Nobel laurent and respected scholar, Prof Wole Soyinka, has warned Nigerians to beware of former President Olusegun Obasanjo who seems to think he can decide the fate of Nigerians and impose anything on us in leadership
The playwright, who was a panellist at the event tagged, ‘Nigeria 2019: on Wednesday at a symposium organised by BBC News in FCT Abuja Countering Fake News,’ urged the traditional media not to act like the electronic media by spreading unfounded allegations.
Reflecting on the effect of fake news ahead of next month’s elections, Soyinka asked Nigerians to be wary of a former President who pretends to be the conscience of the nation.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 was reason for Nigerians to express some doubt.But he changed his mind recently, saying he had forgiven Atiku, urging Nigerians to vote for the ex-Vice-President.…says those spreading fake news have mental problem
Soyinka said those spreading fake news had mental issues and thus psychologists and psychiatrists must be included in the fight against the menace.He disclosed that he had seen his obituary countless times on social media and he had become tired of receiving phone calls from well-wishers.He said sometimes ridiculous statements were attributed to him which many could find disgusting.Soyinka added, “During the last Presidency, there was a statement attributed to me that I said that it serves President Jonathan right for marrying an illiterate woman. I never made any comment whatsoever about her and suddenly here it is staring me in the face.
“An account (on Facebook) has even been created in my name and from time to time a card is sent to me and it reads, ‘Wole Soyinka says anyone who votes for this person must be stupid, must be mentally retarded, his mother must be a goat and his father must be a gorilla.’And this comes on all the time and I don’t want to understate the numerous motivations going into this. Although basically, I think the commonality is that those who create fake news are sick in the head and they are also cowards because they lack the conviction for their own beliefs and so they try to attribute to other people what they are thinking.”The activist, however, rejected the temptation to promulgate laws that could curtail press freedom.
Soyinka said the laws against libel, slander and identity theft were sufficient for the fight against fake news but said sadly, the police and other law enforcement agencies were not serious enough to tackle the menace.He described as crazy, attempts by the Senate to pass a bill recommending capital punishment for purveyors of hate speech.The Nobel laureate added, “I have insisted that it is something that must be treated criminally but I don’t want this to become an opportunity for our very bloodthirsty legislators to push the kind of law which they tried to enact the other time which they were decreeing capital punishment for any hate speech.
“I don’t know how far it has gone, whether they have dropped it or if it is on the President’s table but nothing I say today should be taken as an endorsement of that lunacy.If people are bloodthirsty they should go and join Boko Haram instead of using the legislative chambers to initiate another opportunity for slaughtering people for speaking their minds like Khashoggi. Let us be very careful about that.The playwright called on social platforms like Facebook to do more in tackling fake news and deleting fake accounts.He said there was a need for INTERPOL and other multinational law enforcement agencies to join in the fight against fake news as some of the people engaged in the criminal act were operating from multiple jurisdictions.