No To Hate Speech, But Yes To Restructuring!

By Samuel Orovwuje
LAGOS 8TH SEPTEMBER (NEWSRANGERS)-‘Those who governed well did not arm, those who were armed well did not set up battle lines, those who set up battle lines well did not fight, those who fought well did not lose, and those who lost well did not perish’ – Zhuge Liang, 3d century.
It was the legendary essayist CP Scott who once wrote that ‘Comment is free, but facts are sacred’. This statement has endured over the years as the strategic point of reference for free speech and indeed free press in a democracy and it will continue to underscore the way individuals and political leaders conduct themselves in the public arena. However, recent hate speeches, messages and comments coming from the perfidious and distressed leaders of political parties, pseudo – intellectual analysts, ethnic extremists and the media is disquieting and awkward at this time of our nation building efforts.
Today, the traditional and social media is being used by mischief-makers, self – conceited individuals and ethnic organisations across the political divide to threaten and taunt us with footage of their most horrendous and atrocious acts of communication barbarity and hateful messages. Nevertheless, in my view, the most difficult new element is the attraction that a tiny but relevant majority of Nigerians have seen this hate speech to the point that they are ready to internalize the messages as true and sacrosanct. Therefore, it will require a much more difficult and long-term effort to win back the hearts and minds of people that today seek to destroy the society because of their selfish desires and equally worrisome, is the government disregard for structured national debates and dialogue to unveil strategy and action plans to resolving the knotty issues of fiscal federalism, constitutional reforms, justice and transparency, which are the hallmarks of sustainable democracy.
This article draws attention to a few of the complex interrelated issues of hate speech and propaganda rather than the fundamental issues of nation- building and the uncensored social media rape on our collective consciousness as people and a nation. The challenges ahead in my view are undeniably serious for our democratic enterprise and the likely fall-out of uncontrollable hostility cannot be ruled out and as people we must be vigilant not truncate this democratic milestone.
For the avoidance of doubt, Hate speech is speech, which attacks a person or group based on label, ethnicity, gender or religious persuasion. It can be propagated through spoken words, gesture or conduct, writing, or display, which, is forbidden in many countries because it incites violence or prejudice against a group or individual based on their membership of the group.
While there is unprecedented interest in the devolution of power, fiscal federalism and restructuring and the fundamental rights of every Nigerian to defend their democratic principles and values as well as the expressions of solidarity for a better country but we should walk and speak cautiously and avoid the bullish media manipulations and the outward show of shame that has characterised the conversations for true federalism so far.
Most nerve-racking of all in my view is the increasing socio-political affectation from the various ethnic groups and the untamed falsehood resonating from press releases, interviews, new conferences and indeed the town hall meetings by their narrow-minded leaders and obscure supporters predict trouble for the nation.
Sadly, content analysis of the Nigerian media particularly newspapers could easily leave one with the impression of extreme anxiety by our leaders and the political culture of improbability that is evolving and the halfhearted speeches of a do or die restructuring that is spreading like harmattan fire and it is likely to consume us as a nation if self regulation is not brought to bear in our national dialogue and conversations.
Therefore, going forward, we must draw insights and lessons from other jurisdiction like Ethiopia. It is instructive to note that in 1996, the fourteen historical provinces of Ethiopia were dissolved and nine autonomous regions and two chartered cities Addis Ababa and Dire Dawa was created to replace them. Six of these regions are inhabited almost entirely by a single ethnic group each, with the three remaining regions more ethnically diverse. While the federal authorities deal with issues of national concern, including economic and social development, national standards and policy criteria for health and education, defence, federal police, foreign policy, foreign commerce, and immigration. Therefore, the renewed calls of restructuring of the Nigeria state is a welcome development but a workable document, must be brought to the table and each groups canvass critical positions for the creation of autonomous regions in line with resource endowment and homogenous ethnic group through referendum, which is not in the 1999 constitution.
Disappointedly, the leadership at all levels in my view has not set the moral, ethical, social, motivational climate in their narratives and blueprint to earn the untainted trust of the average Nigerian. What is more is that their actions and inactions do not reflect the moral and reputational compass that we required as a people to retool this great nation.
Besides the quality of message, resources and presentation skills of what constitute the critical milestone for nation building are totally absent from their body language and utterances. Reasonably, there are institutional frameworks and conference reports irrespective the conveners that address the core issues of our nationhood. Therefore, it is expedient that we adopt citizens’ diplomacy to lobby and take steps as pressure groups through the national assembly to do needful.
Pointedly, one of the damaging impact of hate speech on good governance will be the erosion of social and moral fabric of the Nigerian society which will weaken institutions, undermine leadership competency, accommodation of alternative views, diversity of opinions and more importantly, mediocrity is sacrificed at the negative altar of representation by constituent parts which has been one of the bane nation building efforts in Nigeria.
All things considered, the radicalization of the traditional and social media space and the complex phenomenon of Nigerian embracing subtle but radical ideology of ethnicity and hate, which are very disturbing trends, must be checked, by deliberate and a sustained national conversations that put the nation above all interest and the time is now!
Orovwuje is founder, Humanitarian Care for Displaced Persons, Lagos. 08034745325

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Posted by on Sep 8 2017. Filed under State. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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