Internationally recognised Nigeria-born author and scholar, professor Wole Soyinka. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES
Internationally recognised Nigeria-born author and scholar, professor Wole Soyinka. Picture: ALON SKUY/THE TIMES

Nigerian Nobel prize-winning author Wole Soyinka said on Thursday he has fulfilled his pledge to throw away his US residency green card and leave the country if Donald Trump won the presidential election.

Shortly before the vote, Soyinka had vowed to give up his permanent US residency over a Trump victory to protest against the Republican billionaire’s campaign promises to get tough on immigration.

"I have already done it, I have disengaged (from the US). I have done what I said I would do," the 82-year-old said on the sidelines of an education conference at the University of Johannesburg.

"I had a horror of what is to come with Trump … I threw away the (green) card, and I have relocated, and I’m back to where I have always been" — meaning his homeland Nigeria.

The prolific playwright, novelist and poet won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1986 and has been a regular teacher at US universities including Harvard, Cornell and Yale.

At the same time he said he would not discourage others from applying for a green card. "It’s useful in many ways. I wouldn’t for one single moment discourage any Nigerians or anybody from acquiring a green card … but I have had enough of it," he said.

Soyinka, one of Africa’s most famous writers and rights activists, was jailed in 1967 for 22 months during Nigeria’s civil war.

He was reported to have recently completed a term as scholar-in-residence at New York University’s Institute of African American Affairs.

In his presentation at the conference in Johannesburg on Thursday, Soyinka said universities are no longer the sanctuaries of learning that they would like to think they are.

"They find themselves often on the front line of sudden and bloody violence‚" said Soyinka. He is attending the the third annual Brics and Emerging Economies Universities Summit at the University of Johannesburg.

He was addressing the summit on his vision of the university of the future.

Drawing from his experiences in Nigeria during the past five decades‚ Soyinka said anti-intellectual and disruptive intellectual forces had long found root in the institutions of higher learning.

He said there was a thinking that this only affected Africa and the Middle East‚ but this was not true.

Soyinka said religious intolerance was not something new‚ recalling that on a visit to the University of Barcelona‚ he was shown heavy tomes that still bore the bullet holes of the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

He also referred to situation in Kenya last year where 147 people‚ most of them students were killed by al-Shabab militants at Garissa University.

Soyinka said "the religious night raiders"‚ reading from lists provided by some college students‚ called out the victims one by one‚ then knifed‚ bludgeoned and shot them to death.

"Those victims were the supposed unbelievers‚" Soyinka said.

Soyinka said an "underground seepage of anti-humanism" was sweeping through universities around the world and that this should be addressed by creating an environment in which students are given a chance to make their own discoveries.

Soyinka’s vision of a future university would see all first year students undergoing a multidisciplinary course whose aim would be to dehumanise the extremist views they might have.

He said after a year of study‚ students should then be allowed to exercise an intense mental discipline.

Replying to a question on whether universities in the UK should be preventing radical speakers from addressing students for fear of radicalising them‚ Soyinka said a line must be drawn.

He said that while he believed in democracy and freedom of speech‚ there must be limit.

"But I believe that many communities are beginning to understand that there is a limit. There is a point at which even we must recognise something called hate speech. A weapon is used to take advantage of the positive‚ the progressive notion of freedom of speech‚ liberty etcetera to erode the very communities which are founded on those human principles."

AFP, Ernest Mabuza and TMG Digital

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