The Vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, has declined the request of Prof. Wole Soyinka for a one-on-one debate on the outcome of the February 25 presidential election.
Soyinka called for the debate while condemning Baba-Ahmed’s recent interview on Channels TV, where he 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 is against the constitution.
According to the LP vice presidential candidate, “whoever swears in Mr Tinubu” has “ended Democracy” in Nigeria.
Reacting to the interview that saw the National Broadcasting Commission NBC issuing a N5 million fine on Channels TV, the Nobel Laureate described Baba-Ahmed’s remarks as a “kind of do-or-die attitude and provocation” that goes contrary to democratic disposition.
“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. 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.”he said.
The revered poet’s position on Datti’s utterances, however, did not go down well with many supporters of the LP’s presidential candidate and his vice, as they dragged Soyinka on social media.
Giving a 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. He 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. 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 said.
Reacting to a one-on-one debate challenge by Soyinka over his views on the constitutionality of inaugurating President-elect, Bola Tinubu, Baba-Ahmed told the Nobel laureate to instead bring his preferred candidates to debate him.
In a statement by the Obi-Datti Media Office on Saturday May 8, the LP vice-presidential candidate said his decision not to take Soyinka up on his offer was not out of cowardice but for cultural and political reasons. He said one of the reasons he would not debate the celebrated writer is that he was not on any of the opposing ballots in the election. Datti, however, said that if Soyinka could use his influence to bring out his preferred candidates for the debate, he is willing to take them on.
Read the statement below:
‘’DATTI BABA-AHMED WILL NOT DEBATE PROF. SOYINKA. Like many Nigerians we are bewildered by the late hour intervention of our respected Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka in issues around the flawed 2023 elections.
Where was he all this while? One of those who should ordinarily and rightfully be honoured as the conscience of the nation, Prof. Soyinka is now criminalising dissent and infact weighing in on the side of fraud and injustice! We state therefore that the vice-presidential candidate of Labour Party, Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed cannot take up Prof. Soyinka’s offer of a public debate, not out of cowardice, but for cultural and political reasons.
Culturally it’s just not decent, their age and accomplishment gaps taken into account, for Datti to sit opposite the 88 year-old global icon and point out his folly to his face, even if the old man called for it. And politically there is no basis for such a challenge in that Prof. is not on any of the opposite ballots.
If however he can use his influence to drag his preferred candidates, who resisted debates throughout the campaign, to the studio this second, Datti says he is more than willing to take them on. Signed: Obi-Datti Media Office.”