War against hate speech
The President, who was ably represented by the Director of Corporate Communications, National Universities Commission, Mr. Ibrahim Yakasai, at the 24th convocation ceremony of the University of Uyo said development and progress could not thrive in a hate-filled and divisive society.
In an attempt to eradicate all forms of hate speech, the president declares, “At this point, I want to be very clear and equivocal, that the Federal Government will never condone or tolerate incendiary remarks from any person or group of persons, which are meant to harass, intimidate, cause fear and spread hate, no matter how highly placed such a person is.”
The President went as far as saying, “Law enforcement agencies should fish out people who make inciting statements, instigate civil disobedience, broadcast hate speeches or stir strife, riot and rebellion and bring them to book… ” This must have inspired the ongoing Python dance phase three, across the nation.
The Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo describes hate speech as a new form of terrorism.
The Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 as amended, he said, defines terrorism as an act deliberately done with malice, which may seriously harm a country or is intended or can be reasonably regarded as having been done to seriously intimidate a population.
According to him, “Hate speech and the promotion of the same through history from Nazi Germany and the extermination of Jews to the Rwandan genocide succeeded in achieving their barbarous ends by the silence of influential voices.”
He then call on all well meaning Nigerians to speak out and stand up against all forms of hate speech. “The silence of leaders at this time -in our country will be a grave disservice to our country, its peace and its future.”
There is no doubt, as the Vice-President rightly observed, that hate speech is a threat to national peace, unity and development. It is also against the 8th commandment, which states, “You shall not bear false witness against your neigbour” (Exodus 20:16).
However, we must also acknowledge that there is no smoke without fire. There is no hate speech without hate action.
I want to use this medium to advise our leaders not to be distracted by hate speech. After all, clear conscience fears no accusation.
No matter how good you are, there is always one or two persons who may decide to hate you for no reason. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not a criminal, yet He was crucified in the middle of two criminals.
Instead of fighting His executioners, He prayed for them, saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). As a Pastor, our Vice-President should know this better.
Fighting against hate speech is like chasing shadow. The more we fight violence with violence, the more violence we get in return. The best way to deal with hatred is not to return hatred for hatred.
Two wrongs cannot make a right. According to Mahatma Gandhi, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”
As the python dance phase three continues, I want to remind our leaders and military men that this is campaign period. The citizens should not be denied their right to campaign for their candidates.
Moreover, there is something called freedom of speech, which is recognised in our constitution as a fundamental human right.
In a democratic system of government, people are allowed to express themselves, in so far as this freedom of expression does not injure other people’s reputation or instigate people into riot or violence.
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