Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka has challenged Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), to a one-on-one interview about the state of the country’s democratic governance at this point in its history.
The responses that followed Soyinka’s reply, in which he voiced his unhappiness at a statement made by Baba-Ahmed, prompted his challenge. When speaking to Channels TV, Baba-Ahmed emphasized that “whoever swears in Mr. Tinubu” has “ended democracy” in Nigeria.
After he made his remarks, the National Broadcasting Commission slapped Channels Television with a N5 million punishment for violating the broadcasting legislation during a show featuring Baba-Ahmed.
On Wednesday, Soyinka criticized Baba-Ahmed’s comments, claiming they used “fascistic rhetoric.” Soyinka stated that it was inappropriate that the LP vice-presidential candidate sought to “dictate to the highest arbitrator of the nation.” Soyinka thinks that Datti’s criticism fuels the embers of fascism in politics by presenting a false narrative of the party’s followers, particularly the “Obidient” family. This attracted comments from vexed supporters of the vexed supporters of the Labour Party against comments made by the laureate.
Soyinka condemned the sanction against Channels TV and praised the professionalism of the anchor who he stressed made several attempts to keep Baba-Ahmed in check while on air. He went on to challenge the LP’s vice presidential candidate to a debate as regards his claims of Nigeria’s democracy ending if Tinubu is sworn in come May 29th.
“May I cease this opportunity, by the way, to condemn the sanctions imposed on CHANNELS Television which anchored the performance of the LP candidate. As stated, I watched the programme keenly – saw the valiant efforts of the interviewer to ensure fair hearing.
“I fail to understand just where the station could be faulted, except from a disposition for injustice. To sustain that penalty is to give joy to others who turn the Internet into a soakaway for their rancid emissions, yet feel that others should be silenced.
“If CHANNELS feels up to it, I offer myself willing to engage Mr. Datti – or any nominee of his – on its platform on this very bone of contention – one-on-one – without the malodorous intervention of media trolls, and with the same interviewer as mediator.
To emphasize all seriousness, Soyinka added, “That should be taken as a serious offer.”
Soyinka, in a piece om Friday titled, “Fascism on Course,” also addressed the censures he is receiving from Obidients, the supporters of Peter Obi, Labour Party’s Presidential election, declaring that the seeds of fascism in the political arena have evidently matured.
While addressing attacks on him by Obidients, Soyinka said: “It would appear that a record discharge of toxic sludge from our notorious smut factory is currently clogging the streets and sewers of the Republic of Liars.
“It goes to prove the point that provoked the avalanche exactly! The seeds of incipient fascism in the political arena have evidently matured. A climate of fear is being generated.
“The refusal to entertain corrective criticism, even differing perspectives of the same position has become a badge of honour and certificate of commitment. What is at stake, ultimately is – Truth, and at a most elementary level of social regulation: when you are party to a conflict, you do not attempt to intimidate the arbiter, attempt to dictate the outcome, or impugn, without credible cause, his or her neutrality even before hearing has commenced. That is a ground rule of just proceeding. Short of this, Truth remains permanently elusive.
“The ensuing cacophony has been truly bewildering. It strikes me as a possible ploy to smother recent provocations by other, far more trenchant issues, such as revelations of declarations of a religious war. If so, let it be known that I have long declared war against religious fundamentalism, the nature of which justifies the butchery, kidnapping and enslavement of students in the name of religion. That aspirant’s alleged gaffe cuts no ice with me.
“Far more alarming was the grotesque fantasy of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court disguised as a wheelchair, zooming off in space to a secret meeting with other parties of the conflict. On its own, that is sufficiently scary. Swiftly followed thereafter by a television tirade of intimidation, it strikes one as more than the mere antics by the mentally deranged. The tactics are familiar: ridicule, incriminate, then intimidate. Objective: undermine the structure of justice. Just as a reminder: this writer was not being rhetorical when he declared, on exiting prison detention: Justice is the first condition of humanity.
On the 2023 election, Soyinka wrote: The instigating contest – Nigerian Democracy 2023 – has witnessed much that is innovative – largely in the retrogressive vein. Violence and ethnic profiling. “Spiritual” warfare in the shape of sacrificial rams to keep “disloyal” communities under restraint – in short, intimidation yet again! Easily overlooked however are those missives of violence directed against dissenting voices, real or suspect.
“Such, for instance, were the virulent attacks and threats to the musician Seun Kuti, his family and iconic music Shrine. His crime consisted of nothing more than declaring the name “Obidient” derogatory to his sense of civic dignity and activist history. Such beginnings – and instances are numerous – have culminated in the open intimidation of the Court of Last Resort, even before proceedings have begun.
“By the way, I do agree with Seun Kuti; ‘Obidients’ is one of the most repulsive, off-putting concoctions I ever encountered in any political arena. Some love it however, and this is what freedom is about. Choice. Taste. Free emotions. By contrast, I have no quarrel with ‘Yes Daddy’. Roman Catholics are used to saying ‘Yes, Father’. Secularists say ‘Enh, Baba’. The context and content are what matters, and lies – where established – raise bothersome issues such as Integrity Deficiency.
“Let us remind ourselves of the following: in any adjudication, society finds it unacceptable that a party to the dispute resort to influencing tactics by extra-judicial means – such as bribery. Intimidation and threats are merely the obverse complements of material inducement. Those who fail to appreciate this are entirely free to their existence in an illusory world.
On Project Nigeria, Soyinka said: “I must confess, has become near terminally soul-searing. Do I still believe in it? I am no longer certain but – first, we must rid ourselves of the tyranny of the ignorant and the opportunism of time-servers. In any case, there is not much else to engage one on a foundation of ownership stakes. There is of course, always the possibility of a Revolution, with a clarity of purpose and acceptance of all attendant risks, including costly errors.
“Revolutions are not however based on the impetus of speculative power entitlement. No matter, until that moment, the structures that ensure just and equitable cohabitation must be protected from partisan appropriation – be it from material inducement, fake news, or verbal terrorism – the last being the contribution of one who is positioned to assume co-leadership of the nation, no less. Revolution is not about lining up behind the nearest available symbol. When a symbol does emerge however, we are still obliged to examine every aspect of what is fortuitously on offer, and continue to guard our freedoms every inch of the way.”
He also condemned the N5 million fine slammed on Channels TV over the interview by the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party by the National Broadcasting Commission.
Soyinka argued that the sanction was uncalled for as the television station did nothing wrong in their interview with the LP vice presidential candidate.
“May I seize this opportunity, by the way, to condemn the sanction imposed on Channels Television, which anchored the performance of the LP candidate. As stated, I watched the programme keenly – saw the valiant efforts of the interviewer to ensure fair hearing. I fail to understand just where the station could be faulted, except from a disposition for injustice. To sustain that penalty is to give joy to others who turn the Internet into a soakaway for their rancid emissions, yet feel that others should be silenced,” he said.