Revealed: Why LP Datti Baba Won’t Debate Soyinka
The Obi-Datti Media Office has ruled out any possibility of a public debate between the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Ahmed Baba-Ahmed and professor Wole Soyinka.
The Nobel laureate in his recent media round on the outcome of the 2023 presidential election criticised Baba-Ahmed’s position and challenged him to a public debate.
The vice-presidential candidate had in one of his interviews, said that swearing in the president-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who he argued never met the Constitutional requirement will amount to ending democracy in Nigeria.
However, Soyinka said what Datti said amounts to “fascistic rhetoric,” and went further to challenge him to a one-to-one interview on the state of the country’s democratic governance at this point in its history.
However, the media office in a press statement on Saturday said “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,” is in sharp contrast to our culture.
The statement while wondering why the late hour intervention of “Prof. Wole Soyinka in issues around the flawed 2023 elections,” encouraged him to “use his influence to drag his preferred candidate, who resisted debates throughout the campaign, to the studio this second,” and Datti will willingly take them on.
The statement reads:
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.
It would be recalled Nobel laureate had challenged the vice-presidential candidate of the Labour Party, LP, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, to a one-ot-one debate on Channels Television as it 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.
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“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 had 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.