The Executive Director, Gender and Development Action, GADA , Ms Ada Agina on Tuesday said that Northern youths and Nnamdi Kanu should not be let off the hook.
Speaking at the September edition of the Vanguard Conference live programme titled Hate Speech: Mind Your Language on Tuesday at the Vanguard head office in Lagos Ms Agina said: “Injustice is responsible for hate speech and I also want to say that the president did not help the situation when he said he would recognize those who voted for him and ignore those who failed to vote for him. It was the failure of the government in power not to know that there are aggrieved people in the country.
Chairman of the Editorial Board of Vanguard, Mr. Ochereome Nnanna faulted President Buhari’s appointment saying: “Every single appointment he has made has shown that he is discriminatory and that is what led to Biafra agitation, people will be angry.”
Ochereome also said that “for the Vice President to feel so bad about it and declare that hate speeches will be treated as terrorism, he should champion it. Instead of moving forward, the country is going backwards.”
Also speaking at the event, President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria, Dr. Ona Ekhomu, said making new laws to curb hate speech is irrelevant.
Dr. Ekhomu however, noted that it is the duty of the media to monitor hate speech and call to order anybody, especially politicians, who are found guilty of hate speech.
According to him, “the media has a role to call out people for things that are not right. No individual can come out and say I don’t like what a politician said about a group of people.”
“It is the responsibility of the media to call out such people.”
“We don’t really need new laws on hate speech when we have tons of laws that have not been implemented.”
“The role of the media is quite central in curbing hate speeches. They failed us in 2015 but we hope they don’t fail us again this time around.”
Enforce existing laws—Agina
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Director, Gender and Development Action, GADA , Ms Ada Agina argued that there is need to enforce the existing laws to tackle hate speech.
While corroborating Dr. Ekhomu’s stand on the role of the media in curbing hate speech in the country, Ms Agina however lamented that there is lack of implementation of the existing laws to gag hate speech, maintaining that if such was the case, then both the northern youths group, Arewa Consultative Forum who issued hate speech against some Nigerians of Igbo extraction living in the north and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, would have all have had their necks in the noose of the law.
According to her, “If there are laws against violence and hate speech, I don’t think the Northern youths and Nnamdi Kanu should be let off the hook. There is a law against libel, these are all civil matters. As far as I am concerned, there are many laws that can be used to prosecute those who make hate speeches.”
“Let us not make too much mountains out of a mole hill. What has the media done and what is the media doing to curb hate speeches?”
“So, I don’t think we should make new laws to gag those making hate speeches, the existing laws should be enforced.”
No justification for new laws—Akinnola
Veteran Journalist, lawyer and media rights activist, Richard Akinnola, in his contribution, noted that there is no justification in making a new law to curb hate speeches in Nigeria.
According to him, “We have a lot of laws to deal with some of these infractions; it is just that they have not been enforced.”
“How are we sure if a new law is promulgated, the political will be there to enforce it? The standing point is to try and implement some of the existing laws. I don’t think it is justified to have a new law.”
Cause of hate speech
Aftermath of 2015 polls caused hate speech – Akinnola
Akinnola traced the genesis of hate speech to the aftermath of the 2015 general elections.
He said: I think it is fallout of the 2015 general elections is responsible for hate speech.”
Agina said: “Injustice is responsible and I also want to say that the president did not help the situation when he said he would recognize those who voted for him and ignore those who failed to vote for him. It was the failure of the government in power to know that there are aggrieved people in the country. There is no way I can support anything that will lead to violence in Nigeria forever. This hate speech can stop if the party in power starts taking reconciliatory steps.
Domestic xenophobia in Nigeria now —Ekhomu
“I think the primary cause of hate speech is impunity where people commit crime and get away with it. Also, intellectual laziness is responsible; this is a problem of our society. Another thing is the ignorance; people don’t know what they are saying. Speeches from the throne (leaders) matter a great deal, we need to call people out for ignorance.
One of the major reasons is failure of governance. Government mishandled Nnamdi Kanu’s issue; there was this misconception that all Igbo were supporting Nnamdi Kanu. He was arrested and instead of charging him to court, he was charged for terrorism. Because of this, he started having sympathy from all corners.
There is this domestic xenophobia in Nigeria now. There is this domestic xenophobia where the South East and South South are being trampled upon. The only solution is for us to try to plant seeds of love.”
Social media propagated hate speeches—Doyin Okupe
“Hate speeches have always been with us but the influence has been restricted to beer parlours, the streets until the social media came. The social media has been a major vehicle that propagated hate speeches; the social media has magnified hate speeches.
We have gone beyond caution and reasonability. We have crossed the line, we genuinely hate each other and it is going to the level of our children.
Another thing is that there is a class war, there is so much disparity between the poor and the rich and when that happens, hatred sets in.
It has gone beyond reason, it has gone deep. We have not seen the best of hate speeches.
Another one is that we have crossed all the lines; there is so much religious animosity. A Christian sees a Muslim as his enemy, while the Muslim sees the Christian as his enemy.
For us to get out of this, making draconian laws will not help us. Some of us must now dedicate our lives to heal the society.
Every facet of our culture is bedevilled, laws will not help us out, and we need God to heal this country. We may have to come together and talk, people talking about restructuring are not foolish.”
To curb hate speeches, the panelist agreed that reduction of tension, addressing information and communication problems, equity and fairness especially in the federal character, reviving and enlightening orientation agencies and love will remedy the situation.
The government they equally said should come down from their high horse and see everyone as same irrespective of religion, ethnicity and tribe.