Noble Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka on Thursday said the proposed death sentence as punishment for hate speeches in Nigeria currently undergoing deliberations at the National Assembly is meant to silence fierce criticism and opposition in the county.
Soyinka, who spoke at the Ripples Nigeria Dialogue organized by the Ripples Centre for Data and Investigative Journalism in collaboration with Ripples Nigeria in Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, said the “bill is to silence criticism and buy immunity so that their acts will not be exposed. This is coming at a time the world is trying to end the capital punishment.”
According to him, it was was ironical for him to condemn the hate speech bill as he had received several hate speeches and disparaging languages by Nigerians when he said he was not going to be in a community ruled by Donald Trump.
“I received hate speeches and languages when I said I was not going to be part of the United States Community. I was cursed and received hate speeches and now you want me to condemned the hate speech. I don’t want anybody to be hanged but I want them to be shamed. That is why I said I just want us to look in the mirror. I just want people to stop hate speeches,” he said.
Delivering his speech as guest lecturer on the topic “From Miyetti to Haiti: Notes from a solidarity visit”, Soyinka in comparison, narrated events from his most recent visit to the Caribbean.
The Nobel laureate condemned the “poor and insensitive” language and commentary of the Minister of Defense, Mansur Ali on the killings of harmless villagers by the marauding Fulani herdsmen.
“What did you expect them to do after their grazing routes had been blocked?” he quoted the minister as saying at that time.
“This is addressing people whose livelihoods and lives have been taken by the herdsmen. Of massacre and of those whose farmlands and properties have been destroyed by the herdsmen from Benue, Nassarawa, Taraba and Plateau states. Land grabbers are trying to take over people’s land that does not belong to them. Farmers are complaining daily of cattle’s overtaking their lands,” Soyinka lamented.
According to him, President Muhammadu Buhari ought to have by now sacked the defence minister for his inglorious comments, adding that the excuse of some herdsmen for invading some communities in the south was that the Lake Chad had dried up.
Soyinka said the nation was not the first country to experience natural disasters, and that this was not an excuse to take guns to destabilize other peace loving people in their communities.
Soyinka also said the nation had both leadership and fellowship problems, noting that building trust required frankness and that “we have to be very frank. Our problem is that we don’t look often in the mirror.”
Others at the Ripples Nigeria Dialogue moderated by Reuben Abati are former Anambra Governor, Peter Obi and Dr. Akiyode Afolabi, Ripples Nigeria reports.