Written by Egwu Nwachukwu
One of the numerous actions that heralded Buhari’s ascension to the leadership of Nigeria in 1983 through a military coup was the enactment of many obnoxious decrees. The most notorious of those dictatorial laws was the infamous Decree 4 of 1984. Though the law was to protect public officers against false accusations, the events that followed later showed that Buhari had the ulterior motive of gagging the Nigerian press.
Ironically, it was this law that also set the stage for the downfall of the Head of State and his military junta in 1985. But before then, many journalists were caught in the web of the law. And among these victims were Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thomson who were both correspondents with “The Guardian” newspapers. They were jailed for exercising their rights as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution of 1979 which guaranteed freedom of expression. Nduka and Tunde remained in prison until Babangida toppled the regime of Buhari and introduced a self-styled political system that was civil by clothing and leadership title but military by conduct.
While this military law lasted, it was only General Buhari and his men at Dodan Barracks that ‘had’ the wisdom as it were to interpret a press report well enough to determine its false content or otherwise. This is thus the fear of many Nigerians who are apprehensive about the pending hate speech law has been proposed by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo while he acted as the President of Nigeria few months ago. In other words, what makes a speech a hate one? How does a hate speech differ from criticism, especially a constructive one that is supposed to bring out the best in the one being criticized?
What the present regime term “haste speech” has always been with us without causing diffraction among the ethnic nationalities as being witnessed today. The difference between “hate speeches” of the past and now can be found in the actions of the governments then and today. Without hate actions, there cannot be hate speeches.
When Obasanjo became Nigeria’s democratic leader in 1999, he did a lot to ensure equity and justice in the appointments of men and women into positions of authorities. Notable persons like Prof. Charles Soludo, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and late Prof. Dora Akunyili were not really active politicians at the time OBJ discovered their potentials and appointed them into his team. Soludo had to even substitute his first name, Charles with Chukwuma before so many people realized that the man so trusted by Obasanjo was an Igbo man from Anambra State and not from Edo state like late Stella, the former president’s wife. In 1999, the president relieved all the service chiefs of their positions and appointed new ones from all the geopolitical zones of the country.
At the time Obasanjo became President, the Ota-Abeokuta express way was in a terrible state of disrepair but the president avoided the temptation to give the reconstruction of the road which led to his personal home and farm a priority. He insisted that he was elected president of Nigeria and not the “President” of Ota.
Even OBJ had to advise his kinsmen and women from Ibogun Shomi to stop coming to see him at Aso Rock since they could easily reach him each time he visited his ancestral home. The trend of ensuring equality and justice continued when late President Umaru Yar’adua took over from OBJ. He created the Niger Delta Development Corporation (NDDC) and introduced amnesty for the restive youths of Niger Delta region.
Jonathan on his part saw education as a means of transforming the thinking pattern of our people especially the northern part. He gave priority to Almajeri system of education in order to rid the North of illiterate youths. He did this at the detriment of the poor roads in his place of birth- Otuoke in Bayelsa State. GEJ’s security Adviser was a Northerner.
Today, all the same chiefs are from Buhari’s Northern Nigerians and this includes the Army, Navy, the Police, the Civil Defense and Customs. Even the confirmation of Justice Walter Onogie as the Chief Justice of the Federation became possible when PMB traveled abroad on medical vacation. Otherwise Nigeria’s legal administration would have been left in the hands of the Northern elements alone.
The number of persons recently recruited into the Directorate of Security Services (DSS) from Katsina State alone was more than the number from the entire East region of Nigeria. Even when the top Management team of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation(NNPC) was reshuffled a few weeks ago, no Nigerian of Igbo extraction was found among the new team.
Unlike Obasanjo and Jonathan who gave priorities to serving the interests of the greater number of Nigerians before focusing on themselves, Buhari has so far been conducting the affairs of the Nation as if he was put there by Northerners alone.
The recent invasion of Nnamdi Kalu’s home in Abia State was not necessary at all Even if he had gone against the laws of our country the police and the law courts are the law enforcement agents of the country, while the army is to protect our territorial integrity. It only goes to show that either Buhari did not learn any lessons from OBJ’s invasion of Udi some years ago or he endorsed that action which was widely condemned at that time.
If hate speeches were all it takes for a country to break up, Nigeria would have long been forgotten as a united entity. This is because we have had so many of such in the past. As a matter of fact, one has to understand at least two major Nigerian languages in order to fully appreciate the extent derogatory or ‘gutter’ language against ourselves have gone.
In the late 90’s, a ghastly motor accident occurred on the Oshodi-Apapa expressway. Some persons died and others sustained injuries. A Yoruba fellow who narrated the incident to another Yoruba friend reported that only two persons and three “mallams” died in the accident. This of course presupposes that mallams are no human beings, yet, the average Southern Nigerian refer to the Hausas as “mallams” or “aboki”.
Even many Igbos refer to the Yorubas as dirty people as if they are not aware that one of the neatest flamboyant ministers Nigeria ever had in person of Professor Bolaji Akinyemi is a Yoruba person. In a null sore, our problem in Nigeria is not hate speeches but hate actions of government. Let our leaders learn from past mistakes and govern us well. When government is right, those who choose to offer late speeches will be ignored