Hate Speech And Its Death Penalty Palava!
By Taju Tijani
The Nigerian senate has once again shot itself on the foot. This time with a dangerous AK-47 assault rifle. This time there is no whodunit. We know who fired the shot. He is a fully paid up and pampered member of the so called hallowed chamber. He is a member of the most cantankerous, selfish, unpatriotic, arrogant, crotch-grabbing, navel gazing, money-minded and power-drunk set of humanity we mistakenly called senators in Nigeria. That theatre of gnomish clowns has once again floated a dangerous, reckless and demented idea that will fit the dustbin nicely. The ongoing acts of classic hubristic overreach of our senators is becoming symptomatic of a deep political imbecility.
One local champion representing one local area of Niger state has opened wide his mouth and talked of opening up another barbaric chapter in the story of our nationhood. Hitler did it. Idi Amin did it. Sadam Hussein did it. Rather than enact laws and contribute meaningfully to the life of the powerless poor in our country, this senator is unashamedly asking for a death penalty for the chattering classes who daily legitimize their internal anger through open freedom of yabis, critical articles, righteous rebuke, name calling, expose, naming and shaming, passionate grandstanding and hard talk.
Senator Sabi Abdullahi, an APC card carrier, is the dark conjurer who wants to hang a person like me for abusing wayward politicians. Olorun oni fun e she. Senator Sabi, who sabi nothing, is here reinforcing the widely held belief of most Nigerians that our senators are zombies and money-guzzling snakes, who, at the drop of a hat, will always and helplessly fall victims of political infamy. His groundless, vexatious and scandalous bill proposes that, “A person who uses, publishes, presents, produces, plays, provides, distributes and visual, which is threatening, abusive or insulting or involves the use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior” commits an offence.
Of course anybody can tell that Senator Sabi, who is possess by uncivil zeal in his desire to sponsor a bill for the creation of an Independent National Commission for Hate Speeches, is projecting a part of his ghoulish desire to a larger Nigerian screen. With almost comical stridency, this man wants death by hanging for anybody who, through hate speech, causes the death of another person. Help me!!! Politics must bring its brain back in Nigeria!!!
It is not hard to see through Sabi’s brain wave that the twin evil of fantastic allowances and humungous salary thrills the soul of this senator than putting his energies into making laws that will alleviate the abject penury and dark despair of millions of Nigeria. What’s going on here? In our search for the light, our senators have consistently return us to darkness. In our search for sanity, our senators have consistently return us to stupendous insanity. In our search for solutions to the hydra-headed challenges buffeting Nigeria, our senators have been compounding our problems with deadly hubris of arrogance and lawlessness. The daily insecurity, panic and emptiness of our hope as Nigerians do not challenge his faculties. What thrills him is the mass beheading of Nigerians who, in casual yabis, call South Westerners ngbati..ngbati or the South Easterners ajokuta mamumi or the Northerners mala.
Sabi must be told today that Nigerians are hugely accommodating people. We have been living happily with centuries of judgmental bigotry, clannish intolerance and tribal grandstanding without any disastrous destruction to our co-existence. Without any call for the strong man to commence head chopping on a genocidal scale as desired by Senator Abdullahi.
Here we have to remind Senator Too Know that the Nigerian constitution guarantees the right of every Nigerian to freedom of speech and expression. Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution states that: “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information without interference.” Also we have global provisions for freedom of expression and human right charters of all kinds to which Nigeria is a signatory. Article XIX of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Further, Article IX of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights provides that “Every individual shall have the right to receive information and the right to express and disseminate his opinions within the law.” The subtext in all these sacred laws of freedom of expression is the affirmation of our right to speak truth to power, injustice, oppression, abuse, impunity and political excesses of our politicians. More than ever before, Nigeria has slipped into aberrations so much that we have to call a spade a spade through critical articles, satires, name calling, rebuke, polemical attacks, public denunciations and political incorrectness if only to bring lawless, arrogant, wayward and corrupt politicians to public court and moral shame. Any public servant who is feeding fat on our collective patrimony and fears chastisement is a coward and unfit to lead. Rebuke, correction, criticism and chastisement are the furnaces through which the gold of true leadership must be tested, purified and engaged. That balance must be maintained no matter how cantankerous it is. Eternal vigilance, so the saying goes, is the price of liberty.
Writers, bloggers, opinion moulders, playwrights, polemicists, satirists, journalists, public analysts, Devil Advocates, critics and essayists no matter how jaundiced, are better for a healthy democracy than hypocrites, bottom lickers, ego massagers, errand boys, intellectual spunk and babel of praise singing and syrupy rubbish showered on Ministers, Senators and Governors who are nothing, but demi-gods in Nigeria. We must not allow any law to neuter, curtail or disable our inalienable right to project our anger and dissatisfaction through healthy disdain for what passes for revulsion, sacrilege and infamy.
But wait a minute. If I am allowed to peel back and recount all the muscular languages used by many of our foremost writers, then no writer is longer safe from the hangman. Femi Fani-Kayode once called the Vice President a dwarf. That’s a starter. I have been unsparing in my reproach of Nigerian politicians in all my writings. Pastor Tunde Bakare, the fiery preacher of the Latter Rain Assembly, has called President Buhari unflattering names. This man of God should be ready, sooner than later, for the hangman according to the law of Mr Too Know – ogbeni Sabi.
Our rebuke, criticism, open reproach and righteous attacks on the perilous excesses of our politicians are the only remaining and sustaining power of moral superiority we have over our politicians. Mr Too Know, no law, no institutions can take this away from us. Mr Too Know, the court is there to arbitrate over public ridicule, slander, defamation and character assassination and not unearthly, impractical and barbaric recourse to head chopping for anybody who called me ngbati…ngbati.