2023: Soyinka challenges Baba-Ahmed to one-on-one interview

Nobel Prize winner, Professor Wole Soyinka has dared vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed to accept a one-on-one interview with him to discuss Nigeria’s democracy and history.


He threw the challenge in a recent article.


Speaking on Wednesday, March 22nd, Datti Baba-Ahmed, called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria not to swear in Bola Tinubu, whom INEC declared as the president-elect, insisting that declaring Tinubu a winner and issuing him a certificate of return was against the constitution.


Baba-Ahmed who was a guest on Channels TV’s Politics Today, went on to stress that “whoever swears in Mr Tinubu” has “ended Democracy” in Nigeria, a position that did not sit well with Professor Soyinka.


Reacting to the interview that elicited great criticism from political stakeholders as well as a N5 million fine for the TV station, the Nobel Laureate described the remarks as a “kind of do-or-die attitude and provocation” that goes contrary to democratic disposition.


Soyinka said the LP vice-presidential candidate tried to “dictate to the supreme arbiter of the nation”, adding that it was unacceptable.


“I have never heard anyone threaten the judiciary on television the way Datti did. I heard the kind of menacing, blackmailing language as that to which we were treated by Datti. That kind of do-or-die attitude and provocation is not what I think we have all been struggling for,” Soyinka said.


“Nearly the totality of Datti’s comment in the interview was unbecoming. It was like trying to dictate to the supreme arbiter of the nation, and whatever you think of the supreme court, it is an institution we all refer to sooner or later.


“But Datti kept saying, in his wisdom, that the supreme court must agree with me. That is what is known as fascistic language and it is not acceptable.”


The revered poet’s position on Datti’s utterances, however, did not go down well with many supports of the LP’s presidential candidate and his vice, even as they dragged Soyinka on social media.


Giving in reply to these criticisms and the conduct of Datti Baba-Ahmed, Soyinka in a statement titled “Fascism on Course”, noted that Nigerian Democracy 2023 has witnessed innovations largely in the retrogressive vein, as violence, ethnic profiling and intimidation continue to be easily overlooked even as they are directed against dissenting voices.


Soyinka condemned the sanction against Channels TV and praise 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 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,” the Nobel Laureate stressed.

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