Quick notice has become a current political buzzwords, usually preceded by hate speech, but will Nigeria survive the current impasse?
By Uche Mbah
Baring last minute hitches resulting from public outcry and possibly international frowns, the Nigerian government is poised to join the league of countries intolerant to criticisms and freedom of expression if they finally ratifies the proposed legislation to criminalize criticism in the name of hate speech.
“Hate speech” took center stage in Nigerian lexicon in the after mat of the Biafran agitation, spearheaded by Nnamdi Kanu and his restless indigenous people of Biafra. Arguments pro and against the Biafran agitation has mostly sank into the unsavory levels of insults and brickbats resulting in anger, heated up polity and regional reactions. The most poignant of the reactions was the quit notice given by the Arewa youths on Igbos living in the Northern part of the country. They have insisted that they must leave, giving October 1 as the deadline. After hat date , according to them, the Igbos are responsible for what ever happens to them.
The furor generated was such that divisiveness has taken over the country;s political landscape.The Niger delta militant reacted by giving their own quit order to Yorubas and Northerners in the Niger Delta.
Government was alarmed. Vice president Yomi Osinbajo was facing a frustrating shuttle diplomacy trying to resolve the impasse. Hate speech was thus elevated to a political tool.
“It is the resolve of the government that none will be allowed to get away with making speeches that can cause sedition or that can cause violence, especially because when we make these kind of pronouncements and do things that can cause violence or
destruction of lives and property, we are no longer in control,” Osinbajo said.
He thus directed the National broadcasting commission, NBC, to double efforts in regulating hate speeches in the media. “(There is an) increasing propensity of some radio and television stations across the country to turn over their platforms to the purveyors of hate speech. It is the responsibility of the NBC to put these broadcast stations in check before they set the country on fire”, Lai Mohamed told the NBC at their 25th anniversary.
But critics insist the government itself is the major purveyor of hate speech. They cited the example of the 97% and 5% speech by president Buhari, who said that he will not treat those who gave him an overwhelming majority who voted for him equally with those 5% who did not vote for him.It was also said that the speech he made after coming back from London was also to be seen as hate speech, as words like irresponsible were freely used.
Even the Inspector general of Police has said that he has set in motion a process for the arrest and prosecution of peddlers of hate speech, following the directive by President Muhammadu Buhari. And the Military was insistent that they were told to monitor social media for hate speech.
It is instructive that it was when President Buhari returned from London that the Arewa youths withdrew the quit notice.
In the final analysis, it may be surmised that hate speeches are used by ethnic bigots to checkmate other tribes. This is more so since there is no particular standard the security agencies will be able to pinpoint what is hate speech. It may end up being another avenue for witch hunt.