Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, has written a letter of solidarity to an atheist, Mubarak Bala, who has been in detention for 100 days without trial for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Muhammad.
Mubarak was arrested by the police in Kaduna State on April 28 following a petition by a lawyer, Salisu Umar.
He was subsequently detained by the Kano State Police Command and has been detained for the last 100 days based on claims by the police that courts are closed due to COVID-19.
In a letter he penned on Thursday, Soyinka noted that he was once detained for his views.
The Nobel Laureate recalled how as a child he lived in peaceful coexistence with other Nigerians regardless of religious or ethnic background.
Soyinka wrote, “I write to you today, on this day, the one hundredth day of your detention in an undisclosed location without access to your lawyers, your wife, or your newborn son.
“As a child, I remember living in a state of harmonious coexistence all but forgotten in the Nigeria of today, as the plague of religious extremism has encroached. We both have sought to challenge the ascendancy of religious jingoism.
“As a human rights activist, you have sought to promote freedom of belief and expression and grown to serve as President of the noble institution that is the Humanist Association of Nigeria.”
The playwright noted that despite the dangers, Bala has stood firm in his convictions and true to his values.
“Do they not see the futility of their quest? How can they hope to rein in technology, to rein in questioning minds? I fear that, if they do not see sense, we shall all be caught in a spiral of reprisals that will obscure the path to rational dialogue”, he said.
The Nobel Laureate said Bala’s arbitrary incommunicado detention over the last 100 days is the cruel reality of this conflict.
“I imagine you pacing your cell, just as I have done. Feeling with each passing day, the added strain. But I know too, that with each passing day you will reach further into your reserves – reserves that you have always thought finite – and discover strength of which you had never dreamed,” Soyinka wrote.
The Police Public Relations Officer in Kano State, Haruna Abdullahi, neither responded to calls nor a text message on Thursday.
The petition which led to Bala’s arrest read, “We are submitting this complaint against one Mubarak Bala of Layin Masallacin Bilai, Karkasara Quarters, Kano.
“Mubarak was born and raised as a Muslim but for his own personal reason decided to leave Islam for atheism sometime in 2014 and has since then been writing stuff on his Facebook page that are provocative and annoying to the Muslims.”
Prior to his arrest, Bala had posted on his Facebook wall, “Fact is, you have no life after this one. You have been dead before, long before you were born, billions of years on death.”
A search through Bala’s Facebook page also shows him mocking Christian clerics, including the founder of The Synagogue, Church of All Nations, TB Joshua.
In 2014, then 29-year-old Bala was said to have been forcefully committed by his family to a psychiatric hospital in Kano when he renounced Islam.
Though Bala’s family believed he was insane, he was later discharged from the psychiatric hospital after he was declared sane.