Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has cautioned the Federal Government against the use of force to curtail the peoples right to freedom of association.
Notable activists, including Soyinka and Femi Falana (SAN) were denied access into the symposium venue in Oregun, Lagos. They were billed to talk on the detention of the African Action Congress (AAC) candidate at the February 23 presidential election, Omoyele Sowore and #RevolutionNow.
The literary icon, who also urged Nigerians against believing everything read online, said it was wrong for security operatives to apply force to reduce the people’s freedom.
He spoke at the weekend in Badagry at the inauguration of a gallery in commemoration of his 85th birthday.
Soyinka said: “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.
“You’re reducing them as human beings and you’re also reducing yourselves as human beings, because it means you’re afraid to listen,” said the Nobel Laureate.
“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,” adding that “the reduction of the rights of expression of any one of us is an infringement and assault on the rights of all of us”.
Advising Nigerians not to belive everything they read on the social media but rather take such online publications “with a pinch of salt”.
Soyinka said: “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.
“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 contemptable 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.”
According to him, the social media was supposed to be an “empowering media” which was being abused by some people.
He said: “Sometimes on social media, you’ll even see trending quotes supposedly from me, with my name, my photograph, with statements which represents what those people want to say but lacked the courage to say it,” he said.
He advised people to read books when in doubt in order to question the authenticity of what they see on social media.
“Never turn your back on an opportunity or chance to reading a work or product of somebody’s mind; that way you enter the minds of others, you dispute with them, examine ideas, expand your horizons and make the entire universe a better place.”