OPEN LETTER TO ALL NIGERIAN LAWMAKERS ON HATE SPEECH, HATE CRIME, AND THE VALUE FOR HUMAN LIFE. BY DAVID MARK.
I write to you our Honorable Lawmakers of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I write to you to eradicate certain viruses that threaten the peace of our beloved “One Nigeria”. I choose not to join those that love to just sit down and criticize the government without suggesting any solution in any way. I want to be a part of the solutions to the problems we have in this country. This is the purpose for this open letter.
The just concluded 2015 election exercise was one full of tension. The polity was so heated up and as a lot of people fled the country in anticipation of a post-election war. Why? The polity was being heated up because different versions of “hate speeches” were flying all over the place by various politicians, religious and traditional leaders.
We heard a former presidential candidate threaten that “dogs and baboons will be soaked in blood.” An Oba threatened the Igbos in Lagos with the lagoon. A former first lady was insulting Northerners, calling them “born throw way”. Some religious leaders told their followers not to vote for Jonathan because he is an infidel. After the elections, a certain man told the Igbos not to expect anything from President Buhari and that they are free to leave Nigeria if they want to. And another man is on radio insulting the Yoruba’s and Hausas/Fulani’s. These are people that have all their family members chilling in Europe, and America while they provoke people and incite violence in Nigeria. And in the event of any break out of violence, they will be among the first to jet out of the country. People who make such derogatory, inciting, provocative and hate- filled statements are enemies of the peace of Nigeria and henceforth should not go unpunished because they love to capitalize on the gullibility and stupidity of their followers to cause mayhem in Nigeria.
What caused the Nigerian Civil war 45 years ago? Everybody has their side of the story but on taking a closer look, what led to the war were hate speech/messages and hate crimes. The civil war, ethnic/tribal wars, religious killings, pre/post-election violence were all fueled by hate speech and hate crimes. The Boko Haram we are all battling with today was built on the foundation of hate speech and hate crime before it was hijacked by some ghost sponsors.
The Nigerian government has always been a reactive government. We have never had a proactive government. We were warned to diversify our economy. We were warned that the shale oil production in America plus world oil politics would affect our crude oil dependent economy. Cameroon gave us an early warning about releasing the water from their dams. But what did the usual reactive Nigerian government do about all these? Nothing! We have developed a dangerous habit of waiting till things gets really messed up before we take action. This yeye attitude of governance by both the executive and legislative arms of government will not lead this nation forward. It is high time we developed a proactive system of governance.
One that solves problems before they occur, and prevents impending crises from shaking the nation unnecessarily. And if we must stop future violence and unnecessary killings in Nigeria, we must legislate against hate speech, hate crimes and tribal bigotry. . Hate speeches usually lead to hate crimes, and we cannot afford more episodes of violence or useless killings in this country. I therefore ask our lawmakers to pass a law that criminalizes and punishes hate speech, hate crime and tribal bigotry in Nigeria. This law will greatly minimize future election violence, religious and tribal killings, and totally bring more peace in Nigeria than we are having now.
Hate speech is a speech that attacks, threatens or insults a person or people because of their tribe, religion or political views, etc. Hate crime is a traditional crime like murder, arson, vandalism, etc, meted at an individual or group motivated by prejudice, intolerance or hatred for an individual’s tribe, religion or political view. Killing people in the name of religion or because of their tribe is an example of hate crime.
Therefore, I propose that henceforth, any politician, public office holder, religious leader, traditional leader, social icon, celebrity or public figure that publicly mutters any form of hate speech or encourages hate crimes against any tribe/ethnic group, religious group, political party, political opponent, whether during election campaigns, or through the internet or social media, TV or radio, should therefore be sentenced to life imprisonment or death by hanging, and without the option of an appeal. For the common man on the street, if found guilty with enough evidence, he should be sentenced to 50 years imprisonment. People should not be insulted, oppressed or killed because they belong to a certain tribe, have a certain political view or have a preferred choice of religion.
Freedom must be limited if not there will be anarchy in the land. If people are free to do what ever they like then armed robbery and kidnapping shouldn’t be crimes in Nigeria. The fact that armed robbery is a crime in a democratic setting means that people are not “free” to do whatever they like. Thus, freedom of speech and expression cannot include hate speech and hate crimes. Hate speech and tribal bigotry offenders are enemies of Nigeria and should be given the capital punishment because their sole aim is to disrupt the peace of this country. If our Nigerian lawmakers ignore this call, Nigerians will know that our elected lawmakers are not interested in the peace and progress of this country. We will be fully convinced that the “One Nigeria” concept is a scam.
It is a common thing that human lives are not valued in this country. That is why people are killed anyhow all over Nigeria and nothing is being done about it. And nothing is being done about it because we do not have laws that protect the lives of the average Nigerian on the street. Boko Haram we are struggling with today was a baby monster built on the foundation hate speech and hate. Today it has grown into full time terrorism.
I served in Bauchi State long before boko haram came to the lime light, and there I saw with my very own eyes that Nigerians can be slaughtered simply because of a page of the Koran that was found on the street. There were several religious killings during my service year and I thank God that I came out from there alive.
