Wole Soyinka during the BBC Beyond Fake News Conference held in Abuja. File credit: BBC Igbo

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, says he has read several reports of the trending audio clip depicting the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, insulting President Muhammadu Buhari but he has not been able to spot any insults as insinuated by the media.

Soyinka said this in Abuja on Wednesday at a symposium on fake news organised by BBC News.

The playwright, who was a panellist at the event tagged, ‘Nigeria 2019: Countering Fake News’, urged the traditional media not to act like the electronic media by spreading unfounded allegations.

He said, “Just two or three days ago, I read an item where a minister was supposed to have insulted the President and it was carried in some media and I checked the statement and of course there was a video and so on and I looked through it, I read the text again and again and I said I have to relearn the English language because I didn’t see where the insults were.

“So sometimes, print media feels compelled to compete with the electronic media and this is a great mistake because there is a reputation, there is an expectation and you should not be embarrassed to show yourself superior to a medium which is accessible to the lowest, the very dregs of society.”

According to audio released by Phrank Shaibu, an aide of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Amaechi, said this in a conversation with some journalists.

In the clip, Amaechi, who is the Director-General of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, purportedly said Buhari neither reads nor listens to anyone.

In one of the clips, Amaechi purportedly said, “The President is not listening to anybody. He doesn’t care. You can write anything you want. The President doesn’t care. Does he read?”

In another part of the audio, the minister threatened to bar journalists from events if the audio is leaked.

He said, “These are not things you publish ooo. If you publish them, you will never sit with me any day.

“Three years of Buhari oo, everybody is crying, crying…pressmen are crying, farmers are crying, workers are crying, politicians are crying, students are crying, three years oo!

“The rate of poverty is very high. The people are hungry. Nigeria will divide!”

Amaechi was heard saying, “This country can never change, I swear. The only way this country can change is in a situation where everybody is killed.

“This country is going nowhere. When Magnus (Abe) was secretary to the Rivers State Government, I told him that this country is hopeless and helpless and he told me, ‘Oga, stop it’. This cannot be coming from a governor.

“But two months in Abuja, Magnus came to meet me and said, I agree with you; this country is hopeless and helpless. All they do in Abuja is to share money.

Members of Buhari’s media team as well as close associates of Amaechi have confirmed the authenticity of the clip but said it was edited out of context.

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said on Tuesday that the controversial audio would not affect the ruling All Progressives Congress ahead of next month’s elections.

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