News

April 7, 2023

I challenge Baba-Ahmed to one-on-one debate on TV – Soyinka 

Soyinka challenges critics disputing his academic records to provide evidence in 30 days

Professor Wole Soyinka

By Miftaudeen Raji

Nobel laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, has challenged the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, to a one-on-one debate on Channels Television regarding the nation’s democracy. 

Soyinka, in a statement titled “Fascism on Course,” released on Friday, is challenging the LP’s vice-presidential candidate to a debate as regards his claims of Nigeria’s democracy ending if the President-elect, Asiwasju Bola Tinubu, is sworn in May 29. 

Soyinka stated, “May I seize 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,” Soyinka said.

Recall that Datti Baba-Ahmed had called on President Muhammadu Buhari and the Chief Justice of Nigeria not to swear in Tinubu, who was declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, as the winner of the March 18th presidential election.

The Labour Party vice-presidential candidate, who spoke as a guest on Channels TV’s Politics Today, insisted that declaring Tinubu a winner and issuing him a certificate of return was against the constitution.

According to him, “whoever swears in Mr Tinubu” has “ended Democracy” in Nigeria.

The interview, has since, triggered criticisms from political stakeholders as well as a N5 million fine for the TV station.

Reacting to Baba-Ahmed’s threats, Soyinka described the remarks as a “kind of do-or-die attitude and provocation” that goes contrary to democratic disposition.

He said Baba-Ahmed tried to “dictate to the supreme arbiter of the nation,” describing his comment as unacceptable.

Soyinka’s comments on Baba-Ahmed, however, attracted backlashes from the supporters of the Labour Party as they dragged Soyinka on social media.

Meanwhile, replying to the criticisms and the conduct of Datti Baba-Ahmed, Soyinka 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 praised the professionalism of the anchor, who he stressed made several attempts to keep Baba-Ahmed in check while on air.