Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, on Friday, excoriated supporters of the Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, for attacking his person.
Obi’s supporters, popularly known as ‘Obidients’, have been attacking Soyinka over his recent comments.
Soyinka had in interview with Channels TV described the Obidient movement as a threat to the judiciary.
He had also said he had told Obi before the presidential election that if he lost the election, he should blame his followers.
But the Obidients in their responses disparaged and hauled insults at the globally renowned and respected poet.
On Friday, Soyinka responded to the ‘Obidients’ attacks in a statement entitled, ‘Fascism on course,’ stating, “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.
“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”.
Soyinka also commented on Datti Baba-Ahmed’s the interview on Channels Television on March 22, 2023.
The LP vice-presidential candidate had during the interview that the country had no president-elect despite the declaration of the All Progressives Congress presidential flagbearear, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu by the Independent National Electoral Commission as the winner of the election.
Baba-Ahmed had however argued that Tinubu would be leading an unconstitutional government if sworn into office of the Nigerian President on May 29, 2023 because he did not meet “requirements of the law”.
The LP Vice presidential candidate’s interview generated widespread criticisms from political stakeholders and even earned N5 million fine for the TV station by the National Broadcasting Corporation.
Soyinka, however, kicked against the fine, saying he watched the programme and surprised at how Datti refused to be restrained by the anchor.
The Nobel laureate said, “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 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. That should be taken as a serious offer.
“Project NIGERIA, 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.”