COVID-19: Trust doctors, scientists — not fiction writers like Soyinka, says Garba Shehu


Garba Shehu, senior special assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on media and publicity, has called on Nigerians to disregard Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka’s reservations on the lockdown in Lagos, Abuja and Ogun states. 

Shehu said Soyinka’s qualifications are in English literature and not medicine or science, stating that he does not qualify to be judged as a professional on the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The presidential aide said “perhaps Wole Soyinka may write a play on the coronavirus pandemic, after this emergency is over. In the meantime, we ask the people of Nigeria to trust the words of our doctors and scientists – and not fiction writers – at this time of national crisis.’’

“Yesterday, the esteemed Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka made comments on the legal status and description of 14-day lockdown announced by President Muhammadu Buhari,” Shehu wrote in a statement.

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“Professor Soyinka is not a medical professor. His qualifications are in English literature, and his prizes are for writing books and plays for theatres. He is of course entitled to his opinions – but that is exactly all they are: semantics, not science. They cannot – and should not – therefore be judged as professional expertise in this matter in any shape or form.

“Across the world – from parts of the United States and China, to countries including the United Kingdom and France, government – mandated lockdowns are in place to slow and defeat the spread of coronavirus.

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“All have been declared, and all have been made necessary, based on medical and scientific evidence. The guidance of the Nigerian Government’s medical specialists is to advise the same.”


Soyinka had said Nigeria was not at war, questioning the powers of the president to close state borders.

Reacting to Soyinka’s statement, Shehu said: “Professor Soyinka has also declared, doubtless based on his specialism as a playwright, that: ‘We are not in a war emergency’”.

“Eminent scientists say otherwise: Dr Richard Hatchett, Head of the International Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (and former Director of the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority) has said, ‘War is an appropriate analogy’.

“Professor Anthony Fauci, Director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force has said of the battle against the pandemic: ‘It’s almost like the fog of war’.

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“As for the legality of the lock down, the Government of Nigeria’s primary duty in law and action is the defence of the people of Nigeria. We face a global pandemic. Nigeria is now affected. The scientific and medical guidance the world over is clear: the way to defeat the virus is to halt its spread through limitation of movement of people.”

Nigeria has recorded nearly 200 cases of COVID-19 since the index case was reported in February, 2020.

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