Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Nigeria: That October 1 Hate Speech

By Steve Nwosu
If I say President Muhammadu Buhari’s October 1 speech was pre-recorded, that could amount to “hate speech’. Especially, as I have no documentary evidence. So, I’ll not say what I think.
*President Buhari
Similarly, if I say the Independence Day broadcast is the second hate speech I’ve heard from the president in a space of 40 days, I would also be incorrect. Especially as the details of what constitutes a ‘hate speech’ is increasingly looking like the proverbial Malawian constitution of Kamuzu Banda’s. It is whatever they tell us is the law that we accept as the law.
So, I’ll only recall that, after being away for 103 days, President Buhari returned to deliver one angry-speech (where he berated us for behaving badly, especially on the social media, while he was away), and that about 40 days later, he delivered yet another one (where he took Igbo leaders and elders to the cleaners, over the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB)).
Yes, PMB makes “anger-speech”, not “hate-speech”.
In August, he not only addressed us as “My dear citizens” (a reminder that we could well be subjects of an Imperial Majesty), he also accused us of crossing the ‘red line’ – a line which we did not know who drew it, or when it was drawn.
Well, PMB then went ahead to draw a new line; he called it ‘hate speech’.
Till this day, we’re still waiting for the DSS, the Defence Headquarters, the Ministry of the Interior or the Attorney-General to give us a breakdown of what does (and what does not) constitute a ‘hate speech’.
In the same August broadcast, PMB regaled us with the ‘tales by moonlight’ story of how, as far back as 2003, he and Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu (who, by the way, is in no position to corroborate the story) met in Daura (over two days) and decided the fate of us 170 million Nigerians – vis-à-vis the non-negotiability of Nigeria’s unity. It was PMB’s barely concealed resolve not to address whatever was hurting IPOB and the Igbo in Nigeria.
And when everyone (including the usually stubborn Obasanjo) advised that he needed to discuss with Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB, President Buhari returned to the same podium last Sunday, to restate that he would only address genuine grievances – like Niger Delta militancy (and probably, Boko Haram).
So, IPOB, which is not on record to have ordered the death of any one – nor claimed credit for any deaths, has suddenly become the most dreaded terrorist group in Nigeria – more deadly than the Niger Delta militants, who kidnapped, blew up pipelines and other oil installations and crippled our economy. More deadly than bloo-thirsty herders. Even if the herdsmen (whom we have been ‘ordered’ to stop addressing as ‘Fulani’ herdsmen) wipe out entire villages in Benue and Enugu and Delta states, the narrative from the Presidency deliberately underplays it, as herdsmen/farmers clash.
I always thought a clash was more like a fight – when two parties (or more) engage in violent face-off. I did not know that a situation whereby ‘pastoralists’, without any provocation, invade villages and farmlands, killing everyone in sight (and in cold blood), is also regarded as a ‘clash’. Hmmm! Isn’t it already bad enough that we’ve been forced to accept that these murderers are not Nigerians?
Meanwhile, all Igbo are now dubbed separatists, on the strength of IPOB.
PMB, on October 1, was not satisfied with just dismissing IPOB (and the disquiet in the South East) with a wave of the hand, and, as a friend pointed out last weekend, “refusing to condescend into discussing Biafran agitation”: He lumped all the elders and leaders of the South East together as failures – for having failed to advise their youth. For having failed to tell their children the gory details of the civil war massacre of the Igbo and how the Buhari government would not mind doing it again. Yes, the same details, which successive Nigerian governments have tried to suppress and/or sugar-coat, culminating in the official ban on the teaching of History in our secondary schools. The same gory details that the people of Asaba are commemorating today, 50 years after.
Of course, since we have refused to properly and honestly educate our children, they have now had to rely on grossly skewed folktales to fill the blank spaces – and, in most instances, utterly mis-educating themselves. That is why we have this nostalgic romanticism about Biafra today.
Of course, not all Igbo are followers of Nnamdi Kanu, but all Igbo are agreed on the fact that Nigeria is giving them an unfair deal. So, even if they’re in the minority, a key tenet of democracy is that while the majority have their way, the minority must have their say. So, Mr. President, you must negotiate with Ndigbo. There’s no wishing it away.
*Steve Nwosu, former Editor of Daily Sun, is a Director at the Sun newspapers 

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