Soyinka Warns Legislators against Hate Speech Bill

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Wole Soyinka

Bennett Oghifo 

Nobel laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, has written to the federal lawmakers, warning them against the dire consequences of the Hate Speech bill currently before the Senate.

Soyinka’s warning is in a letter to the legislators yesterday,  titled, “Is it now cool to kill? –An anguished letter to Nigerian lawmakers.’

He told the lawmakers to, “Remember that example, especially by leadership, is a hundred times more explicit and enduring than the mere propagation of any counter-doctrine. Do not embrace the awful responsibility of impressing homicide as a way of life on the ethical template of coming generations. The chickens have a way of coming home to roost. I may be wrong of course, but their droppings already foul the common air we all breathe. Just take a deep breath, look around you, and re-consider.”

He said it would be unfortunate to be caught up in nightmare, stating that “The nightmare consists of the fear of waking up one morning to discover that one’s name has been cited among those helpless victims on behalf of whom a repellent legislation is about to be enacted.”

He said fake news was despicable. “However, dear legislators, consider more deeply the path on which you have chosen to embark. I invite you to reflect quite objectively on the company into which you are about to throw yourselves, and the consequences for the very nation you represent –including its social psyche. You are about to corrupt youthful impression, to join the brigade of closet psychopaths for whom the only solution to any social malaise from the trite to the profoundly affective is – Kill! Is this what humanity and society are all about?

“You are psyching up your ranks to pronounce yourselves affiliates of inhuman aberrations such as Boko Haram, Isis (Da’esh), al Shabbab, nomadic cow herders etc. etc. for whom killing is the only response for real or imagined wrongs, perceptions of entitlement and/or deprivation, sense of righteousness and generally- concept of a thoroughly sanitised community of mortals. You are sending out applications to join the ranks of those inadequate males who believe that the only cure for adultery is to bury a woman up to her neck in earth and reduce her head to a pulp under a rain of stones.”

He said there was no absolute concept in the bill, wondering, “How precise is the definition of ‘hate’ when it becomes a yardstick for the extinction of even one human life? Haunting, hopefully, our collective conscience as a nation, even till today, is recollection of a clique of social army reformers who instituted, and carried out the execution citizens under a retroactive law.

“Silencing the voices of criticism is a perennial preoccupation of power, but we know that a far more penetrative form of death, spelling the end of social vitality and relevance is incurred when human voices are silenced. Try and imagine how many “deserved” executions would be taking place in this nation right now – beginning with nearly all of you in the exalted homes of legislation – if Boko Haram had succeeded in subjugating this nation under its creed. Well, do not even bother with imagination, which is not as common a faculty as we tend to assume –simply check with neighbouring Mali how many, convicted of crimes against faith, Mr Answar Dine eliminated during his brief sway in northern Mali.”

He said there was lowering of the value of human life in the country, “Students kill for the thrill of it, and for assertion of cultic supremacy. Kidnappers collect ransom yet kill. They kill even intermediary couriers. Fetishists kill in pursuit of illusions of instant wealth. Others, highly placed, kill for political office, and yet others to cover up criminalities by the deployment of killers. You cannot claim ignorance that there have been identified, over the past few decades, consortiums of killers who actually advertise their trade in select circles and canvass for clients. Your businessmen–and women– have used them. So have politicians.”