–Blank NEWS Online (NIGERIA) –By Austen AKHAGBEME:
Senator Sabi Abdullahi of the APC and the Present Deputy Chief whip of the upper chambers, may not be a household name. But his controversial bill, THE PROHIBITION OF HATE SPEECH BILL, has become a household discussion in Nigeria today.
Suffice it to say that the bill itself may have emanated from an hateful mindset of a privileged elite against a perceived aggressor, hater or a political foe; the dust, fury and anger it has generated so far is definitely an indication that it is a joke taken too far.
The fact that it has passed its first reading on the floor of the national assembly is a tacit indication of its seriousness and the determination of its sponsors. The questions frequently asked are: what constitute an Hate Speech? How are the boundaries defined? Are the political elites the right people to determine what an hate speech is? Who’s afraid of free speech? Or is every free speech an hate speech?
When a 75 year old minister of Agriculture openly tells whoever cares to listen, that 30 Naira can still afford us a meal in Nigeria: and his colleague in ministry of Works affirmed that Nigeria roads are not as bad as the people portrayed, should Nigerians clap for them? Are actions and reactions no longer equal and opposite?
Hate Action can only produce hate speech just as hate speech can be traceable to the same elites who are trying to use it to set traps to defend themselves and frustrate free expression in our polity. It should be noted that electioneering and campaign periods in Nigeria thrives in and with Hate speech. Politicians dished out speeches and sloganeering laden with hate, venom and negative innuendo all in a bid to outsmart their opponents.
Instead of concentrating on the onerous task of good governance, as part of the fulfillment of the social contract now that they are in office, they would rather engage in totalitarian frivolities to safeguard themselves from the prying eyes of the people. It’s a pity.
There’s equally the INTERNET FALSEHOOD AND MANIPULATION BILL, the very brainchild of Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC Niger East) The furore generated by this draconian bill is twice as intense as that of Senator Abdullahi’s Hate speech bill.
There’s no denying the fact that social media has become our community engagement platform and any attempt or action that suggests a possible denial of this veritable tool of expression will elicit a viral condemnation and resistance by the citizenry. And this is the case, presently, in Nigeria. What happened to the cyber crime bill signed into law by the previous regime of President Goodluck Jonathan? What about the extant laws of libel, sedition etc? Are these constitutional provisions not enough to deal with these issues instead of smuggling in some self-serving and ill motivated bills?
Just like every other good thing, there are bad sides. The social media has truly changed the world such that even the traditional media depends on them for survival.
I’m of the opinion that a government that is set out to satisfy the yearnings of the people will never be perturbed about bad Press, Hate speech or dissenting opinion whatsoever. The solution to all of these is good governance, patriotism and love for fellow citizens. As long as there’s greed, avarice, pilfering, primitive and dishonest acquisition and accumulation of our common patrimony by a few; the display of negative emotion and energy ( not minding the name it is called) on the part of the voiceless majority can never be avoided.
*Austen AKHAGBEME is a columnist with Blank NEWS Online