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August 19, 2017

The audacity of hate

The audacity of hate

Hate Speech

By Morenike Taire

There is a big difference between a politician playing politics, a hater hating and a man full of hate erupting. The symptoms are different, and so are the consequences. For the Millennial, a hater is simply someone who is supposedly jealous or envious of you, who disagrees with you in public while wishing they were you or who is just merely pissed off with you.

Bob-risky, Nigeria’s most famous transvestite who lives on social media and in banks from which he is either withdrawing or depositing to his substantial loot gained from selling bleaching creams by his account; positively thrives on hate. On social media, the incredibly fascinating character speaks of his “bae”, then he speaks of his “harers”-  this bunch of people on social media and beyond who hate to love him because he puts on make up, wears a thong and flicks around weaves worth a quarter of a million naira.

According to Bob-risky, he lives the exact life his “harers” wished they lived. He is fabulous, he insists, and the fact that he uses the latest version of the I-phone means he is in a better position than the majority of those who think he is a freak for shaking his behind and wearing talons for nails.

But no one takes Bob-risky seriously except, of course, his haters, who have nevertheless not succeeded at preventing him from garnering hundreds of thousands of followers on instagram and snapchat.

Nonetheless the acts that define the various types of hate appear similar. When Ayodele Fayose and even Femi Fani Kayode are going on about whatever the opposition is doing at the moment, they also appear to be full of unrepentant venom. They criticize; they make unflattering contrasts and comparisons. They call their opponents unprintable names, which somehow find themselves in print.

Dino Melaye, the activist turned politician turned political activist added to his already questionable fame when he went viral displaying his contempt to his opponents in a video in which he displayed his dodgy skills at singing and dancing. Acting president professor Yemi Osinbajo was so impressed that he incorporated the event into a speech that he made to a crowd of churchy young people in Lagos shortly afterwards.

Nigerians have learnt the hard way not to take political hate the least bit seriously, having seen the most bitter apparently political sworn foes appearing in cosy photographs embracing one another and laughing heartily at each other’s jokes. No one has yet seen former vice-president Atiku Abubakar in an embrace with former president Olusegun Obasanjo; but anyone who saw photos of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu hugging up with Ondo state governor Rotimi Akeredolu would realize that even this is possible. Indeed frequent visitors to the Julius Berger Hilltop castle in Abeokuta have been known to gossip about various politicians trooping in to prostrate and beg for forgiveness- in other words, to receive political anointing. “Porting” between political parties is commonplace within our polity.

But a citizen who is bursting with hatred for his fellows- that is another matter altogether. This type of hate is one about which we are justifiably worried.

Like other strong emotions, hate has the power to transform the one in which it is stirred, so much so that they virtually assume superpowers.

A man full of hate is like a man possessed by an extraterrestrial force, and he is likely either to act like one or to seethe to death. He sees only in black and white; either and or. The huge spectrum of all the dozens of other colours are missed by his tainted glare. He is incapable, therefore, of rational calculations and sound reasoning. He is a man who is very likely to make mistakes. With him, it is always a lose-lose situation.

We mostly had the tendency to be amused by the laws in Germany against denial of the great Holocaust and the well recorded historical events surrounding it; until we heard of the Chinese tourists who were recently arrested in Germany for doing a Hitler salute. It suddenly hits you: these people are dead serious about ensuring there is never going to be another Holocaust, or anything resembling it.

On the contrary, we have not shown much seriousness about ensuring we do not have another civil war. Making laws against hate speech is one thing; defining and recognizing hate speech is another and actually indicting and punishing offenders is yet another.

And while legislating against hate speech has its usefulness, it solves only a tiny fraction of the problem. The problem is the hate, not the speech.

It is impossible to eradicate hate, but it is very possible to minimize it before it becomes hate speech or civil war.

As Barrack Obama famously said, nobody was born knowing how to hate. Someone taught them, and continued to do so until the hate became natural and filled up the hearts of those filled with hate.

Acting president Osinbajo needs to focus on teaching Nigeria how to love.