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Sylvester Udemezue

Hate Action Begets Hate Speech; Stop Hate Leadership Actions to NIP Hate Speech in Bud! – Sylvester Udemezue


Hate Action Begets Hate Speech; Stop Hate Leadership Actions to NIP Hate Speech in Bud!

(A piece of Legal Advice to Nigeria, By UDEMS)

Promulgation of an ANTI-HATE SPEECH LAW is unnecessary in Nigeria. What we need now is to change our poor leadership attitude and orientation. When leaders stop hate leadership action, hate leadeship style and hate governance policies and systems, hate speech would naturally die off. As long as hate action, hate leadership and hate governance continue, what you call hate speech would continue because hate speech is a natural result of hate leadership actions. ILLUSTRATION: Section 13(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (CFRN), 1999 provides that “it shall be the duty and responsibility of … government, and of all authorities and persons, exercising legislative, executive or judicial powers, to conform to, observe and apply the provisions of Chapter Two of this Constitution.” *Section 14(1) of chapter 2 of the Constitution provides that “the Federal Republic of Nigeria shall be a State based on the principles of democracy and social justice” while section 14(3) demands that “the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.” On its part, section 15(2) says that “national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited. Finally, section 15(4), provides that “the State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various people of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.”

Now, I ask,
(A) Is our national governance and government run in such a manner as to ensure there is no predominance in government of people from one or few regions or sections of the country? (B) Do the composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs reflect the federal character of Nigeria? (C) Do our governments and leaders pursue and promote national integration, social justice and fairness among all of its peoples? (D) In the running of the affairs of government, in Nigeria, are there NO discriminations on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties? (E). Do our leaders place loyalty to the nation over and above ethnic, religious or sectional loyalties? We need honest answers to these questions because that’s the root of ”hate speech.” IN SUMMARY, DO OUR LEADERS RESPECT FEDERAL CHARACTER? If leaders refuse to respect federal character, HOW DO YOU EXPECT “HATE SPEECH” TO DIE? How?

1⃣When leaders brazenly trample upon rule of law and due process which are the twin pillars of true Constitutional Democracy, do you expect people to keep mute and not complain bitterly? And when they complain bitterly, why do you accuse them of hate speech? See, you can’t beat me and tell me to not cry. You can’t have it both ways.

2⃣When National leaders declare that they’d rule or lead by segregation and division and exclusion, and they thereafter pursue their words with concrete hate and segregative policies targeted against certain sections of the country, this is a clear indication of HATE ACTION against a section or against sections of the same country. What do you expect? Then, when they complain bitterly, you accuse them of hate speech. You’re wrong, with due respect. You, stop your hate actions and all hate speech would die off.

3⃣When in government appointments and in developments and in distribution of public amenities, leaders deliberately discriminate against citizens based on places of origin, language or ethnic leaning, what do you expect? Love speech from the people? 4⃣When leaders announce multi-billion Naira railway, road and agricultural projects and other credible infrastructural developmental projects for a particular region or regions/sections and on the same day, news breaks out that government is siting a PENCIL-Manufacturing machine in the other region as their own dividend of democracy, what do you expect? They should organize a party to celebrate the leaders?

6⃣In a country where cattle and cows occupy a pride of place, over and above man, and their lives are treasured, preserved, protected and their wellbeing and welfare promoted over and above those of human citizens of the country, what do you expect? Love speech?

7⃣When you intimidate everybody, debase, corrupt and manipulate the electoral process, cage the judiciary, emasculate the legislature, rendering everyone powerless, and then you bulldoze your way into power in most outrageous and atrocious of ways, what do you expect? Mass rallies and parties to celebrate you?

8⃣When most government policies and programs are targeted at oppressing or emasculating and suppressing a particular group of people or sections of or in the country, what do you expect? Praises, adulation and worship towards you?

9⃣When Corrupt governments are run by corrupt politicians that run corrupt law enforcement agencies, and IN REACTION people begin to suggest, like the Turkish playwright and writer, Mehmet Murat ildan, that” instead of politicians, let the monkeys govern the countries, because at least the monkeys would steal only the bananas,” then you begin to shout “Hate speech,” how is it so? What do you expect from helpless, frustrated and hapless citizens?

🔟When fight against corruption is used as a smokescreen to fight, suppress and silence opposition, and all dissenting views, what do you expect from the targeted groups and people? Love speech ? Silence?

1⃣1⃣When ordinary members of the masses of Nigeria are dying of abject poverty and acute lack, and weighed down by economy-imposed frustration and stagnation while their leaders on the other hand live in opulence and affluence, squandering national resources and diverting public funds into private pockets, for themselves their families and friends and associates only, what do you expect? 1⃣2⃣When democracy that was designed by Abraham Lincoln to serve as a system of “governance of the people by the people for, and in the best interest of, the whole people,” is NOW in Nigeria twisted to become “governance of the people by a few for and in the interest of the few,” do you expect the people to fold their arms and watch? No! If the citizens can’t fight you back because you have in place “OPERATION THIS,” “OPERATION THAT,” which see soldiers deployed and taking over the whole place and ready to kill and are even actually killing anyone who openly physically protests, then people would of course, naturally resort to talking and speaking out, angrily!

