From: TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt Hundreds of youths in Rivers State yesterday, staged a peaceful protest in Port Harcourt, condemning the activities of some operatives of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the state police command. Protesting on the platform of Niger Delta Non-Violence Youth Leaders Assembly (NDNYLA), they marched through some major streets in…
One of the ugly fallouts of the social media revolution in the country is the rise and rise of hate speeches across the country. While citizens of other countries use the social media to solve their existential problems, we have deployed ours to equally abuse ourselves to no end. Those who visit the social media sites in the country can readily testify to the amount of abuse and attacks among Nigerians to the extent that you would think that the country cannot survive the next day.
They stereotype and label one another as if they are no longer Nigerians. They derogate one another with ease. They see themselves from their ethnic prisms of Igbo, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Niger Delta, Middle Belt and other ethnic groups or regional blocs they fancy. They also see themselves from religious and political affiliations and platforms.
The hate speech is rife among supporters of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) and those of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Perhaps, the ongoing social media war is a carryover from the hate campaigns of the 2015 presidential poll. In the ongoing social media war, everyone is for himself and nobody is for Nigeria.
It is good that prominent Nigerians, including the acting President Yemi Osinbajo and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar among others have cautioned against the growing hateful speeches among Nigerians. They have also warned that hate speeches will only lead to chaos and war. Others have reasoned that hate speeches can easily take the country to the road to Rwanda.
Remember that the Rwandan genocide was caused by a hate song by one of the country’s musicians. May our case not be like that of Rwanda. In Nigeria now, hate songs are recorded and released with ease. Beyond such admonitions against hate speeches is the need to get to the roots of the hate speeches. Why do Nigerians hurl hate speeches at one another? Who are the sponsors of the hate speeches and songs? Why are they in vogue?
Hate speeches are indeed symptoms of deep rooted problems of nationhood. Except these problems are tackled, arrest of the bearers of hate speeches and hate songs will not address the fundamental problems of the nation. The tragedy of Nigeria is that it has refused to be a nation like other nations of the world. Americans are proud to be from America. The same can be said of Britons, Canadians, French, Germans, Indians, Chinese and others.
It is unfortunate that Nigerians are yet to see themselves as Nigerians except when they play football or meet abroad. After that they go back to their ethnic cocoons. That is why the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme has not truly united the country. The unity schools have failed to unite us with differing cut-off marks that discriminate Nigerians on the basis of ethnicity and state of origin.
Most of our symbols of unity have been used to discriminate Nigerians based on where one comes from. We have sacrificed merit on the altar of mediocrity. Until all the ethnic groups yield their identities to Nigeria, we will still be where we are at present. Nigeria, the African giant, is still a gathering of tribes or ethnic nationalities.
That is why there are separatist agitations. I think that Nigeria has passed the stage of being described as a mere ‘geographical expression.’
But even at that, the imagined community of Nigerians is yet to emerge out of the fusion of over 350 ethnic groups that make up the country, 57years after independence. And the hope of getting the imagined Nigerian community is far-fetched if the current reign of hate speeches is anything to go by. Nigeria is now more polarized than ever before. The politicians are using politics and religion to divide us, the more, for their own selfish ends. Nigeria can only get better if we address our fundamental problems, especially the national question.
The Federal Government must demonstrate enough political will to confront the harbingers of hate rhetoric. It is not enough to condemn such evil speeches. Those behind them should be apprehended and punished before they throw the country into another avoidable chaos and anarchy. The freedom of speech, which the extant 1999 constitution allows, does not permit abuse of each other.
It does not permit abuse of our elders or members of other ethnic groups or religious leaders. It does not give one the licence to abuse people of other faith or those with contrary views. We can say our mind without abusing another person. We can fight for our rights without abuse. Agreed that Nigeria has leadership problem, it also has problem of mis-governance and inequity.
Our democracy lacks the ideals of government of the people, by the people and for the people. Our politicians still see government as an avenue to make money at the expense of the people. The biggest business in the country today is politics. The players in the trade are big men and old people of means. The youths are left out of the political equation and that can possibly explain the reign of hate speeches, hate songs and quit notices.
The youths have seized the social media space to vent their anger on the polity that does not cater for their wishes and aspirations. If they are not well managed, they can throw the country into disaster. Their choice of October 1st to enforce their quit notices is very symbolic as it is a day of our nation’s independence. The Federal Government must work fast to restructure the country. I have no doubt that restructuring holds the ace for the survival of this country in view of the rising hate speeches, songs and quit notices.
Those who pretend that restructuring is not the way forward, should think twice and embrace it with both hands. We do not need to fight another civil war to remake Nigeria the way we want. What it requires is maturity and dialogue. Africa and the entire black people all over the world look up to us. We should not fail them.