The Federal parastatal were I was posted to offered to retain me but I refused the offer because I couldn’t risk being slaughtered one day because of a page of the Koran being found on the floor, and I vowed never to go to the North for anything for the rest of my life. Why on earth should I work and live in such a place? I would rather be unemployed and alive than live in a place where Nigerians can be killed because of a cartoon on Mohammed that was made in a far country? A lot of my friends and colleagues lost their lives while serving their fatherland. I saw churches being burnt with reckless abandon. I saw lives being wasted for nothing. How many mosques are being burnt down in the south? And I also observed that the killings were not just religiously inclined, it also had serious tribal undertone because if it was just religion, then the Yoruba Muslims would have been spared. But the Yoruba Muslims had to also join us to run for their lives. Such hate crimes cannot continue to go unpunished in this country. It is high time our lawmakers passed a law that forbids and punishes all forms of religious, ethnic and tribal killings as hate crimes. Boko Haram is supposed to have taught us a lesson as a nation. And any right thinking government will thus make laws that will permanently prevent any issue that is a threat to human life in any capacity. Human lives must be valued in this country.
It looks to me that boko boys are going to be handing over the terror mantle to their Under-17 squad pretty soon. They are popular referred to as the “Fulani herdsmen”. These guys are going about killing and kidnaping people in the name of cattle rearing. And if we do not do something about these rascals who have no value for human life early enough, we will be moving from one regime of terrorism to another. Besides, nothing stops the ghost sponsors of boko haram from recruiting this bastards and giving us Boko Haram Reloaded to deal with, and maybe change their name from the popular Fulani herdsmen to “Fulani Gladiators”. By then we will start running to the US, France and all our allies in the West to help us fight “Fulani Gladiators”. We will ask the World Bank to lend us $1 billion to fight “Fulani Gladiators”. And maybe the PDP who is desperate to come back to power will use “Fulani Gladiators” as their major campaign strategy just as the APC did with Boko Haram.
Nigerians are being killed continuously in Plateau State, and this has been going on for the past 14 years and no one is doing anything about it. Maybe the Nigerian government is waiting for a new edition of Plateau-Haram before they act. We are not animals, and Nigeria is not an animal kingdom. Therefore, this attitude of waiting for things to go sour and get really messy before we jump into action and start dealing with the effects without even handling the root cause has to stop. It is high time we placed maximum value on human life. The lives of Nigerians must become important to the Nigerian Government.
Someone has to be held accountable for lives being lost in any part of Nigeria. When no one is held accountable by the law for religious, ethnic and tribal killings, people will go ahead and create such menace because nobody will take the responsibility of protecting the lives of Nigerians. It is high time the National Assembly makes laws that holds and punishes traditional leaders, and religious leaders for any ethnic/tribal or religious killing carried out under their watch. I believe that if the Imams, the Sultans, Emirs and Fulani leaders risk being jailed for life, they will be able to discipline their followers to respect other people’s tribe, religion and to value human life.
I do not mean to offend anyone, but I have seen people come out from the mosques to perpetrate violence and kill people in the name of Allah, and there is no way you will tell me that the Imam doesn’t know such people. If he is held accountable, and proven to be innocent and have nothing to do with such crimes, then he should be able to produce such people to face the music. The lives of Nigerians are more valuable than any religious, tribal or political sentiments.
Someone would say why not call the police? Well, we all know that the Nigerian police is the comedy department of the Armed Forces. And usually before the police even shows up the scene lives must have been wasted for nothing. The police and army cannot prevent religious and tribal killings but religious and traditional/tribal leaders can. We have to stop dealing with the effects. We have to start dealing with the root causes of stupid killings in this country. We have to pass laws that prevent such killings, and it will be a lot easier of people are held accountable by law. The army and police cannot prevent crises but laws can. Lives will keep being wasted until someone is held accountable. We have to set up mechanism to re-orient people on the value of human life. Boko haram experience is enough to teach us a lesson in this nation, except we don’t want to ever learn.
The Nigerian constitution is bigger than any religious belief, ethnic group or tribe. Nobody should be killed in any part of Nigeria because of his religion, tribe or ethnic group. I should be able to go to the North, live there and do business without being constantly afraid that one day I might just be butchered like a cow. I should be respected as a Nigerian irrespective of my tribe. Nigeria is a country with various tribes and ethnic groups and each tribe and ethnic group must be respected by others according to the law. I should not be insulted or oppressed because of my tribe. And the issue of “minority” tribe or ethnic group has to be abolished in this country because we are all important. No tribe is superior to the other and we must make laws that uphold this.
I noticed that an American citizen is always proud enough to tell anyone anywhere in the world that he’s a citizen of the United States of America, not just because America is the most powerful nation in the world, but because America as a nation values the life of its citizens, and he has hope and belief in his country that whatever happens to him America will protect him. I wish we could say the same of the Nigerian government. I am looking forward to a Nigerian Government that has maximum value for human lives.
We have always relied solely on the executive arm of government for protection but it has failed us woefully in the past. This is not an APC or PDP issue. This is not a matter of Christians vs. Muslims. We voted for CHANGE. Not for a political party. We needed change in the system. We needed change in the country. This is a matter of National Security and I therefore call on all Nigerian Lawmakers to prove to Nigerians now and again that the term “One Nigeria” is not a scam and that the life of every Nigerian is valued by the Nigerian Government.
(A Patriotic Young Nigerian)