Kayode was born in Ibadan, Nigeria, to Pa John Akinleye Soyinka and Mrs Jochebed Olufunmilayo Soyinka (née Akinyele) of Owu, Abeokuta, Ogun State. He is the second-born of six children — five boys and a girl. He married Titilope Oluwadamilola (née Odugbesan) on 15 October 1983. They have two children, daughter Oluwatumininu Adebimpe, born 15 January 1984 and son Oluwagbeminiyi Adekunle, born 25 April 1986.
Kayode acquired his elementary school education in Ibadan at both Christ the King (CKC) at Odo-Ona (1964-1966) and Ibadan City Council (ICC) Practicising School at Apata (1967–69). In 1970, he proceeded to the prestigious Baptist Boys’ High School (BBHS), in Owu, Abeokuta for his secondary education. He graduated with a B.A. in International Relations from the United States International University, San Diego, California (Bushey Campus, England) in 1987 and an M.A. in International Journalism from City, University of London, United Kingdom in 1989. After graduating from City, University of London, Kayode was sponsored by the Commonwealth to the Cambridge University, England, as a Visiting Scholar at Wolfson College in 1990.
When Kayode finished at BBHS, he picked a clerical job with PZ Industries Limited in Ilupeju, Lagos. In 1976, at a young age of just 18, Kayode signed on as a cub Reporter with Sketch Newspapers in Ibadan, thereby starting off what turned out to be a very rewarding romance with Journalism. He served Sketch Newspapers meritoriously in Ibadan and Benin City. Impressed by his conduct and impressive output as a young reporter, the management of Sketch awarded him a scholarship to study at the College of Journalism, Fleet Street, London. Soyinka studied here between 1978 and 1979, and was appointed the London Correspondent of Sketch newspapers.
Having settled in England, Kayode soon established himself as the U.K. correspondent of a couple of Nigerian dailies like the newly established Concord Newspaper. That appointment marked a turning point in Kayode's life. From there, he became the General Editor of Africa Now and London Bureau Chief of Newswatch magazine.
His employment by Concord group of newspapers as the pioneer London Correspondent in 1980 kicked off a remarkable relationship with one of his greatest mentors, Chief M. K. O. Abiola. Kayode worked closely as a special assistant, confidant and trusted lieutenant of the billionaire publisher and international businessman for over four years, establishing and running the London office of the newspaper conglomerate.
In May, 1995 Kayode left Newswatch and founded his own news magazine, Africa Today, one of Africa’s high quality and most influential international news magazines.
When the 12 June 1993 presidential election of Chief M. K. O. Abiola was annulled, Kayode took it upon himself to arrange for the appearance of Chief Abiola on the influential BBC TV Newsnight live programme on the eve of the annulment to express his outrage and condemnation of the annulment to the international community. That was the first major interview by Chief Abiola on a prominent international television network. Kayode later followed this up with a devastating article that further condemned the annulment in the London newspaper, the Sunday Independent of 11 July 1993.
In the incisive piece, which covered the whole page of the leading British broadsheet newspaper, and which Bernard Levin, the influential political commentator and columnist of the London Sunday Times described in his column in the newspaper’s 18 July 1993 edition, as the "most passionate account" on the Nigerian political crisis he had read, Kayode denounced the election invalidation by the military dictator President Ibrahim Babangida as "a fraud and a grand deception".
At the height of Chief Abiola’s incarceration by the ruthless General Sani Abacha regime, Kayode initiated a very important meeting in 1995 between the internationally respected South African clergy, Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the request of Dr (Mrs) Doyin Abiola, one of Chief Abiola’s wives. This meeting took place at the Bishop’s Court in Cape Town, which after; the world renowned clergyman visited General Abacha as President Nelson Mandela’s emissary.
While writing for the Concord from the U.K., Kayode had the fortune of meeting and starting a memorable relationship with Dele Giwa, who at that time was the Editor of the Sunday Concord. This relationship continued and waxed even stronger when Giwa and some of his colleagues, Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Mohammed, and Dan Agbese, established Nigeria’s foremost news magazine, Newswatch, and appointed Kayode, who was then working under the legendary Nigerian journalist and publisher Peter Enahoro as General Editor of Africa Now, the London Bureau Chief.
The story of Dele Giwa’s gruesome death by a parcel bomb on that fateful October 19, 1986 morning and Kayode's miraculous survival from the blast and witness to that death is well known to Nigerians and press freedom campaigners around the world.
Aside being an international journalist and publisher of repute, Kayode has walked through several corridors of power and mixed with leaders within and outside Nigeria. He has twice met with the British Monarch Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace and in Windsor, by special invitation.
He also met and interviewed distinguished statesmen such as the late South African President Nelson Mandela; Nobel Peace Prize-winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu; the assassinated South African freedom fighter Chris Hani; the late former British Prime Minister James Callaghan; former British Foreign Secretary and deputy Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Howe (later Lord Howe); former British Foreign Secretary Dr David Owen (later Lord Owen); former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga; former American United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young; Sir Shridath Ramphal and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, both former Secretaries-General of the Commonwealth, and many more.
Early February 2002 when former British Prime Minister Tony Blair embarked on his first tour of West Africa, Kayode featured in the official entourage. The high-profile visit covered four countries – Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Senegal. Kayode's inclusion on Prime Minister Blair’s delegation was in recognition of his achievements as an international media figure.
Kayode made attempts on three occasions to be elected governor of Ogun State, Nigeria. First was in 2003 on the platform of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). He lost the ticket to the incumbent governor Chief Olusegun Osoba who was once his boss at the Sketch newspapers in Ibadan. The second attempt was in 2007 when he once again lost the ticket in controversial circumstances under the platform of the Action Congress (AC). The third unsuccessful attempt was in 2011; again, he was denied the ticket under the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Kayode Soyinka is a leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Ogun State.
In 1994, Kayode published a book entitled Diplomatic Baggage: Mossad and Nigeria – The Dikko Story. The work revealed hidden facts about the dramatic but failed attempt by the Nigerian military regime in 1984 to kidnap and export out of the United Kingdom the former Minister of Transport, Alhaji Umaru Dikko. The book is widely used in universities around the world by students of diplomacy, international relations and politics.21st Century Trust Fellow
Honorary Harry Britain Fellow of the Commonwealth Press Union (CPU), London
Member, Commonwealth think-tank, The Round Table (the editorial board of the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs)
Former member, Board of Trustees of the Commonwealth Journalists’ Association (CJA)
Former member, Board of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI)
Former Chairman for three years of the London Management Committee of the Commonwealth Journalists Association
Member, Board of Trustees of the BBHS Alumni Foundation