Understandably, we need to curb hate speeches, but suppressing people’s freedom of speech is too backward and unexpected of a country as advanced as Nigeria. Unfortunately, the federal government seems to take pleasure in that. Just recently, Prophet El-buba from Jos was almost carted away by the Department of State Service (DSS) for condemning the government’s style. How frivolous! Obviously, if our government officials are criticised like the US President, Donald Trump, our prisons and detention cells would already be full with leaders of media agencies, rights activists, religious leaders and anyone who questions its actions.
Entertainment entrepreneur, Audu Maikori, spent some days in the police cell before his release in Kaduna. Even though he gave a wrong report which he subsequently corrected, his arrest and detention were for portraying the government in a bad light. Apostle Suleman, a renowned pastor, would have also been detained, if not for the intervention of Ekiti state governor, Ayodele Fayose, who prevented the DSS from arresting him from a crusade ground last year. This tells of how callous the federal government gets in the name of avoiding public incitement. The intolerance is expressed in the new animosity Rev. Fr. Mbaka is getting for calling the federal government to order.
FG’s desire is to have the public space filled with their authorised information only, which definitely portrays the government as excellent, irrespective of contrary reasons. We are neither in a communist state nor an authoritarian regime. That can’t be the case because the constitution clearly states that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including the freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.” If thwarting this is the dream of this administration, then it must be foiled from start.
A government that can’t withstand the tenets of democracy like freedom of expression has to either learn how to adapt to it or not seek power in the first place. We are not a fascist republic, and leaders can’t expect people not to voice their perception, even when it is not comfortable for them. The hate speech bill that was promoted last year hit the rock because of its extreme outlook, and Nigerians will do more to resist any attempt to take away our right of expression.