On the 20th of August 2017, we woke up to another Nigerian drama as the Punch Newspapers reported that the Federal Government is to set up a Special court to try Purveyors of Hate Speech. I am not against anything the government wants to do o, afterallnadia time. But I have a few layman questions for them or perhaps the learned folks who are going to be appointed to adjudicate in that court.
First of all what is hate speech? Of course many would want to say it is the speech made with the intention to spread hurt about a person or group of persons. That term hurt needs a proper location within our ever growing lexicon. Are we going to have courts that treat hurt to citizens as well?
A long time ago, ChibuikeAmaechi, former governor and lawmaker threatened to form a parallel government if his party lost the 2015 election. He didn’t hurt anyone but it was a threat to the sovereignty of a country. Remember we are still attempting to define what hate speech is. Hard as it may appear to define, hate speech is worth condemning but not until we have a clear view of what it is.
The government as it is today in Nigeria is the chief hate speech maker. First the president went to America and spoke his famous 97%/5% dichotomy in a nation put under him by providence. That to me is not just vengeance but hate in its raw nature.
Audu ogbeh collecting yams that were manually farmed and shipping them abroad when yams are very costly domestically and justified his action oratorical. That was another aspect of hate. Then because of hate speech we about to start new courts. What kind of degree would they have?
Would they be trained abroad or locally? So we have the President of the Federal Court of Hate Speech? Then we introduce it into our study of Law at our faculties of law, LLB, hate speech. Well it would reduce the unemployment. I gather from a lawyer that the chamber he serves in in Abuja pays him N25,000 monthly, and he is expected to dress well. Maybe a job at the court of hate speech would better his lot.
Have you ever considered that our universities would soon have departments of Hate Speech? That would expand the scope of admission for fresh students. It is a new lucrative course and the first set of graduates are going to get automatic employment.
Now to serious matters, who would be charged to these courts? Is it possible to take a civil servant who has not been paid for months to the court for cursing the government? Is it possible to shut down social media which helps many businesses on account of hate speech? If herdsmen swooped on a community and killed them would cursing the security agents amount to hate speech?
I think setting up of Federal and State Hate Speech Courts would be unnecessary if we deal with the roots and not just the symptoms. What causes hate speech, no matter its definition? Poverty, deceit on the part of government, marginalisation, sectionalism and bigotry. Instead of the government to look into why these speeches arise, they are trying to stop people from talking. A person who stops another person from saying the truth is trying to hide something.