Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the last presidential election and former Vice President, Atiku Abubakar, has cautioned against the proposed Anti-Hate Speech Bill, which prescribed death by hanging for those found guilty of hate speech.
Atiku, in a press statement issued yesterday by his Media Aide, Paul Ibe, described the contemplation of such law as an abuse of the legislative process that would violate Nigerians constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech.
Atiku urged those behind this bill to awake to the fact that Nigeria’s current democratic dispensation has survived longer than previous eras because those who governed this great nation between 1999 and 2015 never toyed with this most fundamental of freedoms.
He said that it would be prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years instead of introducing laws that would shrink the democratic space in order to satisfy personal and group interests.
He said: “Freedom of speech was not just bestowed to Nigerians by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), it is also a divine right given to all men by their creator. History is littered with the very negative unintended consequences that result when this God given right is obstructed by those who seek to intimidate the people rather than accommodate them.
“We should be reminded that history does not repeat itself. Rather, men repeat history and often, to disastrous consequences.
“Nigeria presently has too many pressing concerns. We are now the world headquarters for extreme poverty as well as the global epicenter of out-of-school children. Our economy is smaller than it was in 2015 while our population is one of the world’s fastest growing. We have retrogressed in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, from the position we held four years ago, and our Human Development Indexes are abysmally low.”
He asked: “Should we not rather make laws to tackle these pressing domestic challenges, instead of this bill, which many citizens consider obnoxious?
Atiku enjoined the current administration to prioritise these challenges ahead of the whims and caprices of those who do not like to hear the inconvenient truth. “Stop
this folly and focus on issues that matter to Nigerians,” Atiku said.