A Critical Perspective on Hate Speech Laws in Nigeria
July 2020 | Edited July 2020
I have remained adamant towards political issues for sometimes now. Discussing Nigerian democracy is like discussing a mirage that doesn’t exist and building castles in the air! However, as a student, advocating for Justice and good governance, I have decided to say something from my little knowledge. Appallingly, every day I gnash my teeth in pains, sadness and regrets over the retrogressive, doddering and teetering fall of Nigerian democracy. I wonder if we are practicing Democracy or “Democrazy”, in Nigeria. Will I be wrong to say our democracy today had been raped, or we don’t understand the concept of democracy as those who brought it to us do? Moreover, over the years, the concept of democracy had always been about ‘protecting the fundamental human rights, protection of lives of the citizenry, freedom of speech and provision of social justice and social welfare' etc. Thenceforth, Democracy according to Abraham Lincoln is " The government of the people, by the people, and for the people". Also, Democracy according to Meriam Webster’s dictionary is “a form of government in which people choose leaders by voting, or a country ruled by democracy or an organization or situation in which everyone is treated equally and has equal rights. Do we really have equal rights in Nigeria when our fundamental human rights are tempered with heavily?
Withal, what draws my attention most to write this piece was the recent hate speech bill that had passed the first sitting to the second in the Nigerian Senate House. When I found out the main advocator of that bill, I discovered that it was Senator Aliyu Abdullahi, and he was so much standing firm to the bill to be passed, and I asked, do Nigerians wronged him? Senator Elisha Abbo supported this bill also, the slapping Senator. This was same Senator who was clearly pictured on camera previously slapping and assaulting a woman. A senator so to say who had no respect for a woman, who had no respect for the people who voted him there. Today, same Senator was the one supporting hate speech bill and the older Senators took a voyage too with him. When will the youths ever present themselves well in Nigeria! These are people we called the leaders of tomorrow. However,there are many corrupt cases in Nigeria and such bills could be assigned for such. We have people like Diezani Alison Madueke, and many other corrupt officials who have siphoned many billions of Naira. Why won’t bill for death sentence or life imprisonment be passed on corruption cases? Also, the recent gubernatorial elections in Kogi State and Bayelsa, where ballot boxes were stolen, election rigging and marathon gunshoots, lost of lives and property took place. While won’t bills be passed to better our democracy and foster free and fair elections and why the hate speech bill? It’s because this government had no respect for the rule of law and the constitution entirely, but their own selfish interest. They want immunities, become mini-gods and to play dictatorship with those they ruled.
Excursus, we have "noise makers" rather than" law makers" in Nigeria, who make repugnant laws and pass bills that will protect only their interests and that of their families from generations to generations in all ramifications. As sensible Nigerians, it’s high time we know that this government isn’t there to protect our interests but themselves. They show a clear example of what a renowned Sociologist, Vilfredo, Pareto called’ The Circulation of the Elites “. They have one group consciousness and solidarity among themselves. The laws that will bring fortunes and protect the masses, the debunk it. And here we’re praising them and supporting them and those cantankerous bills they keep enacting. Every Political Parties have their own religious wings. They have religious leaders whom they held closer and pay them to preach to the poor masses to remain calm and be submissive to the ruling elites. This why an African Anthropologist, John Samuel Mbuti in his book, “African Tradition and Religion” posited that Africans are notoriously religious. These political leaders and some religious leaders forgot that politics is not an occupation and therefore, being a religious leader is not an occupation too, but they are all chosen or called to serve the interest of the populace.
In respect to today’s Nigerian democracy, it’s appalling how laws that will only benefit a few classes are passed and this is why a renowned Sociologist, Karl Heinrich Marx asked “Who makes the law and who benefits from the law? The law is a machinery by which the ruling class use in exploiting the masses and remaining in power. They make the laws and benefit from the laws. Well, even though the lawyers (Legal Practitioners) would say, “Dura lex, Sed lex” (The Law is harsh but it’s the Law). The laws these law makers enact are too harsh and are threats to our fundamental human rights and democracy in entirety.
Today, religion has been the greater tool the rich use in exploiting the masses. It’s said, give the dogs what they love most (Bones). It’s as simple as to say give Nigerians religion, because they love it. This is why Karl Marx has already warned us against such religious leaders who have sold their souls for money. Marx understood that some religious leaders go as far as getting their groceries at the detriment of the poor people. He went further to illuminate the society on the social evil behind the success of most religious leaders, by warning them to 'see before the leap.' Today, religion has segregated our society with pecuniary menial and obscurantism. Diluted with Molotov cocktails of God, way by, embracing hypocrisy among the elites. This is why morale teaching is decayed with 'who get what' 'when' and 'how' in the society. This is why Karl Max in his philosophy admonished us not to let these so called "ANGELS" mislead us in spirituality.
In addendum, these law makers have what Marx termed as Bourgeois Nationalism. Which is the practice by the ruling classes of deliberately dividing people by nationality, race, ethnicity, or religion, so as to distract them from initiating class warfare. It is seen as a divide and conquer strategy used by the ruling classes to prevent the working class from uniting against them.
These law makers forget that the laws they make today might hunt them someday and become a boomerang to them in future. There’s no way they will expect no criticism from the poor masses if they didn’t work well. If a government betters the lives of its citizens, I don’t think they should be scared of criticism. Indeed, just like a revolutionary, Sociologist, Comrade, Abdullahi Aleeu Gunigi,( Abubillal), wrote that “power corrupts, indeed, absolutely power corrupt absolutely!”
Conclusively, a philosopher named, Hegel in his book, Phenomenology of the Spirit, said “spirit is the nature of Human beings” and the study of spirit is nothing other than the study of the activity of human beings. Therefore, once a people stops questioning its institutions and beliefs, then spirit leaves them. Spirit is a word people don’t like to hear too much these days. We won’t stop objective criticisms of our leaders, for we practice democracy and not totalitarianism.