Friday, August 25, 2017

HATE SPEECH AND THE WAY FORWARD by Prof. Andrew Efemini.

Philosophers have a duty to guide society in resolving moral dilemmas. Unfortunately, we plunge into the false assumption that certain challenges facing us are purely legal in nature.
The assumption that hate speech is a crime and that it is equivalent to terrorism is the real threat to the emerging revolutionary pressures in Nigeria.

In my judgment, nothing has aided the rise of revolutionary thinking of late in Nigeria like the social media. The era of turning to one national media or the other and being suffocated by official doctrines and propaganda is disappearing. The social media is the hub of free speech and genuine political education of the ordinary people of this country. I have made the point severally that every literate Nigerian should be on social media.

Hate speeches are a reflection of the character of conflicts in any given society. This is very crucial for understanding how to proceed. In the United States, for instance, the hate speeches are predominantly racial in nature. This tension also influences American politics. Before proceeding further, I want to carry out some analysis of the concept 'hate'. I have previously argued that anybody who does not hate is an evil person. To hate is to have a deep seated dislike for something. It is the unwillingness to tolerate or accommodate something in its extreme conception.

I think if there is God, then sin cannot but be hated by God. The purest God cannot love sin and maybe evil. I used the word maybe because of the unending question as to whether God is an author of evil. The point is that we all hate one thing or another. It is interesting reading some people express love for Nigeria in spite of the myriad of pains and trauma facing us daily. To such persons, I say congratulations.

I want to make a distinction between abusive and nonabusive ways of expressing hatred. In other words, there is a derogatory and no derogatory way of expressing dislike for something. I agree that abusive and derogatory ways of expressing dislike could be inflammatory and be inciting. Inflammatory and inciting comments can result in violence of unpredictable dimensions.

I am an advocate of free expression of hatred but not in a derogatory or abusive manner. Why can't I say, I hate Nigeria's northern elite for obstructing the process of Nigeria's constitutional rebirth. It will in line with my thinking be wrong for me to call the northern elite abusive names. Decency is a culture that can legitimize hate speech. Feel free to state your hatred for Nigeria if in your judgment the country is ruining your life.

Moving forward, we must roll back plans to arrange special courts to try hate speeches. It is a dangerous assault on our democratic rights. I was thinking only military governments will pursue censorship laws. I was just remembering Decree 4 of 1984 under Buhari-Idiagbon regime that was used to sentence two journalists to jail.

The best way to turn hate speech to love speech in Nigeria is to address the underlining causes of the growing cases of hate speech. These include:
1. A growing resentment about Nigeria's constitutional disorder.
2. A growing awareness of lopsided and unjust access to public offices and political appointments.
3. Nigeria's unitary system which robs Peter to pay Paul.
4. Perceived marginalization of women, minorities, etc.
5. The mass poverty in the country of more than 60% of Nigerians living below poverty line.
6. Exclusive religious and metaphysical differences. Religious dogmas and extremism appear to have fueled serious hatred in this country.

The best way to deal with the above challenges is genuine political reforms and not the setting up of tyrannical courts for hate speech. We need to democratize by reforming our electoral processes. Free and fair elections will throw up leaders who can address the root causes of hate speeches. My fear is that time is running out for Nigeria. Ad hoc measures cannot save a sinking boat. Before the Nigerian boat will start sinking, let us fix.

I want a Nigeria I can love and not hate.

Source:  Fadilat Idris 

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