Death penalty for hate speech?

By Valentine Amanze

“My father placed heavy burdens on you; I will make them even heavier. He beat you with a whip; I will flog you with a horse whip.”- 1 King 12: vs 12-14.

In 2015, many Nigerians were brainwashed and mobilized by the opposition parties against the People’s Democratic Party-led (PDP) federal government.

Nothing good was seen in the government led by Goodluck Jonathan even after it had warned against the impending danger on the nation’s economy if not properly managed.

Prof Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the then head of the economy floated the commonwealth fund, where excess crude oil money was saved for the states in case of economic recession.

Like Nostradamus, Okonjo-Iweala saw tomorrow for Nigeria’s economic. She planned against it; but was frustrated by the likes of Babatunde Fashola, who was the Lagos State governor.

The federal government was dragged to court over the fund and thus ended what would have cautioned the effect of the economic recession, which later manifested during the first tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari in 2015.

Unprepared for leadership and the recession, the promises of CHANGE by the new administration became hoax.

Again, four years after, like the Biblical Rehoboam, Nigerians re-elected the APC government believing that things would be better for them. They were disappointed.

In his maiden address after his re-election, Buhari told Nigerians to prepare for the worse. Since then, the policies of the federal government appear to be anti-people, while the lawmakers gang up with the executive against the masses.

How come that it is only in Nigeria that sycophants earn government’s attention are revarded with juicy contracts or appointments? No wonder

Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, the APC senator from Niger State, sold the idea of death penalty for hate speech to the Senate.

Abdullahi, though a muslim and others, have played the Biblical role of the youthful fiends of Rehoboan, who advised him to worsen the burden of his subjects – the Israelites.

He was supported by the Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, who mobilized other senators to hastily pass the obnoxious Hate Speech Bill and Social Media Bill for the second reading in the national assembly despite opposition from Senator Chimaroke Nnamani?

Lawan had assured Nigerians that he was not going to lead a rubberstamp legislature.

But the developments in the past few days indicate otherwise.

The speed with which 10 bills were passed in a day by the National Assembly is still curious to Nigerians.

It would be recalled that President Muhammadu Buhari had accused the leadership of eighth Assembly of sabotaging his administration. Now, he has found a strong ally in Ahmed, the Senate president. Could this be why the former Senate President, Senator Abubakar Saraki, was being persecuted?

In the midst of the rising hardship, how would death penalty for hate speech improve the living standards of Nigerians?

But death penalty for hate speech was not part of our bargain.

Just recently, a chieftain of the ruling APC in Niger State, Jonathan Vatsa, like many other Nigerians, faulted the proposed bill by the APC-controlled Senate, seeking death penalty for any individual convicted for hate speech.

He said that allowing such idea to fly was an invitation for anarchy.

Expressing surprise at such move, Vatsa, the former publicity secretary of the party in the state, said that the APC rode to power in 2015 through hate speech.

He argued that if such a ‘draconian and unpopular law’ is allowed by the APC-controlled Senate, it would not only be laughable but a direct invitation for anarchy that would consume the country.

Vatsa, who was also a former Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism in the state said, “We (APC) brought hate speech to Nigeria politics and I am one of them. As a publicity secretary of the APC, I know how we used hate speech to mobilize Nigerians against the then ruling party, and it paid off because Nigerians eventually hated the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).”

Explaining that before 2015, Nigerians did not know anything like hate speech, he insisted, “The truth must be told, we are the architect of hate speech and nobody complained about it. We enjoyed it and it worked for us.

“If we think we have failed Nigerians in our change promises, we should be bold enough to tell Nigerians that we are sorry, we couldn’t deliver, but to try to cage them by trying to introduce or recycle Decree 4 of 1984 in the name of hate speech is unacceptable”.

Vatsa said that rather than proposing death penalty for hate speech offenders, the Senate should seek for death penalty for corrupt leaders in this country because “corruption and injustice gave birth to what they are now calling hate speech.

“If there is justice, equity, fairness and respect for rule of law, there will be no hate speech. But when people are being marginalized and denied their right, surely there will be hate speech. You cannot stop people from expressing their freedom of speech.

“If the Senate is proposing death penalty for hate speech, then what will they do to Boko Haram, armed bandits, kidnappers, oil bunkerers and treasury looters both politicians and civil servants. All these things are worse than hate speech.

But come to think about it; what determines hate speech? Who defines hate speech? How will politicians convince the electorate that they are better than their opponents? What will be the effect of the bill on comedians who make living with jokes? What happens to freedom of speech as enshrined in the nation’s constitution? There are more pressing issues to Nigerians that the Senate should look into and address instead of wasting their energy on an ant-people bill like this one.

But the Senate should know that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones because they cannot be there forever.

When they leave the Senate the law can catch up with them.

I suggest that Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi to propose a bill that will ensure we have separate cemetery for offenders so that we can have it as tourist’s sites with inscriptions ‘Hate Speech’ cemetery, because the offenders may also include the APC politicians who have benefitted from hate speech. What a shame.

A person, who gods want to kill is first made mad by them.

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