All the way to the gallows
By Owei Lakemfa
CONSCIOUS of the fact that I am before 183 million politically astute, brilliant and ever vibrant and consciously aware Nigerians, I rise to support the Senate Bill that all those engaged in hate speech which leads to any loss of life, should be sent to the gallows. That anybody who through speech, gesture, body language, play, display or writing, incites violence against any Nigerian based on ethnicity, religious or regional origins, gender or disability, should have a date with the hangman.
I am a bit disappointed in the Senate Spokesman, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (APC, Niger) who sponsored the Bill which has already scaled Second Reading. He has no business trying to justify his great Bill or assuring that nobody will be victimised if it becomes law; the Senator should know that hate speech is like beauty and ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
Besides, he is a living survivor of hate speech when on November 3, 2017,he escaped death by the whiskers. Reports said he had innocently called an APC leadership meeting in his Senatorial District to explain why he had stayed away from them for two years, failed to attract or provide development projects and been unable to provide assistance to members of his constituency. His listeners resorted to hate speech, and even as he fled, chased and smashed his car and other vehicles in his convoy. If his Bill were already law and since there was no loss of lives, he would have been able to jail them or get them fined N10 million each.
Distinguished Senator Sabi’s argument that: “our present law says if you do anything that result in the death of another person and it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that you caused the death of that person, the penalty is death by hanging” is unnecessary. People may counter, that if our laws already take care of hate speech, why his Bill?
I know why my media constituency is up in arms; the Bill implies that any media that publishes hate speech, will be as guilty as those who do it. Journalists do not want to be fined, jailed or hanged for reporting a story that may later be termed ‘hate speech’.
There are people who argue that if the law does not provide death sentence for those who loot our treasury, then there is no basis for such punishment for those engaged in hate speech. I think such people do not understand the power of the spoken or written word; it is not for nothing that people say ‘the pen is mightier than the sword.’ If for instance, the Senate engages in looting, it will only make us poorer, but if the Senate is accused of budget padding, such hate speech may incite the public to violence.
If we have such a law, those Indigenous People of Biafra activists who say Nigeria is a zoo would simply have been marched to the gallows once it is established that their utterances led to a loss of life. Surely, we cannot tolerate a man like Nnamdi Kanu who corrupted a name like Okorocha to OkoroHausa; such hate speech which is intended to incite, would have seen him in jail or the world beyond.
Also, opponents of the Bill are not looking at the gains it portends for the country. For example, many Nigerians spew a lot of hate speeches. You can imagine the mass employment that the need for thousands of hangmen will create. Also, mass hanging can put our population in check.
I am afraid the bill will be retroactive, otherwise, I would have written profiles of people like Dr. Cairo Ojougboh, a proselyte of the ruling APC from the opposition People’s Democratic Party, PDP, who on serious national issues, somersaults in public while adding antics like making the sign of the cross.
In our national life, we have had great hate speeches. There was the one by nationalist, Mallam Habib Raji Abdallah, a civil servant who when dragged to court by our colonial masters for sedition, told the colonial court: “This iniquitous British Government is determined to keep us as slaves forever and the only way out, as I see it and as I know it, is for every one of us to declare himself free and independent and be resolved to stand by that declaration and damn the consequences. I have nothing against the person of George VI of England. But I hate the crown of Britain with all my heart because to me and my country men, it is a symbol of oppression, a symbol of persecution, and in short, a material manifestation of iniquity…I hate the Union Jack because, save Britain, wherever it goes, far from uniting, it creates a division. It feeds and flourishes on confusion and dissension. We must, therefore have no more place for it in our hearts-this ugly representation of that satanic institution, imperialism.”
There were the frequent hate speeches against politicians in coup broadcasts. One that always rings in my head is the maiden one when Major Kaduna Nzogwu told Nigerians: “Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek bribes and demand 10 per cent; those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as Ministers or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circles, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.”
The trophy for Hate Speech in contemporary times should go to Senator Shehu Sani who in reacting to his purported suspension from the APC by Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai of Kaduna State, said: “Mr. Governor, my suspension will not increase your physical height nor give you the flesh or muscle of a macho … (El-Rufai) is a dubious progressive and a bogus representation of change. If El-Rufai represents change, then Mobutu, Batista, Kamuzu Banda represent change. El-Rufai is a bug, a lice and a parasite to the PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) administration… El-Rufai is a foul air to any serious concept of change. El-Rufai remains the excrement of the toilets of the PDP Wadata House and no broom or deodorant of change can give him a new identity.”
With some Nigerians claiming that a snake swallowed N36 million public funds and monkeys ate a missing N70 million belonging to the APC Senators forum, we need to include a section on hate speech against animals in the Sabi Bill.
If when the PDP was the ruling party, it had been smart enough to enact such a law, the APC would not have come to power.