Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka on Tuesday defended singer David Adeleke, popularly known as Davido, over a video he released on his social media handles, which appears to have disparaged the Muslim faith.
He said Davido did not need to apologise to the Muslims or anyone over the video.
The video, captioned ‘Jaiye Lo,’ which was released by Logos Olori, an artiste under Davido, showed some people dressed in white jalabiyas like Muslims, praying the way Muslims do before launching into dancing as they recited some Quranic verses and prayed.
Mats were spread for those praying behind an ‘Imam’ who used the popular single-prayer rug (sajadah). Those who were praying also read out what looked like Muslim recitations in Arabic language and prostrated the way Muslims do in prayer.
In the video, Logos Olori was seen sitting on the roof of a mosque-like building mounted with a horn public address system, thus, creating the complete impression of a mosque scenario.
Muslims faithful have attacked Davido for displaying such video on his Twitter handle and threatened action.
But Soyinka, in a statement on Tuesday said he had not seen the Davido clip and would greatly appreciate if someone would make it available so they all could debate, objectively, the merits and demerits of positions taken over this recent product of the musician.
There are, however, certain principles, histories, rights and responsibilities of artistic creativity that should not be smothered under emotional manipulation.
Soyinka referred to the notorious case of ISESE in Ilorin, saying there are others, hundreds of others, far too weighty to evoke in relation to this mere piffle of religious sentimentality.
The Nobel laureate stated: “The following should not be needed, but we appear to inhabit a nation space where memory deficiency has become an accreditation badge of competence in national affairs. I recall my intervention, several years ago, in an attempt to pillory former Governor of Kaduna State, El Rufai over some comment he had made that was considered derogatory to followers of Christianity.
“I forget the reference now but I do distinctly recall another of a bank manager who, at Easter tide, referred to the risen Christ as a metaphor for the risen dough in the bakeries of Oshodi. Something along those lines. Under obvious pressure, he apologized, and I rebuked him for the gesture.
“There was nothing to apologize about, and that applied equally to El Rufai’s comments at the time. It should come as no surprise that I equally absolutely disagree with Shehu Sani if indeed, as reported, he has demanded an apology from Davido on behalf of the Moslem community.
“No apology is required, None should be offered. Let us stop battening down our heads in the mush of contrived contrition – we know where contrition, apology and restitution remain clamorous in the cause of closure and above all – justice. Such apologies have not been forthcoming. In their place, we have the ascendancy of petulant censorship in the dance and music department. Just where will it end?”
Soyinka added that most forms of worship – from the Hare Krishna to Hinduism and lesser-known religions – sought transcendental experience through the medium of dance.
“It goes beyond mere elation or euphoria and involves surrender of the ego to the mystical and sublime – through dance. The secularization of that medium stretches across religions, and offers the artistes’ a means of invoking a sense of spiritual community, through a common act of self-surrender.
“As already admitted, I have not seen the clip, but I insist on the right of the artiste to deploy dance in a religious setting as a fundamental given. Such deployment is universal heritage, most especially applicable in the case of Islam where a plot of land, even without the physical structure, can be turned, in the twinkling of an eye, into a sacral space for believers to gather and worship in between mundane pursuits,” he said.
According to Soyinka, dancing in front of a mosque could not therefore, on its own, be read as an act of provocation or offence but as affirmation of the unified sensibility of the spiritual in human.
“Let us learn to read it that way. Those who persist in taking offence to bed and serving it up as breakfast should exercise their right of boycotting Davido’s products – no one quarrels with that right. However, it is not a cause for negative and incitive excitation.
“The greater responsibility is to face squarely the root issues of religion in the nation. That root issue is starkly stated thus: the sectarian appropriation of the power of life and death across a community of believers, other believers, and even non-believers alike, be it for real, imagined, or deliberately contrived offence.
“It was not Davido’s music that lynched Deborah Yakubu, and continues to frustrate the cause of justice. Nor has it contributed to the arbitrary detention of religious dissenters – call them atheists or whatever – such as Mubarak Bala, now languishing in prison for his 38th month. These are the provocations where every citizen should exercise the capacity for revulsion.
“They are the issues deserving of, indeed exercise primary claim on a nation’s capacity for righteous indignation. All else is secondary. Distractive piffle,” he stated.