HATE SPEECH AND DEATH PENALTY: MATTERS ARISING

Andrew Efemini

The idea of hate speech should be of concern to all us. Rwanda is a clear example of a country that has come out of ethno religious conflicts because of hatred and suspicion.

Cases of classic hate speeches are too numerous to mention. Hate speeches are taking place in the churches, mosques, and many public places. Once we allow hate speeches in our worship places, we are sitting on a keg of gun powder.

Imagine religious leaders calling for death penalty, vengeful killings, and retaliatory killings. These are unfortunately happening in our worship places. Britain is now monitoring comments at worship places and many Imams have been questioned over their extremism.

I have no doubt in my mind that churches and mosques in Nigeria should be monitored to ensure that they don’t become places where ethnic hatred are generated and spread. I have no doubt in my mind also that the security agencies are up to the challenge of preventing abuse of religious places for hate speech propagandists.

The situation in the social media may have provoked the bill that seeks to murder Nigerians who openly express hatred. I have personally considered many posts free handed, provocative, inciting, and aimed at generating ethnic and religious hatred.

Painfully, these Facebook postings are a product of mindsets that are caused by deep feelings of anger and marginalization across the country. Most of the angry posts are coming from the southeast and currently from the middlebelt.

There are accusations that there are hate speeches by government officials at both state and federal levels. People have tried to justify killings in various parts of the country.

The truth today is that we need to accept hate speeches as real in Nigeria. Hate speeches come from feelings of hatred which maybe natural to the extent that all human beings hate one thing or the other.

I think we all have a duty to alter the narrative about hate speeches. It is a huge challenge facing all of us.

Do we need a law on hate speech? There are strong arguments on both sides. I think a law that stipulates the strict meaning of hate speech is desirable. We need some form of deterrence against extreme falsely conceived information put out to incite hatred.

The necessity of a law is not the same as the penalty contained in the law. The idea of death penalty is outrageous in my view. I would imagine that the people would be consulted on this.

Crucially, what Nigeria needs is to alter the architecture of hate speech; the foundation of the country, the basic structure, the constitution, the politics, etc. all need to be reformed and transformed.

The hate speech Bill meanwhile should be subjected to serious scrutiny to avoid the enactment of a law that will be counter productive.

Patriots and statesmen need to rise to the challenge of fixing this country. It is not by hanging that you fix a country but by political re-engineering of the society.