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LAGOS, NIGERIA.     Tuesday, February 18 2003






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Adegbite denies promoting religious violence
From Charles Coffie Gyamfi, Abeokuta

A CONSTITUTIONAL lawyer and Secretary-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Dr. Lateef Adegbite, has said that recent statements by Prof. Wole Soyinka that he is a promoter of religious violence were misplaced and untrue.

The Nobel laureate had in an interview in a news magazine on the aborted Miss World in Nigeria called Adegbite a religious bigot who thrived in promoting religious crises in the country.

Soyinka had on Monday last week in a statement published by several national dailies referred to his previous interview with the magazine and insisted that what he had said of Adegbite was the truth hence the Islamic leader could not refute it.

But the NSCIA scribe in a 23-paragraph statement titled "Wole Soyinka's Misuse of Talent and Irreligious Tyranny," described the literary guru's allegations as mischievous as he had done a lot to promote religious harmony in Nigeria.

Adegbite stated that since Soyinka spent all his time in posh hotels abroad and only sneaked in and out occasionally, it would be difficult for him to know the trends in the country.

He warned Soyinka not to be "intoxicated with the admiration he enjoys world-wide for his literary prowess," adding that his talent is not a licence to insult others at will.

Said he: "Soyinka is well known for hurling tantrums at people who do not share his views'', stressing that the writer could continue to be involved in smear campaigns against leaders of the Islamic faith but cannot destroy the reputation they have built over the years.

"I will ignore calling me a fool since any one who does not see eye to eye with Soyinka is a fool."

"In order for Soyinka to achieve a hyper effect for his claim that I was promoting violence, he even attributed to me certain Yoruba remarks that I never made''.

"The Nigerian Moslem leadership has never advocated nor endorsed violent protests in airing their legitimate grievances, rather we have always elected constitutional and legal means in the pursuit of our interests," he declared.

Adegbite said when Soyinka called him a fool in an interview in the weekly magazine in December, he considered issuing a rejoinder but later resolved not to descend to the writer's level but since "Soyinka has again referred to me in the February 12 statement, it has become imperative for me to speak."

Adegbite stated that most of the workers at his law firm are Christians, adding that "since my school days and for nearly 50 years that I have been a spokesman for Islam, never have I advocated religious violence."


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