2023 Presidential Election Fallout: Soyinka challenges Datti to debate


Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka on Friday, April 7, 2023, challenged the Labour Party vice presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, to a one-on-one debate.

Soyinka’s challenge followed the reactions that trailed his comment where he expressed displeasure at a statement made by Baba-Ahmed.

Baba-Ahmed had, in an interview with Channels TV, stressed that “whoever swears in Mr Tinubu” has “ended democracy” in Nigeria.

Following his statement, the National Broadcasting Commission slammed a fine of N5 million on Channels Television for breaking the broadcasting law in a programme with Baba-Ahmed.

Baba-Ahmed, whose ticket with Peter Obi emerged third as announced by INEC in the February 25 presidential election, had spoken about the Supreme Court in a manner described by Soyinka as “fascistic language”.

“I denounced the menacing utterances of a vice-presidential aspirant as unbecoming. It was a gladiatorial challenge directed at the judiciary and, by implication, the rest of the democratic polity,” Soyinka said in an interview with Channels Television.

Also, Soyinka, in the interview, revealed that he had warned Obi that if he lost the presidential election, it would be as a result of his followers’ attitude.

But the Nobel laureate’s comment was met with strident criticism from Obi’s supporters, popularly known as Obidients, who took to Twitter to express their displeasure.

While condemning the N5 million fine slammed on Channels TV over the interview, Soyinka in a statement titled, “Fascism on course”, on Friday, condemned the sanction.

He 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.

He also challenged Baba-Ahmed to a debate on Channels TV.

“If Channels feel 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,” he said.

Soyinka added, “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.”
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