Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, has challenged Datti Baba-Ahmed, Vice-Presidential Candidate of the Labour Party (LP) to a live debate on national television.
On March 22, in an interview with Channels TV, Datti said the country has no president-elect despite the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announcing Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the election.
The LP vice-presidential candidate said Tinubu would be leading an unconstitutional government if sworn into office because the APC candidate “has not met requirements of the law”.
The interview elicited criticism from political stakeholders as well as a N5 million fine for the TV station.
Reacting in a chat with Arise TV on Wednesday, Soyinka said the remarks are a “kind of do-or-die attitude and provocation” that goes contrary to democratic disposition.
He added that the LP vice-presidential candidate tried to “dictate to the supreme arbiter of the nation”, adding that it was unacceptable.
However, Soyinka’s statement has earned him criticism and abuse from the ‘Obidients’, especially on social media platforms.
Reacting in a statement on Friday, the Nobel laureate condemned the fine slammed on Channels Television for airing the ‘incisive interview’ with Labour Party vice presidential candidate.
Soyinka said he was willing to engage Datti or any nominee of his on the platform “on this very bone of contention – one-on-one – without the malodorous intervention of media trolls, and with the same interviewer as mediator.”
He 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. 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.
“Before I take myself off for – well, next port of call – the final word goes to a favourite maverick, propagated even as he matched his words by action. I suspect that in this instance we find ourselves on opposite sides of the strategic fence – that is democracy. This now coopted watchword of his formulation remains apt, applicable to all who strive for authentic social transformation: Your mummu done do!”
Soyinka also said the attacks against him for criticising Datti Yusuf Baba-Ahmed for insisting that the Supreme Court must rule in the party’s favour justifies his earlier comment that fascism was taking over the political arena.
He 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.”