By Wole Soyinka
I denounce, in very strong terms, the report in THE NATION of July 15, 2019, regarding myexchange with school pupils who visited me in Abeokuta, on Sunday, July 14, as part of the organized events on my 85thBirthday. I am appalled that such a twisted and unprofessional account could be disseminated by a paper that has earned itself a high level of public regard, not only for its reporting, but for the galaxy of perceptive contributors on national affairs and other issues of public interest. It is a gross disservice to truth and conscience, and the pursuit of the journalistic profession as a whole.
At no time did I utter the words attributed to me by that paper, which sought to cite the plague of violence by nomadic herdsmen for the “erosion of Buhari’s achievements”. Indeed, at no time in that exchange did the “achievements” of Nigeria’s current government – real or fictitious –come under consideration. The headlining is especially gratuitous, fictitious, and dishonest.
For the avoidance of doubt, a school pupil had requested my assessment of ALL past Nigerian governments. In order to enable these pupils develop as objective, all-round critics, constantly aware of the context in which opinions should be formed, I began by warning them that governance is a difficult undertaking. I went on to add that governing a complex nation space known as Nigeria is especially challenging. The NATION’s report has mischievously detached, then reattached that comment elsewhere in order to introduce achievements of his or her own conceiving. For good measure, comments on rampaging herdsmen were similarly displaced and relocated to provide Buhari’s government alibi for failures. This is crude, mind-boggling, propaganda, unworthy of any but suborned professionals.
Such outrageous ploy is no different from the conduct of social media commentators – especially at election time –who, lacking the courage to propagate their personal opinions, impudently steal the identities of others – mine being a favorite — including pasted photographs, in order to participate in public discourse. It is sad to see this unprincipled conduct being adopted by the print media.
For a reasonably accurate rendition of what was said at that encounter, I recommend the report in The PUNCH of the same event.