Soyinka lacks the intellectual capacity to fault Coronavirus lockdown - Presidency

The presidency last night called off the bluff of Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, asking Nigerians to ignore his fictional postulations and embrace science; saying Soyinka’s criticism of the Coronavirus lockdown was informed by ignorance and his high proclivity for public grandstanding. The presidential attack on Soyinka was provoked by the latter’s criticism of the current lockdown of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Lagos and Ogun States by President Muhammadu Buhari as a measure to contain further spread of COVID-19.
“Perhaps Wole Soyinka may write a play on the coronavirus pandemic after this emergency is over. In the meantime, we ask the people of Nigeria to trust the words of our doctors and scientists – and not fiction writers – at this time of national crisis,” presidential spokesman, Malam Garba Shehu, said in a tersely-worded statement.

Soyinka had questioned the rationale behind the lockdown, more so as Buhari failed to declare a national emergency and that the country was not in a state of war emergency. But Shehu, in a statement, noted that Soyinka lacked the professional competence to comment on a matter like the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Shehu, such matter requires scientific interventions and not a mere fiction which he believes the Nobel Laureate is only known for. Shehu, therefore, counseled Soyinka to consider writing a fiction on the pandemic when it is finally over, but admonished Nigerians to trust scientists and not authors of fiction like Soyinka.

Furthermore, Shehu said Soyinka was not a professor of medical sciences and that all he knew was writing literary books and hence, his opinions on the matter lacked scientific backing. Shehu argued that it was a common belief that an effective way of containing the scourge across the globe was the lockdown as he proceeded to cite opinions of medical scientists to buttress his submission simultaneously countering Soyinka’s view that the situation was not a war emergency.

Hear Shehu: “Yesterday, the esteemed Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, made comments on the legal status and description of 14-day lockdown announced by President Muhammadu Buhari. Professor Soyinka is not a medical professor. His qualifications are in English Literature, and his prizes are for writing books and plays for theatres. He is of course entitled to his opinions – but that is exactly all they are: semantics, not science. They cannot – and should not – therefore be judged as professional expertise in this matter in any shape or form.

“Across the world – from parts of the United States and China to countries including the United Kingdom and France, government-mandated lockdowns are in place to slow and defeat the spread of coronavirus. All have been declared, and all have been made necessary, based on medical and scientific evidence. The guidance of the Nigerian Government’s medical specialists is to advise the same.

“Professor Soyinka has also declared, doubtless based on his specialism as a playwright, that: ‘We are not in a war emergency.’ “Eminent scientists say otherwise: “Dr. Richard Hatchett, Head of the International Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (and former Director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) has said, ‘War is an appropriate analogy.’

“Professor Anthony Fauci, Director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force has said of the battle against the pandemic: ‘It’s almost like the fog of war.’

“As for the legality of the lockdown, the Government of Nigeria’s primary duty in law and action is the defence of the people of Nigeria. We face a global pandemic. Nigeria is now affected. The scientific and medical guidance the world over is clear: the way to defeat the virus is to halt its spread through the limitation of movement of people.

In a related development, the Director General of Progressive Governors Forum (PGF), Dr. Salihu Lukman, has said those criticising the current lockdown of Abuja, Lagos State and Ogun State by the federal government, including Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Mr. Ebùn Adegborunwa (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana (SAN) should know that containing the spread of the virus is not about rigid applications of knowledge and laws.

Lukman in a statement issued yesterday said that the current debate around legality are needless, adding that what the COVID-19 emergency timeline dictates is about innovative application of knowledge and laws. According to him, “to miss the reality of this, may mean being reckless. It would appear many of us, including very experienced elder statesmen such as our Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, are still operating in the old activist timelines of being in opposition to government. COVID-19 doesn’t allow us the luxury of government vs citizens’ dichotomy.

Lukman said that all the energy being expended to question the legality of decisions of government to lock down these three cities with the highest potential to spread the virus to every part of the country might only serve to distract the attention of government from the critical issue of ensuring effective response to contain the spread of the virus. He added that rather than asking the question whether locking down Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states is sufficient to contain the spread of the virus, they are seeking to undermine the government.

Lukman stated: “What is the objective of this debate? Is it to strengthen the capacity of our democracy to respond to emergency situations, especially when human life is at great risk on accounts of the outbreak of diseases? Or is it to simply show some legal muscles based on which the actions of the government are delegitimised? How else could government isolate, care and treat victims of COVID-19 in these cities given the scientific evidence that you could be carrier without showing any sign of symptoms? In other word, everybody could be a carrier.