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'Don't erect walls in people's minds'

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Nigerian Nobel laureate renounced his US green card after Trump was elected

PARIS Mr Donald Trump exploited "latent xenophobia" to reach the White House, Nigerian literary icon Wole Soyinka said, decrying the erection of walls - "especially in people's minds" - anywhere in the world.

Mr Trump "ascended the podium of power on the prejudices of others", the 82-year-old playwright and poet said in an interview at the Paris Book Fair.

"He played to a latent xenophobic streak which exists in all societies, including mine," said Mr Soyinka, who renounced his US green card upon Mr Trump's victory over the Republican's anti-immigrant rhetoric.

"When I see that kind of conduct... to gain power, I'm completely revolted," he said


Mr Soyinka, who was awarded the Nobel prize for literature in 1986, said: "To me, a horrible moment was to watch hundreds of thousands of people actually applauding when (Trump) uttered these sentiments during the election campaign.

"I'm against the erection of walls, especially in people's minds."

Mr Soyinka recalled how in 1983, the Nigerian government, faced with a steep drop in oil prices, "decided to expel aliens" to cover up all its problems.

Some two million undocumented immigrants - mainly from nearby Ghana - were given a few weeks to leave the west African country, whose economy is driven by vast oil resources.

"There were hordes of refugees in ramshackle lorries going back to their home countries," he said.

Ever since, the chequered jute bag used by travellers throughout west Africa has been known as the "Ghana Must Go" bag, Mr Soyinka said.

Asked about a resurgent movement that is advocating an independent state of Biafra, a region in south-east Nigeria, Mr Soyinka defended the right of indigenous people "to assert themselves as a distinct people even when they are within a political and geographical zone" anywhere in the world.

"It's not the real estate for me that defines a nation or a people, no, it's a history, a culture," he said.- AFP

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