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Hate speech and throwing stones

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By Chioma Gabriel

Things are beginning to move fast in Nigeria. Many things are happening at the same time, and time is becoming very sequential, like a thread spanning the distance between birth and death. Things are happening like a Persian carpet, where thousands of richly coloured threads are woven together into intricate patterns and images.

Agitations for self-determination. Quit notices to non indigenes. Secession threats. Hate speech. Protests. Herdsmen menace. Plus the hunger and poverty that have besieged the land.

Last week in Abuja, a journalist narrowly escaped death    when    a large stone hit his head at the venue of    a rally of #ResumeorResign staged by Charles Oputa, son of late Justice Oputa over President Buhari’s continued medical vacation, now spanning over 100days.

Charles Oputa, aka Charley    Boy had been on the peaceful protest of resume or resign for President Muhammadu Buhari who had been out of office for over a hundred days.

A counter protest by some group from the north had turned violent and security operatives who had earlier tear-gassed the Charley Boy and his group had looked on as violent counter protesters in support of President Buhari’s continued stay in office held sway.

The journalist would have been lynched had he not started shouting he was an innocent journalist and was not part of the #ResumeorResign group.

Now, the questions: Is it an act of terror or hate speech to ask the president to resume or resign? Is it a hate crime? Would a peaceful protest be labeled hate speech or hate crime or terrorism and urchins throwing stones labeled otherwise?

Many people would not call what happened at Wuse market last week a terror attack. But in Nigeria, peacefully demanding that the President resumes or resigns could equalize for a hate attack but throwing stones could not.

After the Wuse attack and so many other things that had happened in Nigeria, the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo had read the riot act that hate speech would now constitute act of terrorism.

The Terrorism Prevention Act 2011 as amended specified 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.

The Acting President had also added that silence in such situations can only be seen as an endorsement. 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. The silence of leaders at this time in our country will be a grave disservice to our country, its peace and its future.

People should note the similarities between hate speech, throwing stones and vehicle ramming attacks ISIS supporters overseas have used to kill scores of people in recent years.

From Gaza to West Bank and through Israel and Palestine, terrorist groups emerged from throwing stones first when arms and ammunition were not available to them. They eventually grew to become what the society could not control.

From 1948 when Israel became a state and immigrants trooped in Palestine, terror groups began to emerge with a reckless abandon. With the emergence of Hamas and other terror groups, children of Hamas threw stones at perceived enemies and some of them grew up to become suicide bombers for ISIS, Al Qaeda and other terror groups.

The throwing of stones and the quit notice given to the Igbo in the north and the throwing of stones at Abuja were reminders of those days. The secret meetings of Hamas in Israel, the staged riots and children of Hamas throwing stones at Israeli tanks and consequently, the First Intifada, occasioned by anger and rage stalked with grief put terrorist on the world map. Palestinian crowds threw stones at Jewish people while heavily armed Israelis killed at will.

Nigeria should watch it and tread cautiously.

People should stop the fight all around Nigeria. Power, prestige, sense of belongingness shall be resolved when things are done right.

The world is combating terrorism in all its ramifications.

Nigeria’s story appears to be just beginning. Many people are becoming disillusioned and are clinging to anything as a way of life. Terror attacks are a reaction to something. Agitations for self determination are also part of it. Some are reacting to hunger and poverty. Most of the agitators or protesters were largely drawn from the poorest and least influential classes but are fiercely loyal to the cause while their sponsors all have their children dwelling in safety overseas.

We need to rebuild Nigeria. Terrorists should not only be those who build bombs, strap them unto the bombers or select the targets. The terrorist are the big men sponsors who are not seen or known. Truth is, some of the things we see are the hand of Esau and the voice of Jacob.

Nigeria should get really serious about eradicating terrorism or at least subduing it.

Fin de la conversation  (End of discussion)!



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