Home News Punch @ 50: Soyinka tackles Media, TB Joshua, decries murder of Deborah Samuel

Punch @ 50: Soyinka tackles Media, TB Joshua, decries murder of Deborah Samuel

by Church Times

Nobel Laureate Professor Wole Soyinka has taken exception to the language some reporters deploy in reporting human life.

He also commented on several other areas of life in Nigeria including the BBC documentary on TB Joshua and the gruesome murder of Deborah Samuel among other issues.

Soyinka bared his mind while delivering a 92- page 50th-anniversary lecture of Punch Newspapers in Lagos titled, Recovering the Narrative

The event took place a the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos. It attracted the who is who in the media, some past governors including the former governor of Rivers  State, Rotimi Amaechi, captains of industries, and many former staff of The Punch. It turned out to be some sort of reunion for players in the media industry.

Prof Soyinka, directors of Punch and some dignitaries at the 50th anniversary

Media language

The world-acclaimed playwright expressed great pain with the way language is deployed by some news writers.

He gave several instances of how reporters use words to describe tragic incidents while also noting that many reporters lost their humanity while reporting.

He cited a news report that reads, “The promising, beautiful girl was hale and hearty when she walked into the hospital theatre for a minor medical procedure but, an hour later, she had become lifeless like a dead cow on the slaughter slab.”

Soyinka then wondered why a human being would be compared to a dead cow.

He said, “Really? That is how to report the premature death of another being.?  This has nothing to do with grammar in a foreign language – translate it into any indigenous language and we are still confronted with an accusing question – what has happened to basic humanity? To find such a degradation of sensibilities in the print media delivered quite a jolt”

Soyinka and some dignitaries at the lecture

Spiritual possession

Beyond trouncing the media, the Nobel Prize laureate took a swipe at what he called the “phenomenon of spiritual possession”

He recalled the heat generated by the BBC documentary on Prophet T. B Joshua and expressed shock that the report was being questioned by some people.

He pointed out that about 300 people died in the Synagogue Church of All Nations building adding that he took time to study the late Prophet TB Joshua.

His words, “T.B. Joshua. I studied him for quite some time, I assure you. I even once discussed him with the then Lagos governor who had plans to bring him to justice. He vanished and, of course, relocated to Latin America. No matter, between journalism and fiction, the narrative is virtually complete – a creative genius of fakery and – diabolism.”

Soyinka also expressed disgust at injustice in Nigeria while bringing to the fore some of the dark sides of religious intolerance in the past.

He called to attention the plight of Mubarak Yusuf, currently passing his third year in prison for alleged blasphemy.

“We know of Mubarak. Before him, there was the musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, sentenced to death for allegedly insulting the Prophet Mohammed.

“You must excuse my saying this, but the press is simply not sufficiently assiduous on these issues. Letting the extremists get away with murder – figuratively – only escalates to the real thing – murder in the physical, and with impunity.” Soyinka said.

Nigeria according to him stands the risk of losing its ground to jungle repossession if this trend continues.


Deborah Samuel

Soyinka also dwelt to some extent on Deborah Samuel in his paper saying the name of the murdered student of Sheu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto must remain in the nation’s consciousness.

“There are hundreds of others but this stands out as the nadir of mob dementia and the deadly arrogance of impunity. Also alleged to have disrespected the person of Prophet Mohammed, she was set upon by her classmates, pursued like a quarry in a hunt, dragged out of safety, and clubbed to death.

“Her body was then set on fire in the presence of armed police. That was sufficiently mind-churning for any sensibility of national shame.”

He said what was most depressing was that “the head mullah of the national mosque in Abuja proceeded to justify and bless the crime, while governance in that state, Sokoto, made feeble noises of disapproval. It took a while, but eventually, two Identified participants in that bestial act were charged in court.

