By Nehru Odeh
Nobel laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has urged the international community to deny visas to those who perpetuate or support violence and crimes against humanity in the name of religion.
He also suggested that a list be compiled of all those who commit or support violence in the same way.
He made this statement on Tuesday, March 21, 2023 on World Poetry Day, organized by ProvidusBank in Lagos. The theme of this year’s event, labeled World Poetry Day with Wole Soyinka, was “Reaffirming humanity with women.”
“If this nation’s government can’t protect its own and can’t take action when our humanity is violated in this way, we have to call in outside help. And I am issuing a challenge to our foreign friends and visitors, representatives of ambassadors, to take action against those who have committed certain crimes.
“These people should be denied visas and put on your watch list to stay in their hole, (tell them) we don’t want them in our country. It’s time. The crime against humanity is beyond what it is because it demonizes the rest of us who condone it and allow it to happen or not happen.
“Start preparing or compiling a list of all those who commit or advocate violence in the name of religion, especially our youth, let them stay in their holes,” Soyinka said.
Soyinka, who was visibly angered not only by the violence committed by religious fanatics in the name of religion and the falsehoods people sell on social media, said this in the context of the support and nod given by the Abuja mullah. to lynching and burning to death. by Deborah Samuel for her classmates at Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto last year
“It’s not just those who are being brutalized who are being victimized, there are those whose minds have been warped to the point that they can descend on their own peer, their own age, their own schoolmates, chase her down, hang her up. to death, set it on fire. Her name is Deborah.
“When this happened, I had an engagement, in fact I very happily accepted an engagement in Abuja specifically to make a statement. And I demanded that the Mullah of Abuja who rejoiced and praised the act did not deserve that position of spiritual leader of a religion, that he should be removed.
“I’m sure he’s still having fun as a spiritual leader in this nation’s capital. By the way, he also calls himself a scholar, he calls himself a professor, he’s supposed to be a scholar, he’s supposed to be able to use his brain on emotions.
“And yet he announced that it was only fair that we turn our children into murderers and others into victims. And, of course, there were other limiting acts all over the country at the time.
“This was a man who should be tried for incitement to murder rather than continue to be the spiritual head of a universally revered religion called Islam.
That is not a spiritual leader. That’s just a homicidal maniac, masquerading as a man of God and a scholar.
“I have a request to make. If the government of this nation cannot protect its own and cannot take action when our humanity is violated in this way, we have to ask for help from outside.”
2. Professor Wole Soyinka speaking at the World Poetry Day event, held in Lagos, Nigeria Invited guests at the World Poetry Day event held at the Eko Hotels in Lagos
The Nobel laureate also took the opportunity to criticize those who impersonate him or spread false rumors about him on social media, adding that he does not know of any other nation that abuses social media like Nigeria.
“And we live in a society that is degenerating to a level where falsehood has become the stable commodity, especially that antithesis of imagination and creativity called the Internet and social media.
“I want to assure you. I want to tell you something, that since this election thing began, I have not made a single public statement, neither in favor of any candidate, nor in the process, nor on the premises, nor in the candidates, nor in the INEC Not about former presidents, not about anything in connection. And yet the amount of crap that has been attributed to me, with my picture pasted on it, is just staggering. It’s unbelievable that such identity theft can continue unchecked. for so long.
“It’s amazing that people sit somewhere, make absolutely nothing, put their name on a statement, attach their photo, and claim it’s their product.”
Soyinka also said that while she admired technology, communication has catapulted the world into realms of humanity that we really should be safeguarding, while urging everyone not to believe everything they read on social media. Soyinka also said that those who lie degrade language, adding that they degrade not only their humanity but also our humanity.
“The technicians, the technologists have really done us a favor by advancing humanity with their technology. But I don’t know of any nation in the world that abuses that technology like Nigeria.
“So please don’t spend so much time on it. use it I don’t want to discourage you but learn to discriminate. Don’t believe everything you read in that medium,” Soyinka said. Professor Soyinka on stage with dignitaries and guest poets at the World Poetry Day event in Lagos, Nigeria
Taiwo Ajai-Lycett, Nigerian actress, journalist and cosmetologist, whom Jahman Anikulapo described as the mother of crowds, meanwhile, also humorously said that Soyinka is a father of crowds, extolling the virtues of the Nobel Prize and congratulating him on what he has done for the country, for humanity and the younger generation.
Lycett, who recognized that the month of March is dedicated to women, also urged women and girls to raise their heads high in society, adding that despite the fact that we are in a patriarchal society in which the rights of women women are continuously infringed and raped, women continue to rule.
He also advised young women to stand up for themselves, maintain their dignity and not get carried away by superficial things.
“Ladies, you are getting married. You are going to have children. You are going to raise the children. You have to treat this society with the kind of people you raise. And please look away from all the shiny objects people throw at you. Let’s go for the substance,” she said.
Walter Akpani, Managing Director and CEO of ProvidusBank, the organizers of the event, said he was excited to see young writers whom he described as the future of Nigeria present at the event. And that they are here today gives me a lot of hope, especially when we look at what they have been able to contribute, ”he explained.
Akpani, who expressed his thanks to Soyinka for making time to be at the event and for the continued support he has provided to the programme, also said that ProvidusBank will continue to positively impact “how we make sure Nigeria’s future is better, especially for the young people who are among us tonight.
“It is not an easy thing. But in our own small way, we would continue to contribute to this. And today I know that there would be more that we would learn from them. As young as they are, we would definitely learn and take a bit from them today. Even some of the things that would surprise you and me that we probably never had a clue about: the fact that they are so talented. And it goes beyond Just them. It goes even as far as others who are not sitting here.
“We all have collective responsibilities to make sure Nigeria’s future is secured with the kind of people and children we positively impact,” Akpani said.
US-based Nigerian writer, journalist and academic Okey Ndibe, who introduced Soyinka before he (the Nobel Laureate) read his poem, took the opportunity not only to apologize to him for the season of anomie in the country, but but also to celebrate it.
“Soyinka told me, as she had told many other interviewers, ‘I believe in people, not in nations.’ I also want to apologize to you, Professor Soyinka, for the season of anomie that we currently have in our country, for the reduction of our humanity to ethnicity and religion.
“And I want to celebrate his ecumenism of spirit, his greatness, his amazing humanity,” Ndibe said.
Indeed, it was a night of poetry, music and dance. Nigerian jazz musician Yinka Davies, backed by a live band, wowed the audience with what seemed like an endless rendition of scintillating music.
Poets from around the world who performed virtually or physically to celebrate World Poetry Day included Nahalie Handal, Vuyokazi Ngemntu, Jumoke Verissimo, Emma Ofosua, Achalugo Chioma, Ilozumba, Amrah Aliyu and Wana Udobang.
A very significant aspect of the event were the performances of poetry, which selected teenagers from different schools in Lagos gave individually. The poems were performed in honor of Leah Sharibu, one of the Chibok girls who has not only been held hostage by Boko Haram/ISWAP terrorists since 2014, but has shown uncommon courage in the face of adversity.
Another special session that night was when Soyinka read a poem from her latest poetry collection titled “Selected Poems (from 1965 to 2023) A Retrospective” which was presented to the public.
Still, the event also provided another opportunity to present another book titled: “Travels (40 poems from a Poetry Hub in Lagos)”, an anthology of poems written by the participants in the ProvidusBank World Poetry Day Coffee Workshop. 2022 and edited by Eriata Oribhabor, Segun Adefila, Chisom Ohuaka and AJ Dagga Tolar.