THERE is a frightening amount of hate speech circulating in the Nigerian political atmosphere right now. It was barely noticeable in 2011 when former President Goodluck Jonathan made his first presidential run.

It became obvious in 2015 when we had Jonathan, a Southern Christian and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, and Buhari, a Northern Muslim and the flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress, APC, locking horns in an atmosphere suffused with scathing propaganda and mainly plied through the social media. The divisions fostered during the 2015 electioneering activities never left the minds of Nigerians as extremists have had a free rein since.

Perhaps responding to the perceived lack of inclusion in the Buhari government, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, mounted fusillades of hate speeches over his pirate Radio Biafra, calling Nigeria a “zoo”, insulting some ethnic groups and calling for Biafran independence.

This led to his arrest, detention and eventual release on bail. At the height of IPOB’s street agitations, the Coalition of Northern Groups, CNG, in August 2017 met in Kaduna and issued a “quit notice” to Igbo people living in the North, though they eventually withdrew it.

During this period a number of “separatist” groups proliferated mainly on the social media. One Adeyinka Grandson, a self-proclaimed Yoruba separatist agitator, made frequent incendiary broadcasts targeted mainly at Igbo and the Hausa/Fulani groups living in the South West.

Following the presidential election of February 23, 2019 and disturbances involving some hoodlums who disrupted voting in Igbo-dominant areas in Lagos, Grandson resurfaced on the internet, calling for a genocide against the Igbo. In apparent reprisal, a yet to be identified Igbo/Biafran activist made a viral video vowing to assassinate Grandson.

Unfortunately, the government and law-enforcement agencies have largely stood by and allowed these dangerous elements seeking to unsettle our fragile national unity to flower and flourish. Have we forgotten so soon the dangerous events that led to the pogroms, military intervention and civil war in Nigeria in the 1960s?

What about the Rwanda and Burundi genocides that claimed almost a million lives within a couple of months in 1994?

These purveyors of hate speeches largely respond to promptings from the words and actions of misguided leaders and disgruntled politicians. They ride on ethnic hatred and separatism to sow their seeds of discord. Many of these elements live outside the country and cowardly use the social media in their attempts to set the nation ablaze.

Enough is enough! This danger must be halted now. These agents provocateurs must be apprehended and dealt with. The tension is rapidly building up and if it reaches the breaking point no one can be safe.

A stitch in time saves nine.

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