Wole Soyinka, Nobel laureate, has asked the federal government to quit “trying to muzzle people” when they gather to discuss and exchange ideas.
Soyinka spoke on Saturday in Badagry at the unveiling of an art gallery in commemoration of his 85th birthday.
He was reacting to the seal-off of the venue of a symposium where he and other speakers were to address insecurity in the country on August 19.
According to Soyinka, the government’s attitude shows that it is “afraid to listen”.
“It is important to send strong message to this government and to the security services to stop trying to muzzle people when they come together to exchange ideas,” Soyinka said.
“You’re reducing them as human beings and you’re also reducing yourselves as human beings, because it means you’re afraid to listen.
“One of the beauties of existence is the ability to express concern which we cannot compromise. Creativity takes place in an atmosphere of absolute freedom… the reduction of the rights of expression of any one of us is an infringement and assault on the rights of all of us.”
Soyinka further warned Nigerians to be wary of information on social media platforms.
“Be very, very careful what you believe even when you read such materials in social media or sometimes in newspapers because in this country, we have a most fertile multiplier effect,” he said.
“When somebody hears something, he puts it on the Internet, it spreads and an industry begins as people start commenting on things which never existed.
“Positive, negative or neutral, it doesn’t matter; what matters is that somebody’s identity has been stolen and some contemptible cowards are responsible for stealing that individual’s identity.
“Putting words in his or her mouth and thereby generating totally non-existent irrelevant contestations.
“So, when you read things on social media, take it with a pinch of salt, decide whether it makes sense because the person who posted it might have a private agenda.”
Soyinka clocked 85 on July 13, 2019. Many events were put together in his honour across the country.