Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka hit back Monday at critics, denouncing the “slugs, barbarians and imbeciles” who derided him for tearing up his US residency card after Donald Trump’s election win.
“I don’t want people we fought for to have the freedom of expression to use it for stupid comments”, soyinka told journalists in Lagos.
Soyinka, who regularly teaches at top US universities, made good on a pledge to bin his green card in the event of a Trump victory, in protest at the Republican’s anti-immigration stance.
But after the news was reported on Friday, Nigerians fired up their Twitter feeds, simultaneously blaming the playwright and poet for his distance from his fellow countrymen, and demanding proof that he actually went through with it.
“I beg did you see him throw it away?” asked one Twitter writer, while another claimed: “(I won’t believe it) ’til no video and no photo….”
“Why didn’t he give it to me!” said yet another.
Many commentators accused Soyinka of being disconnected from the plight of Nigeria’s 180 million citizens, many of whom dream of the comforts of US life with its educational and economic opportunities, reliable electricity and freedoms.
Soyinka, one of Africa’s most famous writers and rights activists, was jailed in 1967 for 22 months during Nigeria’s civil war, or Biafra war. He won the Nobel prize in 1986.
He fled into exile in the United States in 1994 and was sentenced to death for treason by the military leader Sani Abacha. He has since spent much time teaching at US universities including Harvard, Cornell and Yale.
To reply to the barrage of criticism on Twitter, Soyinka invited journalists to a discussion held Monday in Freedom Park, a former slaves’ prison transformed into a site for freedom of expression.
“On the (Trump’s) inauguration day, I will mourn,” he said.
“You know what I will be mourning? The death of Nigeria common sense. I feel we have lost it. Sometimes I am embarrassed to share the same nation space with imbeciles.”