Hate speech, politicians’ activities fueling violent attacks, say stakeholders
• Experts canvass effective communications
Stakeholders have said hate remarks by political office holders were fueling the raging violent attacks in the country.At a roundtable on “curbing hate speech in Nigeria’s public space” organised by the Centre for Peace and Development (CEPAD) of Veritas University in Abuja, they argued that the ongoing attacks in the polity were an offshoot of hate comments and actions by those in government.
The stakeholders therefore urged government officials to be mindful of their utterances, just as they warned against enactment of laws that could gag the press and suppress the freedom of expression under the pretext of fighting hate speech, insisting that responsible and good leadership remains the only way to curb the menace.
Speaking at the event, Mr. Martins Oloja of The Guardian accused politicians of trying to criminalise the freedom of speech, noting that government needs to address the issue of injustice and impunity to tame the spread of hate remarks in the country.
He said: “We have been talking about peace but no one is crying for justice. The government needs to do something about poor performance. They need to address the poverty in the land and they also need to do something about the culture of impunity.
“You cannot charge a peaceful demonstrator and freedom fighter who has not killed anybody for treason and yet ask persons who killed hundreds of farmers and occupied their land to go scot free and expect love speech.”
To the Executive Director of Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre also in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mr. Clement Nwankwo, the criticism of government polices should not be seen as hate speech.He said it was wrong for government to harass citizens demanding for good governance through tagging them as distributors of hate speech.
In her remarks, Prof. M. Sylvester of the English Department, University of Abuja who urged government to decisively tackle the killings in the land, nevertheless stressed the need for political leaders to bear in mind honesty and trust while dealing with national issues.
However, scholars and language experts in institutions of higher learning across the federation have been challenged to make politicians and their supporters understand that their opinions on any issue could be aired without venom as the 2019 general elections fast approach.
The Vice Chancellor, Lagos State University (LASU), Ojo, Prof. Olanrewaju Fagbohun, who made the appeal at the inaugural workshop of the Nigerian Pragmatics Association (NPrA) in Lagos, warned that the nation was on the precipice, and as such, everything must be done to address issues related to effective use of language and communications in the society.
With the theme, Current Trends in Pragmatics Research: Theory and Practice, the gathering brought together scholars from various universities who are researching into the use of language in multifarious contexts.
Represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor, (Administration), Prof. Damola Oke, Fagbohun regretted the mindless killings nationwide, urging the experts to tailor their studies to make speakers deploy appropriate language for harmony and peaceful coexistence among the ethnic nationalities in a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria.
The guest speaker and Professor of Linguistics, University of Ghana, Accra Legon, Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, tasked the scholars to carry out research that revolves around social, cultural, political, health and gender issues as well as proffer solutions to pressing issues in the society.
Urging politicians to go back to African cultural values, she noted: “Such values prohibit insults and hate speech. You can disagree with somebody but you do so politely.“In African context, you don’t talk about unpleasant things or speak rudely. So our politicians need to recognise this and go back to African cultural values.”
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