Whenever and wherever it is mentioned, it arouses instant anger and angst. And it is always spontaneous and ferocious. Such is the deep-seated hate against the hate speech bill.
The hate is growing and the complexity of the bill is becoming messier by the second. No one is willing to give it a chance; not by any mistake. That would be deadly and costly.
Sure, its senator proponent, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, would marvel at the backlash. His (un)distinguishable action has brought the worst out of the Senate. That is why its second reading was angrily stalled, attracting great rage and wrath. All against the bill and its sponsors.
Abdullahi, APC Niger, never bargained for this; though he actually asked for it. Thank God he and his co-masterminds are getting it in good measure.
Perhaps, they are ignorant of this. We trod this landmine-laden path before. We tasted Decrees 2 and 4 of 1984. They were very bitter. Our experiences were unpleasant. We would never wish for a faint or remote repeat performance.
A sharp flashback: Decree 2 empowered the old State Security Service (SSS) and the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, to detain, without charges, individuals deemed to be a security risk to the state for up to three months.
Decree 4 was strictly targeted against the Press. It was labelled the Protection Against False Accusations Decree, considered as the most repressive press law ever enacted in Nigeria. Messrs Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian were its first and only victims.
Now, there is danger lurking around the corner. We see the comeback of these obnoxious decrees in Abdullahi’s hate speech bill. They are graphically and fearfully reflected in that draft.
Sadly enough, senator-supporters of this bill are not seeing what we are seeing. Maybe they never experienced what we went thorough in those dark days of the military junta. The vicious khaki boys forced it down our throats.
The good thing this time around is that we are no longer alone. Oba Lamidi Olayiwola Adeyemi III, the Alaafin of Oyo, is with us. So is General Theophilus Danjuma. We are in the same league, perfectly at home together.
Danjuma was Chief of Army Staff, 1975 to 1979, under the General Olusegun Obasanjo military regime. He was also his Minister of Defence when Obasanjo wore a civilian toga 20 years after.
Alaafin and Danjuma have come a long way in their different callings. They are two of a rare kind. They are never given to frivolities and trivialities. You are not in doubt where they stand. They detest ambiguity, deceit and pretence. They won’t feign ignorance.
So? The 70th anniversary of the Nigerian Tribune titles offered the best atmosphere for the duo. It was inside that citadel of learning, Nigeria’s premier university, the University of Ibadan.
You could tell that it would be real brainstorming and fireworks. And it turned out to be exactly that. That Thursday, Abdullahi’s awful and odious bill provided the needful: The melting pot and the meeting point for Alaafin and Danjuma. Trust them, they never missed it.
Danjuma was the first to speak. His was very short: “If I tell you what I know that is happening in Nigeria today, you will no longer sleep.” That is the graphic picture he painted.
He did a frightful follow-up: “If you want details, I will give it to you privately. We are in a big hole as a nation. And people who put us in this hole have continued today. So, we have to wake up. Only we can save ourselves.”
With that, he ignited the pent-up fire in Alaafin. It was a near re-cap of the ancient Alaafin Sango’s exploits. Oba Adeyemi came into the scene spitting and emitting fire: “If you don’t want to be criticised, then you don’t have to be in government.”
That was his starting point. He delved into history. He dug deep into the archives. He relived the good old days of the trio: Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi, Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello. They were the tripod and fathers of modern Nigeria.
He insisted: “There is no way that illiterate will continue to govern the literate people. It cannot work and it will not work.”
Alaafin educated us on how and why we are where we are today: “Awolowo projected that if you don’t educate the people, the almanjiri will become bandits.” How true is this today? He answered: “Today, in Zamfara and Yobe, governments are now subjected to banditry. And they are exchanging these bandits, giving them money. How can government give bandits money?” He wondered aloud! “That is a collapse of governance and government.”
His sincere confession: “I am not a politician but I understand politics.” You cannot take that away from him: “I don’t do partisan politics because I want to be progressive.”
Again he asked: “How can we have stability when a half of the country is governed by illiterates; when banditry has taken over governance? When you said you have technically defeated Boko Haram, what is the technicality in defeat?”
He remained blunt as ever: “Either we agree we have not been able to subdue them and admit.” Sure there are no two ways to defeat.
Alaafin forged ahead unrelenting: “Now, they are quoting United Nations figures for us. And our government is telling them we are not under America (USA) or UK, but we are going there to loan money from them.” Confusions, contradictions, et al!
Done, Alaafin dropped the microphone. And loud ovation rent the air minutes after. Alaafin has been forceful as ever. But this is one of his finest in recent times.
Surprised? Not at all! It is expected from an Alaafin, foremost Yoruba traditional ruler. From the beginning to the end, he was profound, succinct and apt. You can’t beat an Alaafin.
Lest we forget, let Danjuma spill the beans even now, and in the open too. We are hungry for that food for thought. And we are ready to devour it with relish.