“You know the rest of the story.  The judge appeared dutifully, robed in the majesty of the law but even the expected Show Trial was No Show – by the prosecutor – that is, No Show by the State. Again and again, No Show by the State and thus. Adjournments upon adjournments. The judge did not so much as castigate the Justice Department or upbraid the police for subjecting the public to such an exercise in national degradation. His Worshipful Adjudicator simply set free the case, unleashed these sick products of doctrinal extremism on the world to target and eliminate their next victim.”

Rhoda Jatau

He also recalled how a mother of five, Rhoda Jatau, had been in prison detention for eighteen months. “Her crime? She dared to make and disseminate a video that condemned the open lynching of Deborah Samuel! And so, some underarm arm of the law, in this very nation, rose to a defence of the Right of Religious Homicide, had her arrested, then kept in prison detention without trial. It took some strenuous intervention by Human Rights Associations and Christian religious missions to effect her release.’”

He noted that one of the killers of Deborah Samuel posed “with a box of matches with which, we are meant to understand, he set off the gruesome culminating act.”  has not been arrested for the implicit admission of a hate crime as well as the Imam of Abuja Mosque for his impious intervention.”

Still on Deborah Samuel, the Nobel Prize Laureate said he accepted an invitation to Abuja during which demanded that the former President Mohammadu Buhari remove the Aso Rock “Mullah” from the office “since an unlicensed butcher was unfit to preside over any structure of spirituality.”

Nigeria and coup

Soyinka called to question the state of the nation adding that some countries in West Africa have experienced military coups because there was a fertile ground for i. He however warned that a military coup is never an option.

He said, “Again, let us recall that a khaki belt does not simply spring to life from nowhere and from no causes. We know what those causes are, and they are never without warning signals – suppress those signals as often and as brutally as you choose, the fingerprint smudges are clearly there for all to see.

“Coups are not thereby justified, they are politically amoral, illusionary, and dehumanizing. All known organisms – among which we must reckon human society – evolve in an ascending direction of more and more self-sufficiency, less and less dependency.”

He expressed worry at the way military coups were welcomed in some countries saying, “When we see supposedly mature people today carrying soldiers’ shoulder high and jubilating at yet another jackboot intrusion in their lives, one comes close to despair, seeing the evolutionary process operating on a reverse track. And where the home-bred imperators proceed to forge new alliances with foreign adventurers, one can only mutter the embarrassed question: haven’t we been here before?”


The literary giant examined the helpless state of Africa in the hands of foreign interlopers while calling for help for the continent. He observed that Africa is “burdened with far too much of unfinished business” with little regard for the mundane tasks of governance.

He lamented that many Africans now have to look for solutions on their which according to him has given birth to what is “now known as the “japa” syndrome.

Africans according to him now seek not just food and shelter, “but also marginal identities elsewhere, even if this ends in lining the Sahara sands with their skeletons or, more highly publicized, the sea-bed of the Mediterranean.”

Punch Newspapers

On Punch Newspaper, Soyinka said he had a somewhat “unique, personal, yet vicarious and intriguing relationship with PUNCH from its very beginning. I was part of the environment of its birth, and have watched its rise from the public regard of what we might call a sigh of resignation – that sigh of, “oh, another one in an already overcrowded field – to the status of a sturdy must-read journal, observed its transformation through experimentation in every production department – from basic aesthetic appearance to shifts in political leaning and ideological flirtations.”

According to him, The PUNCH came to life at a critical phase of Nigeria’s history.

He said the founder of the newspaper, the late Chief Olu Aboderin, was socio-politically impassioned and he brought people of like minds together to give birth to the paper.

Soyinka said the news medium, “burst on the media scene with a finely tuned sense of history in the making. It emerged as if on cue, as if timed to enable or reinforce a new political order that was poised over the nation”

He said Punch was not implicated “in the catastrophic errors of the past,” adding that it “entered the fray with the credentials of a new eye on that past, and the potentials of a new order.”

He said also that the newspaper turned out to be a new conduit for national aspirations.



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