Novelist Chimamanda Adichie has reacted to the position of Prof. Wole Soyinka which described as fascist the comment made by the Labour Party vice presidential candidate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, in the aftermath of the 2023 election.
According to Adichie, she has a lot of respect for the Nobel Laureate but disagreed with his opinion on the matter.
She disclosed this during an interview with Arise TV on Tuesday.
She said, “I still do (have a lot of respect for him), I have a lot of love for Prof Wole Soyinka. I admire him, I respect him as a thinker, as a writer and I think everyone should read ‘The Man Died’ and ‘Ake’, his memoir is really beautiful but at the same time I disagree very strongly with him about this particular issue and actually because I respect Prof Wole Soyinka so much, I went back and watched the interview. I had watched it when it aired initially but I went back and watched it because I thought am I missing something.”
According to her, “fascist is really a very strong word”.
“And I didn’t see any reason that Mr Datti Baba-Ahmed’s interview would have been termed fascist,” she said.
“Baba-Ahmed, I think he was making a very strongly felt point about the elections. What he was saying which again I thought seemed fairly reasonable is that if our democracy is rooted in our constitution and you then swear in a person who is being elected unconstitutionally then you are in fact ending democracy,” she said, adding, “I think it is quite a reasonable position. Of course, we can argue about what that bit in a constitution means.”
Adichie revealed that issues surrounding the last elections had made her read things she would probably never have read, adding that she had to read the Nigerian constitution.
“So Mr Datti Baba-Ahmed is saying that it is two-thirds and the FCT and that is separate and it is a reasonable argument. ‘And’ is a conjunction. We use it in that context often to mean plural. We say Aisha and Yemi are coming and we don’t say Aisha and Yemi is coming; that is because they are two separate entities; and of course, the court will interpret. But I don’t think it is unreasonable for educated Nigerians who can read, who know what and means to make their own interpretation and to argue it, because the fact that the Labour Party is in court means they do not believe that this election is constitutional.”
She, however, maintained that she did not understand why anyone would term Baba-Ahmed’s interview as fascist. “I didn’t quite see why it would be termed fascist. I think a charitable way of reading Prof. Soyinka’s comments is that Prof. Soyinka himself, I think it’s fair to say that he himself is not given to restraint in language in general, so maybe that way that word, fascist came from.”
She said instead of describing Baba-Ahmed’s interview as fascist, the electoral umpire, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) should rather be described as fascist.
“However, I have suggestions for what we could use fascist for, we could use fascist for INEC because as it is right now many Nigerians feel deeply cheated by INEC, disfranchised by INEC and there is authoritarianism which obviously is a basis for fascism at the centre of manipulating an election.”
She accused INEC of “taking away” the voice of the people.
“What is fascist? Fascist is all of the violence that happened during the elections. Fascist is the way that some people remain silent about that violence. Fascist is a government that hasn’t come out to address the very tangible and palpable discontent in this country. I think that when I said we can use fascist for INEC what I mean is the fact that so many of us including myself are convinced this was not in any way a technological glitch. I think Prof Mahmood Yakubu had an opportunity for heroism and I think he wasted it spectacularly. He could very easily have become a hero not just to Nigerians but Africa because even Africans are watching.
“They were so inspired even before this election – the Obidient Movement. I also think that President Buhari missed an opportunity for heroism, maybe his last chance for heroism because I think Nigerians felt before the election that he meant well, that he meant to have credible elections but I don’t think many Nigerians think that way now and I wish that he has taken a page from former President Goodluck Jonathan, he is really a good man, a moral man.”
On whether she believed that the opposition political parties who are challenging the outcome of the election in court would get a fair hearing, she expressed optimism.
“I hope they will. I think there’s reason to doubt that because the Supreme Court has had rulings that just did not meet and make sense to most people and so there is a reason to worry but I am hopeful. I am generally hopeful, I am optimistic that they would do the right thing, that people will get justice,” she said.