These are what you turn around and call “hate speech.” How are you justified?

1⃣3⃣When citizens’ constitutional right to freely elect their leaders is forcibly taken away from them , and their rights to protest against oppressive, bad leadership is illegally suppressed and stifled, what do you expect from them? To die in silence? They’d sure speak out. It is natural! And this is what you ERRONEOUSLY interpret as “hate speech,” but which is not, with due respect.

1⃣3⃣ When Human lives that are supposed to be sacred are now snuffed out wantonly while citizens are killed, massacred and murdered at will with no repercussions whatsoever for the oppressors and known killers of the people and perpetrators of these mayhem, what do you expect? Singing and praise-worship?

1⃣4⃣When a country that was once safe, secure, is now overtaken and overwhelm by acute insecurity, and bogged down by daily kidnappings, senseless banditry, unrestrained armed robbery, ritualist killings, and by the activities of now dreaded Boko Haram, bandits, armed and unarmed robbers, etc, so much so that citizens are no longer able to move around freely nor sleep with their two eyes closed, what do you expect? Smiling? A Writer, Sue Fitzmaurice once said: “Our wounds can so easily turn us into people we don’t want or never wanted to be.” So, we need to ask honest questions. And find candid answers.. These cosmetic approaches we adopt to issues that bother us, only make matters worse. As Martin Luther King Jr, said, “darkness is only driven out with light, not by more darkness. “ Accordingly, We need to re-think governance and leadership in Nigeria to make it more inclusive, people-oriented and more sensitive to the plight and yearning of the people . Our leaders have failed us. Quote me. It did not start today. When people feel disappointed and frustrated, this is what we get. True peace and love are not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice and fairness. The time is always right to do what is right. The time for Nigeria is now.

Time is running out. Nigeria might go up in flames any moment if we do not act fast. Good governance is not a form of fire-fighting or crisis-management. So, instead of opting for all these ad-hoc solutions (like promulgating an anti-hate speech law), the need of the hour is to tackle the root causes of the problems. If governance is corrupted, insecurity, hate speech, mistrust, disharmony, hate, acrimony, are the natural results. All these give rise to what you now call HATE SPEECH, and which I prefer to see as mere expression of frustrated people’s anger against failed and frustrating governance styles. As David Hume once said, “the corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.” Finally, Criticisms and opposition are a necessary part of any democracy that hopes to survive. Criticisms need not be agreeable since much of it is aimed to serve the same function as pain in the human body.

Criticism calls attention to seeming flaws and puts leaders on their toes. Criticism helps to make leaders better, also helps the leaders to achieve more. Any leader that detests or rejects criticism is headed for the Golgotha. The problem with most leaders in developing societies, in Africa (Nigeria being chief among the worst be culprits) is that our leaders would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.

So, I advise our governments and legislators to throw the anti-hate speech bill, currently pending before the legislature, into the rubbish bin because it’s an anti-Nigeria Bill that would only succeed in worsening an already very bad situation.

The Nigerian constitution recognizes and upholds the inherent right of Nigerian people to cry out and complain against any unjust and oppressive governance; such is not hate speech. It’s a constitutionally-guaranteed right, I repeat. And I repeat also that IT IS ABOMINABLE FOR YOU TO BEAT A CHILD AND THEN TURN AROUND TO ASK THE CHILD TO NOT CRY. Mehmet Murat ildan once adviced, “if it ever happens in a constitutional democracy, that the traffic light turns red for citizens’ freedoms, the citizens should never, ever stop. Citizens should never wait They should refuse and reject the red light, ignore it, and move forward! It is always legitimate to challenge fascism … as long as this challenge is legitimate and nonviolent! Because violence means using the same vulgar, the same evil methods of fascism! Don’t behave like a dog when fighting against a dog!” Stewartx Stafford said, “the only way to ensure democracy functions correctly is to question its governance constantly. If citizens fail to do so, citizens may awake up one day to find themselves living in a police state.

George W. Bush of America once said, “… every person has the ability and the right to be free. Freedom is a universal human desire… and a force for peace and prosperity in the world. We love our freedom, and we will fight to keep it.”

According to JOHN F. KENNEDY, “We shall never weary in the defense of freedom, neither shall we ever abandon the pursuit of peace…. Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free.” Roughly 70 years ago, Justice William O. Douglas accepted a prestigious award with a speech entitled “The One Un-American Act,” about the greatest threat to a free nation. He warned that the restriction of free speech “is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.” Here in Nigeria, until all citizens became freely and truly free to freely express themselves, Nigeria would not be free to make any genuine progress. Until we’re truly free, we’d not free to succeed. As Abhijit Naskar puts it, spineless citizens create spineless democracy. There may be times that a people may be powerless against oppression, but there must never be a time they fail to at least complain. IT IS NATURAL!

Sylvester UDEMEZUE

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