Freedom of speech is a sine qua non to every democracy, but it does not end there. If freedom of speech is guaranteed, it is even more important to guarantee freedom after speech. The need to have a sane and safe society cannot be over-estimated. Every independent nation, like Nigeria, has a duty to ensure that it caters for its own internal issues, although this does not rule out the possibility of mutual assistance between countries. Hate speech, as it has come to be known, is a phenomenon that has eaten deep into the fibre of the corporate existence of many States. It has caused the death of many, the ruin of nations and the collapse of State structures. It is indeed not even to be said that leaders in any political structure should be the last to encourage hate speech. In a recent interview, ‘the accidental public servant’, for whom I have great respect said; ‘‘Those that are calling for anyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that would come and intervene, they would go back in body bags because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country. We got that independence and we are trying to run our country as decently as possible and we know the history of those countries that are trying to teach us these things. We have read their history.” Now, what is a body bag? According to the Cambridge dictionary a body bag is a heavy plastic bag used to transport a dead person, especially a soldier who has been killed in a war. This means that only a dead person is conveyed in a body bag. Consequently, the statement by the accidental public servant simply means that foreign observers who come to intervene will be killed and sent back to their various countries as dead men. This, with greatest respect, is an abuse of the freedom of speech guaranteed under our constitution. It is even more damning, coming from a man of the status of a governor in the world’s most populous black nation. This statement is tantamount to a threat on the international community which should be discouraged at a time when international collaborations is most expected. In his defence, he said the statement was made from a patriotic front, to uphold the dignity of Nigeria. Good defence! But that does not derogate from the fact that a death threat to accredited observers from the international community is hate speech. Without prejudice to the provisions of Section 308 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, the governor must be made to answer questions as to how he intends to carry out the threats. Does it mean he already has a squad that would implement the threat? Is this statement not a threat to national security, considering the porous nature of the security architecture in Kaduna, particularly Southern Kaduna where families are killed, and the intestines of children are ripped off by bandits with no one being brought to justice? In conclusion, it is important that as Nigerians, our personal interest should not blindly lead us into undermining the sanctity of human lives. To say people will be killed for intervening legally in an electoral process is ‘ambition’ taken too far. While this has raised lots of comments both in the national and international scenes, it is instructive to note that same should be curbed and nipped at the bud by all means possible.]]>
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