UNDERSTANDING HATE SPEECH - BY CHARLES IDEHO - Issuesplus Daily

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UNDERSTANDING HATE SPEECH - BY CHARLES IDEHO

Representational photo. Copyright: Getimage

Hate Speech /heɪt.ˈspiːtʃ/

What exactly is hate speech, that has now gained national acclaim?

You must have heard that the Nigerian Senate has introduced a Bill that seeks not only to criminalise hate speech but also to prosecute anyone whose hate speech results in the death of another person. And here's the grind: If found "guilty" they SHALL DIE BY HANGING.

Well, I have no intention, whatsoever, to fault the Upper Chamber of the Nigerian Legislature on this, after all, the statutory business of the Distinguished Senators and their Honourable "cousins" is to make laws (good laws, I should quickly add) for the good of all.

But how do you then define what this latest Bill is? I mean the anti hate speech Bill? When the powers-that-be in our dearly beloved country, now very ill from years of abject neglect, raise the battle cry over hate speech, their own defined hate speech, I mean, I expect it to provoke a national debate on who defines hate speech and what constitutes hate speech for proper and unambiguous elucidation. As it stands today, should we allow the government, particularly the one at the centre that continues to flounder over policies of state, determine the definition of hate speech, namely to give it their own definition?

As I ponder over this, it became compelling for me to undertake a study on the global meaning of the compound word that is soon to carry the death sentence and raise a certain class of modern day hangmen. And here's what I turned up on Wikipedia:

"Hate speech is speech which attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, sexual orientation, disability, or gender.

"In the law of some countries, hate speech is described as speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it incites violence or prejudicial action against a "protected group", or individual on the basis of their membership of the group, or because it disparages or intimidates a "protected group", or individual on the basis of their membership of the group. The law may identify a "protected group" by certain characteristics."


Looking at the definition and explanation above, did you notice the number of times that the phrase "protected group" occured? Does the phrase evoke any similarity of any group in our country? How about the "cabal" for example? How about "herdsmen". Don't those look to you like "protected groups" as espoused by Wikipedia above?You may ask, where do we (the modern day plebians) fit in? Oh, plenty. In today's Nigeria, two distinct classes exist: "They, and "The Rest of Us". Where you belong is determined by you either by your means or by your sympathy to their cause. And there's a third class, I must hasten to add: the "Protected Group", constituted by a powerful minority few. In other words, those who are now driving the vehicle aimed at sending to the gallows the citizens that willingly surrounded their collective mandates to install them at the cozy offices at the Federal Capital.

But they must remember that where they are today is at the instance of the people of Nigeria who once bought their promise to bring about change, positive change. They must be reminded that the gallows they build today may await their turn tomorrow at the hangman's doorstep when they have long left office and their "good morning my neighbour" may well qualify for hate speech to which they are quick to give their own definition.

May our dear country succeed!

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