Just when you thought you have seen and heard it all, some folks around here somehow still contrive to surprise or shock you – maybe, just a little.
I was listening to a favourite on-radio comedy programme today when I heard about a proposed hate speech bill. It wasn’t the first time I heard about something like that – learnt about similar months ago. I tend not to bother much about things political leaders do in this country anymore. What piqued my interest was a mention of death penalty against persons found guilty of hate speech. Really!
What’s really the gain of this ‘democracy’?
This is a question I have asked myself on several occasions over the years. If I’m going to be frank with anyone, freedom of speech is the only benefit of democracy I will likely mention if I am asked to cite one without thinking about it.
Even the freedom of speech of a thing already has a question mark hanging over it. However, that’s another topic on its own.
Democracy should mean a lot more than just freedom of speech. But, hey, that’s the only benefit that I can say I enjoy more under the current system of government. Now, my opinion is simply based on my experience of ‘democratic’ and military regimes in this country, plus historical facts.
Not that the right to freedom of speech means a lot around here, though. We keep talking, but it’s like there is no effect at all. However, we’d rather retain the right.
Now, some people seem to be trying to take away the only benefit democracy in this country seems to offer, under the guise of ‘hate speech.’
This hate speech bill is actually a sad reminder that the so-called democracy in the country isn’t far from what obtained during the years of the military.
Is a bill against hate speech that bad?
Hate speech is an appalling thing. Everything possible should be done to stop it! So, I have no problem with promulgating a law to this end.
I’d probably not have paid much attention to the bill, which has just been reintroduced, before the Senate. The only thing that just piqued my attention was the mention of a death penalty. I had to search online to confirm if that part was true.
I found out that death penalty was prescribed in the first hate speech bill proposed by the current deputy chief whip Aliyu Abdullahi in the previous Senate. What is unclear, however, is whether that remains a part of the new bill.
The scary thing in all of this is that one cannot be fully sure what truly constitutes hate speech. This is going by apparent interest of government in censoring what Nigerians post on social media.
Who knows? Omoyele Sowore would probably have been found guilty of so-called hate speech the other time. You just can never tell. This is why caution needs to come into play with the hate speech bill currently before the Senate.
Inappropriate use of force
In my opinion, the newly re-introduced bill is somewhat like wrong channelling of energy. It is somewhat like killing a gnat with a sledgehammer or a bazooka – in the light of the alleged penalty.
We often hear about how corrupt politicians get sentenced to death in China. That, to me, represents more appropriate use of force.
Corruption is a bigger problem, probably the biggest, in this country. I think we should instead be talking of death penalty for those found guilty of it.
The National Assembly has never proposed a bill including capital punishment for corruption. Or did I miss it? Yet, someone there could think of the same for hate speech as if it’s a greater evil.
I don’t condone hate speech. But there are other offences for which a death penalty may be more appropriate, including corruption and kidnapping.