As the Nigerian Senate inch close to perfecting the hate speech bill, they hope to satisfy the lugubrious desire of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, to silence Nigerians from expressing their views as enshrined in their rights as human beings. What they may not envisage is a possible dangerous ricochete of the bullet they are about to fire against free speech.
The ruling party APC has been able to cross so many sensitive lines by all standards of reasonable limits since 2015. They have managed to effectively engage a well crafted propaganda of change and war against corruption to razzle-dazzle Nigerians, while the use of the Economy and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, has been effective in shackling opposition politicians. The hate speech bill may however backfire and put an end to the ruling party inglorious leadership which has left Nigeria at precipitous tilt of its fragile multiplicity.
It is instructive to note that the hate speech law presently in the works is coming at a time rational minded Nigerians are no longer applauding President Muhammadu Buhari led government. It can no longer be business as usual for the ruling party based on its woeful performance four years and still counting. Nigerians have come to realize that anti corruption war is limited to opposition politicians and yahoo boys, hence the hate speech law will only affect those government see as dissenting voices. They have come to realize that the APC at all levels is as corrupt as previous administrations. They have come to realize that terrorism has taken different dimension for the worse, Boko haram fighters are being released while soldiers are killed. Killer herdsmen are claiming responsibility for mass murders as government is mounting pressure to gift them lands and funds to “appease“ them. Gunmen and kidnappers are smiling to the banks with huge funds tagged as ransom.
Nigerians are aware that the military, paramilitary, ministries and parastatals are all in the hands of a section of the country under brazen bigotry, ethnicity and openly displayed nepotism. Nigerians are aware that their votes will never count under the APC government. Nigerians will remember Buharis infamous “monkey and Baboon” blood threat, they will also remember he told supporters to kill whoever will not make their votes count. Nigerians therefore know that this administration has no justification for its tacit move against Nigerians veiled as hate speech.
The sane minded Nigerian is aware that the social media space is the people’s court, a neutral fourth estate of the realm which gives them power of advocacy against the three other estates of the wreck. The media is the only place people can ventilate against bad governance, maladministration, and systemic corruption. The social media space is where oppressed Nigerians, neglected people find help. A place where the police and other security agencies running berserk can be tamed. The last straw holding the balance of peace may be tied to the looming hate speech.
The law to limit free speech will undermine the Freedom of Information Act. It will turn the country to a police state. Mainstream media organizations will be strangled, opposition voices silenced to pave way for full blown dictatorship. The purpose of controlling free speech is to further consolidate power. Where speech is gagged, the worst abuse of power is perpetrated. A government doing the right thing should not fear critical views.
It may take time but time is actually what is needed to fuel uprising against an irresponsible government. In Hong Kong, Bolivia, Lebanon, Chile, people have taken to the streets against government on account of bad leadership. The most interesting is people took to the street to protest against issues as little as hike in transport fares or government plans to tax Whatsapp. It has taken four years of endurance trip with the APC, the hate speech bill may be a wake up call against this administration.
Israel Ebije is a Nigerian social media commentator. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.