Abuja — Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Wednesday warned Nigerians to be wary of a former president who pretends to be the conscience of the country.
Soyinka said this in Abuja wednesday at a symposium on fake news organised by BBC News. This is coming as a pro-democracy group, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, has criticised Soyinka for allegedly attacking former President Olusegun Obasanjo and subtly supporting President Muhammadu Buhari.
The playwright, who was a panelist at the event tagged, 'Nigeria 2019: Countering Fake News', urged the traditional media not to spread unfounded allegations as the electronic media sometimes do.
The Nobel Laureate said if the former leader had been referring to a certain person for eight years as 'a devil' and is now telling Nigerians to vote for the devil, then there is a reason for Nigerians to express some doubt.
Soyinka said, "We have got to develop a very healthy skepticism. If someone in a position of power for eight years has lectured a nation for eight years and after that, continued year after year to continue to direct the minds of a whole nation in one direction, only saying, 'This is Lucifer from hell' for eight years in office and several more years out of office saying, 'This is Lucifer' and then one day he changed and says: 'Behold your redeemer;' which of the two is fake news?"
He did not mention the former president he was referring to, nor the alleged Lucifer.
However, a pro-democracy group, Coalition in Defence of Nigerian Democracy and Constitution, has criticised Soyinka for allegedly attacking former President Obasanjo and subtly supporting President Buhari. The group asked Nigerians to be wary of the Nobel laureate, alleging that he (Soyinka) has "sacrificed his hard-earned reputation and honour" to sustain a despot in power.
The Convener of CDNDC, Mr. Ariyo-Dare Atoye, appealed to the playwright to "stop worsening" his own history.
Atoye said, "If the professor had been referring to a certain person for eight years as a 'partner-in-crime' and in 2015, he claimed he made the gravest mistake of supporting a dictator, then for Soyinka's continuous support of that same despotic regime, there is a reason for Nigerians to express some doubt over what he stood for decades ago."
CDNDC quoted Soyinka to have said in 2007: "The grounds on which Buhari is being promoted as the alternative choice are not only shaky, but pitifully naive.
"History matters. Records are not kept simply to assist the weakness of memory, but to operate as guides to the future. Of course, we know that human beings change.
"What the claims of personality change or transformation impose on us is a rigorous inspection of the evidence, not wishful speculation or behind-the-scenes assurances.
"Public offence, crimes against a polity, must be answered in the public space, not in caucuses of bargaining.
"In Buhari, we have been offered no evidence of the sheerest prospect of change. On the contrary, all evidence suggests that this is one individual who remains convinced that this is one ex-ruler that the nation cannot call to order."
CDNDC said there was no reason to justify the support the Nobel laureate had been allegedly rendering to Buhari since 2015.
It said, "Every Nigerian should find time to read The Crimes of Buhari by Wole Soyinka, published in 2007; and make a simple judgment whether the Professor was right in sacrificing his democratic credentials and reputation to support and sustain Buhari in power.
"Deji Adeyanju has been illegally detained in Kano prison by the Buhari-Osinbajo despotic regime for about a month now; Sambo Dasuki is a political prisoner held against court orders; Sheikh (Ibrahim) el-Zakzaky is a prisoner of conscience.
"The vampiric shrine of Buhari's government is soaked with the blood of innocent Nigerians; human rights and press freedom abuses are rife, while the entire country is sliding into hopelessness.
"If Professor Wole Soyinka cannot support or offer us any knowledge on how to get out of this mess, we are of the opinion that he should not distract us or those who are trying to help the country to get out of the 2015 quagmire he helped drive us into."