In a spirited response to allegations regarding the authenticity of his academic credentials, Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka issued a challenge on Friday, giving his accusers 30 days to submit evidence to relevant agencies for investigation. The esteemed writer declared that if found guilty, he would willingly renounce any titles and honors he had received throughout his illustrious career.
The accusations stemmed from a 1998 article by Joseph Dahip, referencing a 1996 report where scholar Prof. James Gibbs questioned some of Soyinka’s academic claims. According to the report, Gibbs alleged that Soyinka did not obtain a first-class bachelor’s degree in English literature from Leeds University, as claimed, but rather a second-class degree. Soyinka, in his statement titled ‘A moral call to amoral conscripts,’ mentioned that he is awaiting his lawyers’ decision on whether to pursue legal action.
Soyinka expressed disdain for the resurgence of what he termed a document of “unmatchable scurrility,” comparing it to tactics used during General Sani Abacha’s oppressive regime. He noted the document’s circulation under the banner of a democratic political party, highlighting the irony of such actions within a party supposedly dedicated to freedom of opinion and expression.
Anticipating legal action, Soyinka emphasized his willingness to waive protection under the statute of limitations and called for the application of laws governing fraudulent academic claims. He demanded that the accusers provide evidence to investigative agencies, including the Directorates of Prosecutions, the EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission), the ICPC (Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offenses Commission), and affected institutions within 30 days.
The Nobel laureate firmly asserted that if the allegations proved true, he would strip himself of any titles and honors accumulated throughout his career. However, if the allegations were found baseless, Soyinka suggested a symbolic act of remorse for the accusers, urging them to “undertake to jump off the bridge of the symbolic River Niger, provided with life jackets to ensure a life of remorse after this ritual purgation, but chained to one another in a commendable unity of purpose.”
Soyinka copied the statement to various organizations, including the Academic Staff Union of Universities, the Pan-African Writers Association, Accra, the Nigerian Association of Authors, the Nobel Foundation, Stockholm, the University of Leeds, the alleged Bristol Primary Source, and his school, along with the media.