . Im sure Soyinka purposely sat in the window seat because he wanted to use status to pull that off. Where do we join the line though? If he pays for coach but sits in 1st clsss, I guess we should let him fly 1st class out of respect abi?

  4. MIA

    June 24, 2019 at 5:20 pm

    I always ask people to stand up from my window seat with a smile. When they ask please can’t you sit somewhere else, yes I can but I don’t want to kindly stand up. Get a window seat if you like it so much!

  5. Mimi

    June 24, 2019 at 6:35 pm

    Niyi na God go bless you.

    If you take a good look at the picture, you will notice that Oga Tonye also had a window seat.I have just one question. Oga Tonye why did you not offer the Prof your seat biko?


    June 24, 2019 at 6:44 pm

    I swear! The boy was right to ask for his seat! I personally would have been too tongue tied to ask him to get up because he is Wole Soyinka! But can these adults stop making us feel like we are wrong to as for what is ours!

  7. ND Babe

    June 24, 2019 at 10:30 pm


  8. OA

    June 25, 2019 at 3:29 am

    To the writer of the rebuttal “wa se re!”
    Mo Abudu must be on steroids! Equating this very minute and inconsequential incident to the kain ekpe you rain on your enemy when you catch him red/handed! She’s not serious!
    As for Tonye, ahbeg Biko, make you stop that breakdance! It’s people like you that expect to be treated with pomp and regal even in spite of your wrongdoing.
    The thing that is paining me the most is that Prof jejely stood up and embraced his rightful seat. So, wetin come consain all the alarenas?! As the writer stated, the very incident is representative of what Prof has stood for all his life. It shouldn’t change now. As stated before, I would have no problems giving up my seat to Prof or anyone Prof’s age, but it will come with a clear acknowledgment that said person was sitting in my seat! Point, blank, period!

  9. Bussy

    June 25, 2019 at 6:50 am

    I still can’t believe the number of persons supporting the guy who allegedly refused to give up his seat for WS all in the name of freedom and right. My question is, how did we get to this level that we dishonour old age in our society? It is good manners to give the aged, feeble, handicapped, pregnant and those with young children your seat or right of way. In the Western world that people are referring to, it is a given and notices are placed on buses and trains to remind passengers of this. Nobody contests it. For those saying it is the younger person’s right please remember these immortal words:

    “Freedom consists not in refusing to recognize anything above us, but in respecting something which is above us; for by respecting it, we raise ourselves to it, and, by our very acknowledgment, prove that we bear within ourselves what is higher, and are worthy to be on a level with it.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

    I rest my case!

    • Lola

      June 25, 2019 at 11:03 am

      As long as it is done politely, you should always ask for what is yours! The young man paid for a window seat and Prof knowingly sat in it, and Prof also willingly vacated the seat. Where do we draw the line? Are you saying if Prof wanted to sit in the cockpit he should be allowed to because he is old? Or if Prof sat in your first class seat, you will relinquish said seat and claim his own economy class seat? Or next time I want a seat belonging to a teenager, I should just go sit in it because I am older than him?

      “It is good manners to give the aged, feeble, handicapped, pregnant and those with young children your seat or right of way”. Your statement here is very irrelevant to this case. Everyone on the plane had an alloted seat and no one was left wanting. It was simply a case of older man wanting the more comfortable seat that he did not pay for!

    • MIA

      June 25, 2019 at 11:04 am

      Uncle WS had his own seat. This isn’t a case of a bus filled up and you give up your seat. He had a seat he just wanted an extra view. Going forward he should just always request for window seat. I’m sure those at the counter will oblige.

    • akama

      June 25, 2019 at 11:45 am

      What about on planes in the western world, do you see those signs?

    • Nezzee

      June 25, 2019 at 12:50 pm

      I had to read your comment three times before responding. Please quit trying to guilt trip anyone.
      In the “western world” it’s highly unlikely that anyone would tell this young man to leave a sit he rightly owns on a flight. What is right is right, no matter the age and person involved.
      If it were a bus or train, that’s different and again it also isn’t compulsory for you to stand up. It’s simply a mark of respect. But for a business class ticket, no one expects such action, even if the swat belonged to a child, it’s his right!!!! Period.
      Let’s not be sycophants just to be deemed respectful.

    • Manny

      June 25, 2019 at 3:07 pm

      You don’t have a point. In the western world that you refer to, seats are given up for the weak, feeble and sick when there’s no other seat. A window seat doesn’t provide relief per se. In fact, elderly people should have aisle seats for easy access to the toilet.

    • Casssy

      June 25, 2019 at 3:58 pm

      Looking through the window could be fun for him. it could mean it helps him think well . For goodness sake there is a reason I want to stay close to the window. I paid for it not you. please don’t rob it off me. it ain’t no sign of disrespect. Bussy

  10. Jude

    June 25, 2019 at 8:00 am

    Kudos to guy for cclaiming his right. I personally wouldn’t have been able to do that. Those crucifying him should just ponder a lil bit over this issue and they will see it in a different way.

  11. Sunday

    June 25, 2019 at 11:11 am

    The man in question deserved to be flog for goodness sake,we are African’s we ought to have respect for our elders.even though you can afford to pay the same business class with prof doesn’t mean to disrespect him in that manner by asking prof to stand up.

    • Atoke

      June 25, 2019 at 2:44 pm

      Deserved to be flogged?

    • Jules

      June 25, 2019 at 2:47 pm God abi?

    • Precious

      June 26, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      Why did prof not sit on his allocated sit for goodness sake
      My God you can begin by flogging your own son
      What is this
      Tonye Cole started it all by showing off
      Prof do not let this bring disrespect to your very good self please

  12. Dele

    June 28, 2019 at 10:40 am

    It is very sad people are supporting a young man that clearly has no regard or respect for elders. Pls let’s forget for a minute it’s WS involved. Does he not understand the simple concept of kindness? I am sure this young man will not give up his seat on the bus for a pregnant woman or the elderly. It is an unwritten rule in the UK to get up on the bus for the elderly. Our esteemed culture is dying and we are applauding it. The young man is wrong plain and simple. It is his right to the seat he paid for but what happened to compassion for others and simple manners .However, I am comforted by the fact that culture, values, fear of God and simple kindness to others is still the mantra of alot of Africans in this generation.

    • Wesley

      June 28, 2019 at 4:07 pm

      When did a business class seat in a plane become similar to a seat in a public bus (not even economy seat on a plane)?

      Do you know the fare difference???

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