Hate Speech, Hate Motives


Eddy Odivwri

In the liturgy of my Anglican prayer book, there is usually a prayer line that says, “we have left undone those things we ought to have done and done those things we ought not to have done… and there is no health in us…”

And each time I see the zest with which this Hate Speech Bill and the Social Media Bill is pursued, I shudder and cannot but remember that prayer line.

It is bad enough that the so-called hate Speech Bill is gaining so much attention, yet it is doubly sad that it is carrying a penalty of death. Really? Death! If hate Speech should lead to death, what should treasury looting lead to?

Nigerian roads are bad and terrible, many are dying in these roads, many of which are as bad because some “big men” somewhere in some big offices, have cornered and embezzled the monies meant for the fixing of the roads. Those Big men are hardly caught or even known, even when they are responsible for the inadvertent death of many. But the lawmakers do not focus on such people, because they are also part of that oozing miasma.

Why have the lawmakers not focused on the terrible state of electricity supply in Nigeria? Why have they not risen against the generator market as a way of ensuring that the general electricity supply from the unbundled PHCN improves? How can it be explained that for a population of nearly 200 million people, we are yet struggling with the 3,000 mega watts or so? Why is this not a challenge the lawmaker can rise to? Why are they leaving undone those things they ought to do and doing the ones they ought not to do? What is wrong with our lawmakers?

Terrorists and bandits are ripping women open, killing and maiming, kidnapping nobles and beggars, young and old, sinners and saints, but the law is yet prescribing reforms and de-radicalisation of these categories of persons, yet our lawmakers are recommending death for those who say what they do not like? Hey, where is the canonical definition of hate speech?

Banks are killing Nigerians with arbitrary charges, introducing new charges every now and then, in the midst of grinding poverty by the populace, our lawmakers are talking about how to kill makers of hate speech.

I am compelled to think that the pursuit of the hate speech bill is another way of gagging the press and intimidating the populace. Were it not so, they will not be reviving a Bill that was dropped six years ago, so the press can be tamed. History should have indicted to those pushing this ill agenda that it will not succeed. Surely, it will not!
Nobody should get me wrong. I am not a supporter or propagator of hate speech. I believe national conversations can be sustained with some measure of decency and mutual respect. I believe that we must be careful in minding the sensitivity of every part of the country, but I cannot support that anyone who crosses what is considered a hate speech should be sent to the slaughter house. That will be barbaric and grossly antithetical to the ethos of freedom of speech!

What has remained on display is the rabid selfishness of our lawmakers. They mind essentially the things that matter to them. The day they decide to weigh in on the state of our roads, state of our hospitals, state of our schools, state of water and electricity supply, state of security, the pay packet of ordinary folks, then Nigerians will heave a sigh of relief that indeed, they have lawmakers thinking for them.

And until then, the drive the hate speech bill is receiving will always be interpreted as having a hate motive.