By Nehru Odeh
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has lambasted the National Broadcasting Commission, NBC, for querying Channels Television over what it regards as “inciting, divisive and unfair comments” made by Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom on the TV’s Sunrise Daily programme on Tuesday. Soyinka added that what happened to Channels Television could happen to any media organization in the country.
Soyinka said the regulatory body went beyond its constitutional duties and does not have the power to decide what is “professional and sound judgement” as it relates to the media..
He made this disclosure on Friday 27 August while briefing the media on the theme Sanctions on the Loose: Chasing the Gnat with a Sledge Hammer. The media parley held at Kongi’s Harvest Gallery, Freedom Park in Lagos.
“I think all of you have seen the letter sent by the National Broadcasting Corporation to Channels TV. It is the first time I have actually seen an example of the kind of query that the media is getting,” the literary icon said.
Reading a part of the letter the NBC sent to Channels TV, which says “the broadcaster shall ensure that its presenter shall handle with professionalism and sound judgement,” Soyinka expressed dismay over the overzealousness of officials of the National Broadcasting Commission. .
“Professionalism and sound judgement? Who decides that? Is the National Broadcasting Commission the mass communication fora? Is it judging people’s papers? Is it setting examinations? Who is the impartial arbiter? Who is the expert who decides things like that? This is one of the most outstanding semi-literate kind of official query,” he lamented.
The Nobel Laureate also blasted the Department of State Security for not only raiding the house of Yoruba secessionist leader, Sunday Igboho, but also criminalizing his actions, which according to him were his fundamental human right and devoid of anything criminal. Rather Soyinka said it is the herdsmen who plunder peoples farm, kill farmers and rape women that should be branded as criminals.
The Nobel Laureate said Igboho acted within the ambit of the law, since the protests and demonstrations he had organized were peaceful and non-violent, adding that his actions were predicated on the failure of governance and the inability of the State to protect his people.
“I refused to accept that Igboho is being chased because he peacefully demonstrated his position vis-a-vis the destiny of this nation, which is a fundamental human right of any body. Somebody calls for secession, calls for a separate state, I don’t consider that, and nowhere does it deserve to be called a criminal act.
“As long as it is done peacefully, collectively, within the ambit of the law, you don’t now criminalize that action. And in addition, commit criminal acts against such an individual, which is what the government, the security forces did by raiding Igboho’s home in the middle of the night, killing two of his own people, then claiming, without a warrant or anything, they found weapons in his home.”
The Nobel laureate also decried the genocide that is currently taking place in some parts of the country, especially in Kaduna and Plateau States, and the seeming ineptitude and helplessness of government over what he called the enslavement of young boys and girls by trading them for money in form of ransom which according to him constitute some of the parameters of a failed state. He wondered why government would fold its hands and do nothing while group of people are being wiped out on daily basis.
“Among the actions that qualify as genocide are: One, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; two, deliberate inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about physical destruction in whole or in part, and finally forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
“So where are the Chibok girls? Where are the pupils of the Ahmadiyya School? Where are ?the pupils of the Bethel Baptist School. So what is happening? How do we describe the targeting of children? Soyinka asked.”
While affirming the fact that the United Nations recognize the protection of the rights of children, the Nobel laureate said, “what do we do when these conditions are violated repeatedly and all we do is celebrate recklessness.
He then called on the international community to intervene and stop the enslavement of children in form of kidnapping, abduction, the trading of children to the highest bidder that is currently going on with impunity in the country. He also appealed that the issue of child kidnapping and slavery should be brought to the next General Assembly of the United Nations. “A brisk and very successful slave trade is going on, with markets springing all over the place, he averred.