Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a best-selling Nigerian author, gives the first of four 2022 Reith Lectures inspired by Franklin D Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech.
Is freedom of speech under attack? Cancel culture, and arguments about “wokeness” have produced a febrile atmosphere. Meanwhile, autocrats and populists have undermined the very notion of a fact-based truth which lives above politics. So how do we calibrate freedom in this context?
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores these themes and more in her BBC Reith Lecture on freedom of speech. Hugh Levinson, BBC Commissioning Editor, said the BBC is “privileged to have one of the world’s great writers addressing this vital question with her characteristic forthrightness, intelligence, candour, and wit. Whether you agree or disagree with what Chimamanda says, she will make you think hard about what you believe – and don’t be surprised to find yourself quoting her for days and weeks afterwards.”
The lecture and question-and-answer session was recorded in London in front of an audience and it was presented by Anita Anand.
The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Lord Reith, the corporation’s first director-general. John Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service that enriches the nation’s intellectual and cultural life. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest. The very first Reith lecturer was the philosopher Bertrand Russell who spoke on ‘Authority and the Individual’. Most recently, the Reith Lecturers have been theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, philosophy professor Kwame Anthony Appiah, Booker-winning novelist Hilary Mantel, and former Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney.
This year the Reith Lectures features four different lectures which are inspired by President Franklin D Roosevelt’s four freedoms speech of 1941 and ask what this terrain means now. In addition to Freedom of Speech by Adichie, Freedom of Worship will be given by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, while Darren McGarvey and Fiona Hill will lecture on Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear.
Mohit Bakaya, Controller of BBC Radio 4, said: “Freedom is one of the defining values of our age. Chimamanda carefully explores why freedom of speech is threatened, why it needs to be protected, and its importance to the creative imagination. I’m delighted that Chimamanda is giving the first of this year’s BBC Radio 4 Reith Lectures.”
The Reith Lectures: Freedom of Speech by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service on Wednesday, 30 November, and is now available on BBC Sounds.
Young Nigerians Can’t Find Heroes To Look Up To – Chimamanda Adichie
Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie says the country does not have “heroes” who will inspire its younger population.
Adiche made the comment on Monday, August 22, 2022, in her keynote address at the Annual General Meeting of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, in Lagos State.
“We are starved of heroes. Our young people do not find people to look up to anymore,” the award-winning writer said during the event.
According to the author, Nigerians should be open to self-criticism. This, she said, will engender good leadership in the nation.
“As long as we refuse to untangle the knot of injustice, peace cannot thrive. If we don’t talk about it, we fail to hold leaders accountable and we turn what should be transparent systems into ugly opaque cults,” Chimamanda noted.
“My experience made me think there’s something dead in us, in our society; a death of self-awareness and ability for self-criticism.
“There’s a need for resurrection. We cannot avoid self-criticism but criticise the government. We cannot hide our own institutional failure while demanding transparency from the government.”
Some of the personalities who graced the event on Monday include the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) Peter Obi and his Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, counterpart Atiku Abubakar.
But the All Progressives Congress, APC, flagbearer Bola Tinubu did not attend. He was instead represented by his running mate Kashim Shettima at the conference which started on August 19 and will end on August 26.
The NBA had earlier said Tinubu and the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso did not confirm their availability for the conference.
Other presidential candidates at the event were that of the African Democratic Congress (ADC) Dumebi Kachikwu and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Prince Adewole Adebayo.