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Wole Soyinka has been the target of vicious criticism in the wake of a series of statements he made about the US election.

You might recall Soyinka telling a room of Oxford university students that he would destroy his American residency card if Donald Trump won the election. Trump’s victory has since generated a mob of Nigerian internet trolls deriding Soyinka’s threat to destroy his green card.  This and this represent the general tenor of the criticism.

Last week Soyinka provided a bit more details about #WOLEXIT—a term he coined for his boycott of the US. As CNN.com reports, he plans on keeping his visit to the US to the bare minimum. And even when he visits, he will not enter the country with his Green card.

“If I find something is absolutely essential, yes, of course I’ll visit there…But I will not go there on my own behalf and I’ll be going as ordinary stranger, [an] ordinary citizen…It’s more arduous, the queues are longer, you’re just carrying a regular visa, but I am willing to go through that if it becomes necessary.

The online critics have still not let up. Tweets are pouring in. Think pieces and commentaries are being posted on various news sites.

Some detractors seem less interested in the fate of Soyinka’s green card than they are in what they see as Soyinka’s undue interest in American politics. This concern over his investment in American politics has opened a can of worms around Soyinka’s support of President Buhari’s election campaign. Some have seized it as an avenue to air pent up feelings about what they see as Soyinka’s role in putting the current administration in power.

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Soyinka, it turns out, refuses to be intimidated by trolls. In an essay published on saharareporters.com, Soyinka refers to the vast internet community of critics as “noisome creatures” and “the nattering nit-wits of Internet.”

Maybe Trumpland is not as despicable as the Naijaland you impose on our reality from your secure cesspits of anonymity. Go back to school. Your problem is ignorance, ignorance of whatever subject you so readily comment upon. Learn to study your subject before opening up on issues beyond your grasp. Sometimes you make one feel like swapping one green for another, out of embarrassment for occupying the same national space as you.  But don’t get nervous, or start jumping for joy too soon – the Nigerian passport is just as tough to rip, physically, as is the Green Card, so I’ll stay put in my private Green Belt – the one I have named the Autonomous Republic of Ijegba. I negotiate my relations with both peoples and nations from its internal protocols – yes, that is indeed arrogance for you, but an arrogance of several decades’ principled growth. I carry that patch of green with me, everywhere, in a secure, invisible, and inaccessible pouch! It is that warehouse of ingrained sensibilities that engendered my decision. saharareporters.com

There are some who see Soyinka’s response as his inability to take the heat:

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And others who see his accustomed criticism of internet communities as proof of his being out of touch. Here is a quote from Kennedy Emetulu‘s Facebook post:

I think Soyinka is mishearing the message from the angry mob he’s attacking. They don’t have to be articulate, they don’t have to be cerebral or intelligent, they don’t have to understand the finer points of a figure of speech by a wordsmith, all they have to be is what they are – angry at the transformation of a tribune of the people. Calling them all sorts of unprintable names and holding a private funeral to mourn their supposed loss of common sense will not kill them. Moving his foundation to the moon or Mars will not block their noise from his ears. As far as he and his foundation remain in the universe, he will hear them. To them, if Soyinka has lost his voice at home in the face of the multiple assaults visited upon Nigerians by those he helped intellectualize their politics to acceptability, he’s got to accept his position as a prisoner of their putrid politics of change. No one put him in that cell, he walked in there unaided and clamped himself in!

What do you guys think?

 

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Post image by Jodie C via Flickr.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

2 Responses to “Wole Soyinka Calls Nigerian Internet Trolls “Nattering Nit-wits of Internet”” Subscribe

  1. Obinna Udenwe 2016/12/12 at 09:53 #

    Well, all I have to say is in line with what Mario Puzo once wrote, that if a man is determined to go to hell and is all out for it, he would respect him to death, or something like that. A man gets to a certain level in the society that he can’t just make any statement — you stand by what you say — that makes one a man. Soyinka said he was going to tear his green card, he should tear the damn thing. It is as simple as that.

  2. Mar 2016/12/12 at 09:58 #

    As far as I know, he said it and did it, please see http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/nobel-prize-winner-wole-soyinka-donald-trump-throws-away-green-card-a7450141.html Why people are angry at that, I do not know.

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I hold a doctorate in English from Duke University and recently joined the Marquette University English faculty as an Assistant Professor. I love teaching African fiction and contemporary British novels. Brittle Paper is the virtual space/station where I play and experiment with ideas on how to reinvent African fiction and literary culture.

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