Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka has challenged those accusing him of academic fraud to provide evidence within 30 days or jump into the River Niger.
The accusations were first made in a 1998 article by Joseph Dahip, which referenced a 1996 report by scholar James Gibbs. Gibbs claimed that Soyinka had obtained a second-class degree in English literature from the University of Leeds, rather than a first-class degree as Soyinka had claimed.
Soyinka has denied the allegations, and in a statement on Friday said that he was “awaiting a decision from my lawyers whether or not to dignify the current sponsors of this mouldy tract with legal action”.
However, he also said that he was “willing to waive all protection under the statute of limitations, and insist that the laws that govern fraudulent academic claims be invoked and applied to these allegations to the uttermost limit”.
He added that if found culpable, he would “strip myself of any titles and honours I may have garnered in my entire career, from the most obscure to the most coveted”.
In return, Soyinka challenged his accusers to submit all evidence to the nation’s investigative agencies within 30 days. If they fail to do so, or if the allegations are proven to be false, Soyinka said that they should “undertake to jump off the bridge of the symbolic River Niger, provided with life jackets to ensure a life of remorse after this ritual purgation, but chained to one another in a commendable unity of purpose”.
Soyinka’s statement has been widely shared on social media and is sure to spark a debate about the nature of evidence and the burden of proof in cases of academic fraud.