Sani, varsity don blame government, politicians over hate speech

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Shehu Sani

• Caution Against Infringing On Nigerians’ Rights
• Senate Debunks Insinuation Of 3rd Term Agenda, Islamisation Of Nigeria

Human rights and pro-democracy activist, Senator Shehu Sani, has said the Social Media Bill and the Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly is also part of the design by President Muhammadu Buhari to turn the country into a totalitarian state and curtail the freedom of speech of Nigerians guaranteed in the 1999 Constitution (as amended).The 8th National Assembly senator recalled: “The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) used the social media to mobilise support on winning the 2015 elections and they used it to harass the last administration.

“But today, because the same medium is being used to hold the Buhari government to account and question power, they want to throw out the ladder they used to get to power.“The Social Media Bill, I suspect, has the hands of the executive and it is an attempt to silence Nigerians, to rule without question and to move our democracy into autocracy. It is aimed at silencing the opposition, silencing criticisms and silencing dissent. We are on the road to dictatorship in Nigeria.”

In the same vein, Dean, School of Management and Communication, Bayero University, Kano, Professor Umaru Pate, blamed government and politicians for hate speeches, while cautioning the National Assembly against any attempt to infringe on the fundamental rights of Nigerians through the Bill.Pate said the political class, government, religious groups, ethnic organisations and individuals must be blamed for the information that the media generate as content and subsequently overheat the polity, adding: “The media need total public support to promote democracy, accountable government and nation building.”

While cautioning the media against the dissemination of fake news in the country, the university don, however, insisted that government and politicians must be held responsible for the hate speeches, even as he urged operators of the new media to resist attempts to be used to circulate fake news.Pate stated that enacting a law against the social media might not be the solution, as it would rather deny Nigerians of their fundamental freedom of speech, pointing out that the new media has been used in the technologically advanced countries to promote democracy.He argued: “We need to invest in technologies and use them to build our nation, because nation-building is a process that requires many elements, including credible journalism.

“As such, online media should creatively and creditably emphasise the visual contents, strong business elements and earn trust of the audience. When the media does well, society does well.” He further argued: “Nigeria gets poorer as lies and hatred predominate, poisonous information is disseminated and people are dangerously polarised, as uncertainty heightens with suspicions and stereotypes and the process of national integration and nation building is jeopardised.”

Pate insisted that government, politicians and ethnic groups, in most cases, promote factors that are mostly responsible for hate speech, noting: “Online media should know that it is only the truth that can set us free to build a nation and there will be no human rights without justice.“What matters is the information, not what you think.”

Meanwhile, the senate, through its spokesperson, Senator Godiya Akwashiki, has debunked insinuations that the Hate Speech Bill is to foster the alleged third term for Buhari, an agenda the President has since denied.Akwashiki also dismissed speculations making the rounds that the Bill was conceived with a plan to Islamise the country.Making the clarification in reaction to the many controversies that have trailed the Bill, Akwashiki said it was not an Executive Bill, but a Private Bill sponsored by a senator, adding: “Senators have rights to sponsor Bills, tagged Private Senators Bill, even though we have Executive Bill.

“So, the President has nothing to do with the Hate Speech Bill; it has nothing to do with any third term agenda or Islamisation of Nigeria. “I want you to be very clear and educate the political leaders that we should mind the way we speak, we should be peace-lovers and keepers.”He indicated that the Bill, when it gets to second reading, when all the senators will have the opportunity to speak, “they will look at it section by section, clause by clause, remove what they want to remove and insert what they want to insert to protect the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. The executive arm has nothing to do with this Bill.

“We would not do things that will bring hardship to the people of Nigeria. It is not fair for me to stand here and be discussing third term. If I do that, I would not be fair to the people I am speaking for. “It is an issue I will urge you to exercise patience about, because the Senate is not a tea party room; it is a chamber that is made up of former ministers, former governors, captains of industry and men of impeccable character that were elected based on the majority votes. “Everybody’s view would be captured; we would do it together. For now, let us exercise patience. No cause for alarm.”

The Guardian

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