John Adams, Minna
Former commissioner for information, culture and tourism in Niger State, Mr Jonathan Vatsa, has joined thousands of Nigerians in condemning a proposed Senate bill seeking the death penalty for anyone convicted of ‘Hate Speech’, saying “you can not stop people from expressing their freedom of speech.”
Vatsa, a former spokesman of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the state, wondered why the APC controlled Senate would ever contemplate what he called an “unpopular bill”, criticising the party for riding to power in 2015 on the waves of Hate Speech.
“We (APC) brought Hate Speech to Nigerian politics and I [was] one of them as a Publicity Secretary of the APC. I know how we used Hate Speech to mobilise Nigerians against the ruling party, and it paid off because Nigerians hated the PDP,” Vatsa stated.
“Before 2015, Nigerians did not know anything like Hate Speech,” Vatsa said. “In fact, since the return of Democracy in 1999, we are just hearing about Hate Speech. APC as a political party brought hate to politics in form of propaganda.
“The truth must be told, we are the architect of Hate Speech and nobody complained about it, we enjoyed it and it worked for us.
“If we think we have failed Nigerians in our change promises, we should be bold enough to tell Nigerians that we are sorry, we couldn’t deliver, but to try to cage them by trying to introduce or recycle Decree 4 of 1984 in the name of Hate Speech is unacceptable,” Vatsa said.
The former commissioner went on to caution the Senate that the proposed bill recommending the death penalty for Hate Speech is an invitation to anarchy “which, if care is not taken, might consume all of us.”
He said rather than proposing the death penalty for Hate Speech offenders, there should be a death penalty for corrupt leaders as “corruption and injustice gave birth to what they are now calling Hate Speech.”
He explained that “if there is justice, equity, fairness and respect for rule of law, there will be no Hate Speech. But when people are been marginalised and denied their right, surely there will be Hate Speech. You cannot stop people from expressing their freedom of speech.
“If the Senate is proposing death penalty for Hate Speech, then what will they do to Boko Haram, armed bandits, kidnappers, oil bunkers and treasury looters, both politicians and civil servants. All these things are worse than Hate Speech,” he said.
“There are more pressing issues to Nigerians that the Senate should look into and address instead of wasting their energy on an unpopular bill like this one that will not see the light of the day.”
Vatsa, however, believed that there was more to the proposed Hate Speech bill, speculating that “if the rumour of President Buhari nursing the ambition of a third term is correct, then they need the death penalty for Hate Speech to silence everybody who will want to oppose him.
“But the Senate should know that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones because they can not be there forever. When they leave the Senate the law can catch up with them,” he said.
“Again, if the money meant for constituency projects are utilised for the purpose it was meant for and the people began to see dividends of democracy there will be need for Hate Speech.
“If the millions of Nigerians youths can have something to do to earn a living, they will not have time for Hate Speech. If people are allowed to elect their leaders in a free and fair election, there will be no Hate Speech. So, something gave birth to Hate Speech and that is what the Senate should address,” Vatsa concluded.