Vice Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) in the Nigeria’s 25th February election, Dr Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, has declined to engage in a debate with the Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, on Channels TV regarding the nation’s democracy.
This was made known in a statement released on Saturday by the head of Obi-Datti Media Office, Diran Onifade, who said the LP vice presidential candidate won’t be debating with Soyinka not out of cowardice but respect for his age and accomplishments.
Soyinka had accused Baba-Ahmed of calling for an enthronement of Fascism with his comments on Channels Television that the Supreme Court and President Buhari should not swear in the President-elect, Bola Ahmed on May 29, 2023.
Soyinka’s comment drew the ire of the Obidients, supporters of the LP presidential candidate, Mr Peter Obi, who queried the Nobel Laureate’s failure to speak on what happened during the election. They expressed concern that Soyinka only reappeared after the elections had been concluded to fault them for protesting the outcomes.
While responding to the reactions trailing his criticism of Datti Baba-Ahmed’s comment, Soyinka offered to debate with the LP vice VP candidate on issues about the nation’s democracy.
One of the spokespersons of the Obi-Datti Presidential Campaign Council, Prof Chris Nwakobia, who appeared on Arise News TV earlier on Saturday, had said that the Obidients and Datti were ready to engage Soyinka in a debate.
However, Onifade, while reacting to Soyinka’s challenge said Baba-Ahmed would not sit one-on-one for a debate.
He stated the his principal would only be available for debate if Soyinka can use his influence to bring Tinubu, who refused to attend all debates during campaign period.
Onifade in the statement said: “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?
“One of those who should ordinarily and rightfully be honoured as the conscience of the nation, Prof Soyinka is now criminalising dissent and in fact weighing in on the side of fraud and injustice!
“We state therefore that the vice-presidential candidate of the 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.”
Also, responding to Soyinka’s offer of a debate session, former Senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, Shehu Sani, urged Datti not to engage the octogenarian in a debate.
Sani said it is improper to engage in debate with elders.
“Datti should not debate with Soyinka. In Africa, it’s improper to debate with elders, no matter how unpalatable comes their words. Kongi is our national asset even if his views differs from yours. But if Datti wants to debate with Lai it’s ok, he’s employed and paid to talk and talk,” Sani tweeted on Saturday night.