Os­in­bajo: Why we must end hate speech

Daily Trust - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron­ald Mu­tum & Ab­bas Ji­moh

Act­ing pres­i­dent Yemi Os­in­bajo has said hate speeches should never be per­mit­ted un­der the guise of free­dom of ex­pres­sion. He said, “We must con­trol and in­sist that peo­ple don’t make ut­ter­ances that are ca­pa­ble of dis­rupt­ing the peace.”

Os­in­bajo spoke yes­ter­day at a na­tional se­cu­rity sem­i­nar on ‘Unity in Di­ver­sity’ or­ga­nized by the In­sti­tute for Se­cu­rity Stud­ies (ISS) in Abuja.

He said every ma­jor cri­sis in his­tory was pre­ceded by hate speeches, adding that the me­dia, es­pe­cially the so­cial me­dia, has of­ten been used to spread such ha­tred.

He also de­cried many false nar­ra­tives used by ag­i­ta­tors in their at­tempts to break up the coun­try ei­ther along re­gional or eth­nic lines.

He said one of the ma­jor false nar­ra­tives is the ar­gu­ment that coun­tries formed the way Nigeria was formed are bound to fail.

He said this is false be­cause many coun­tries were not formed by gen­eral con­sen­sus of the in­hab­i­tants but by accident of his­tory.

He pointed out that an­other false nar­ra­tive is that one par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group or re­li­gious group is more re­spon­si­ble for Nigeria’s prob­lems than the other or su­pe­rior to the other.

He said Nigeria would thrive bet­ter if her peo­ple deem­pha­sised eth­nic­ity as they do in sports.

He also faulted the ar­gu­ment that the coun­try is bet­ter off when a par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group is at the helm of its af­fairs, adding that those who make charges of marginal­iza­tion are usu­ally serv­ing their per­sonal in­ter­est.

He dis­agreed that cor­rup­tion is pos­si­bly the worst evil that has be­fallen the coun­try. Poverty, he ar­gued, is the recipe for so­cial cri­sis.

“There is no other sin­gle rea­son why this coun­try is set back; it is what ac­counts for where we are to­day eco­nom­i­cally,” he said.

No coun­try sur­vives mul­ti­ple civil wars – Gowon

Ear­lier, a for­mer Head of State, Gen­eral Yakubu Gowon said no coun­try sur­vives mul­ti­ple civil wars and that peo­ple should al­ways love their coun­try.

He said, “There is strength in our di­ver­sity, our di­ver­sity should be ac­com­mo­dated in our unity. Do not en­ter­tain any­thing that would bring about the suf­fer­ing of in­no­cent peo­ple be­cause of un­nec­es­sary de­mands.”

In a wel­come ad­dress, the Direc­tor Gen­eral of the Depart­ment of State Ser­vices, Lawal Daura said the ser­vice would do what­ever is pos­si­ble to en­sure se­cu­rity and peace in the coun­try.

He warned groups or in­di­vid­u­als who threaten na­tional unity to de­sist, adding that the unity of the na­tion is a sa­cred trust to the se­cu­rity ser­vice.

CSOs on hate speeches

The Direc­tor of the Cen­tre for Democ­racy and De­vel­op­ment (CDD) Idayat Has­san said while free speech is a fun­da­men­tal right, hate speech is not a right and that even the In­ter­na­tional Covenant on Civil and Po­lit­i­cal Rights is lim­ited in sev­eral coun­try’ con­sti­tu­tion.

“The act­ing Pres­i­dent is right and as a coun­try we have to im­me­di­ately do some­thing to bring to book peo­ple spread­ing hate and in­cit­ing peo­ple to vi­o­lence.

“This coun­try has never ex­pe­ri­enced such vi­cious and provoca­tive hate speeches as we are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing at this point in time on so­cial me­dia, elec­tronic me­dia and all spa­ces.

“We have to ur­gently place gen­uine lim­its to re­strain the mis­use of speech so as to save the rights of oth­ers,” she said.

On his part the con­vener of the Good Gov­er­nance Team (GGT) Tunde Sal­man said; “Off course, free­dom of ex­pres­sion is not syn­ony­mous with hate speech. There is clear line between the for­mer and the lat­ter.

“Whereas the con­sti­tu­tion­ally guar­an­teed free­dom of ex­pres­sion is pos­i­tive, hate speech is al­ways neg­a­tive and could be dan­ger­ous; es­pe­cially where de­lib­er­ate false­hood that demeans re­li­gious ori­en­ta­tion, eth­nic or lin­guis­tic af­fil­i­a­tion, and or tra­di­tional or cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions of other peo­ples are be­ing spread. As such, there is need to track and dis­cour­age dan­ger­ous speech in Nigeria as 2019 beck­ons.”

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