The freedom of expression is guaranteed in the Nigerian constitution.
That right guarantees every Nigerian to speak his mind on issues.
However, for a nation like Nigeria where different tongues and tribes were weaved to form a delicate country, an expression in one tongue can sometimes be interpreted to be an offence in another language.
This fact has been notably brought to fore with recent developments in the polity with various regional groups clamouring geo-political interests in acerbic words. Such words and communication have inevitably helped to pull the fabrics that hold the nation to its seams.
Perhaps it was in line with its constitutional responsibility of maintaining the territorial integrity of the nation that the army hierarchy disclosed that it had set up machinery to monitor what it described as hate speeches on social media.
Even before then, the Minister of Interior Affairs, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.) disclosed that the Muhammadu Buhari led administration had initiated work on a bill to regulate hate speech.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, while holding forth as Acting President had also frowned at what he described as hate speech describing the phenomenon as tantamount to terrorism.
These developments have undoubtedly jolted the citizenry. Given the liberty Nigerians have recently come to enjoy on social media, the threat to monitor, gag or have Big Brother watch over what Nigerians do on social media has unnerved many.
It is in line with this that Vanguard is today holding its September edition of the Vanguard Conference Hall where the right to expression in a democracy would be brought to minuscule examination. The parley themed Hate Speech: Mind Your Language will have some leading lights in various areas of endeavour in attendance.
To discuss the issue are:
– Dr. Doyin Okupe – Spokesman to the President, 1999 to 2003; Senior Special Assistant to the President, 2011 to 2015, eminent politician, pro-democracy activist, medical doctor and businessman.
– Dr. Ona Ekhomu – President, Association of Industrial Security and Safety Operators of Nigeria
– Mr. Richard Akinnola – Veteran Journalist, lawyer and media rights activist
– Ms Ada Agina – Executive Director, Gender and Development Action, GADA.
– Mr. Fred Nzeakor, Lawyer and public affairs analyst
– Mr. Ochereome Nnanna – Chairman of the Editorial Board, Vanguard and columnist
The conference, to be moderated by Vanguard’s Emmanuel Aziken, would be streamed live on www.vanguardngr.com from 12.00 p.m.