Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti state, has expressed reservations concerning the branding of hate speech as an act of terrorism.
But in a statement which Lere Olayinka, his spokesman, issued on his behalf, Fayose alleged that the development was a plot to silence the opposition.
“I wish to express concern over the pronouncement of the Acting President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo that hate speech will henceforth be treated as terrorism,” Fayose said.
“While I am totally against hate speech and will support any effort to curb it, it is important to caution the federal government on the danger inherent in the blanket categorisation of hate speech as treasonable.
“I make bold to say that saying the truth concerning the country and its rulers cannot be termed as hate speech.
“This appears as another plot to silence the opposition and I make bold to say that saying the truth concerning the country and its rulers cannot be termed as hate speech.”
The governor said the APC had to first apologise to Nigerians for being “the number one promoter and beneficiary of hate speech”.
“Most importantly, going by the APC government’s use of the so-called anti-corruption fight to harass, intimidate, arrest and detain opposition figures, there is no doubt that categorising whatever that is termed as hate speech as act of terrorism is unconstitutional and an attempt to gag Nigerians, especially the press,” he said.
“Even if the APC government is sincere with its new found hatred for hate speeches, the APC government must first apologise to Nigerians for being the number one promoter and beneficiary of hate speech.”
Fayose said that rather than blanket criminalising of hate speeches, the federal government should embark on reorientation of Nigerians, especially the youths on the consequences of hate speeches to the unity of the country and restore the confidence of the people in the government.
“I only hope Nigeria is not being systematically returned to the colonial days when the law of sedition was used to jail many of those who fought for our independence or the era of Buhari’s military regime when the notorious public officers (Protection against False accusation) Decree 4 of 1984 was used to jail Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, both of The Guardian newspapers for publishing what the government termed as false,” he said.
“The questions that must be answered by the federal government are; what constitutes hate speech and who determines it? Has the presidency becomes law unto itself such that it is now the one to determine what is an offense and what punishment to be applied?”