The Labour Party presidential campaign has noted that Datti Baba-Ahmed, the party’s vice-presidential candidate will not debate with Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate.
The campaign team said Baba-Ahmed rejected Soyinka’s offer for a debate “not out of cowardice,” but for cultural and political reasons, as he won’t be standing opposite him to point his folly to his face.
Soyinka had challenged Datti to a debate over his remarks during an interview on Channel TV on March 22.
Datti in the interview said the country has no president-elect despite the declaration of Bola Tinubu, flagbearer of the All Progressives Congress (APC), as the winner of the election by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
The LP vice-presidential candidate said Tinubu would be leading an unconstitutional government if sworn into office because the APC candidate “has not met requirements of the law”.
Reacting to Baba-Ahmed’s comment, Soyinka said the LP vice-presidential candidate’s words contained “fascistic language”.
The Nobel laureate added that he has “never heard anyone threaten the judiciary on television the way Datti did”.
In a write-up titled “Fascism on Course”, Soyinka challenged Baba-Ahmed to a debate over the comment that the president-elect “did not meet constitutional requirements”.
However, the Obi-Datti media office, in a statement released on Saturday, asked Soyinka to present his preferred presidential candidate, who shunned debates during the campaign, for a one-on-one with the LP vice-presidential candidate.
“Like many Nigerians we are bewildered by the late hour intervention of our respected Nobel laureate Prof Wole Soyinka in issues around the flawed 2023 elections. Where was he all this while?,” the statement said.
“One of those who should ordinarily and rightfully be honoured as the conscience of the nation, Prof. Soyinka is now criminalising dissent and infact weighing in on the side of fraud and injustice!
“We state therefore that the vice-presidential candidate of Labour Party, Dr. Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed cannot take up Prof. Soyinka’s offer of a public debate, not out of cowardice, but for cultural and political reasons. Culturally it’s just not decent, their age and accomplishment gaps taken into account, for Datti to sit opposite the 88 year-old global icon and point out his folly to his face, even if the old man called for it. And politically there is no basis for such a challenge in that Prof. is not on any of the opposite ballots.
“If however he can use his influence to drag his preferred candidates, who resisted debates throughout the campaign, to the studio this second, Datti says he is more than willing to take them on.”