By Ejike Ejike,
Acting President Yemi Osinbajo yesterday warned individuals and groups against the danger of hate speeches, saying such tendencies have the potential of causing genocide.
According to him, while no narrative is superior enough to displace the nation’s corporate existence, agitations are largely self-serving rather than altruistic.
The acting president gave the warning at a national security seminar on unity in diversity, security and development, organised by the Department of State Service (DSS) in Abuja.
“The witnesses of the horrors of war will not wish it on their worst enemies. Even recalling it may bring back the trauma of that period. The mental and physical scars of war are sometimes so deep that rational thought of something is impugned. But always, hate speech precedes genocide, the greatest tragedy in human history” he said.
Identifying six false narratives causing disunity in Nigeria, Osinbajo noted that the situation is even worse with the social media, a platform that facilitates instant communication of any type of news, most of which are false, divisive and dangerous.
“We must do something about it, we must control it and we must insist that it is not acceptable. Public discourse of any type that is already on the social media, we cannot allow the promotion of it”, he added.
The acting president continued: “I want to advise that we must not repeat the errors of the past. I must also commend the Institute of Security Studies for providing this important platform for reflection on the subject of the corporate existence of Nigeria in its diversity.
“It is easy to take for granted the work that the distinguished faculty here does, but we must remind ourselves that often, the difference between tragedies of human conflict, hate and disunity aid what is said and done or not said and done by those charged with thinking and planning of societies in crucial times”.
Also speaking at the event, former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, warned that no nation has ever survived multiple civil wars.
Gowon who was chairman of the occasion appealed to youths to refuse to be canon-fodders, just as he warned against hiding under the cover of freedom of expression to promote divisive positions.
He said, “These calls for division are not good for our democracy. What the DSS has done with this seminar is to demonstrate that the state security is primarily about the relentless pursuit of the good of society and its people, not guns and daggers as oftentimes perceived.
“Today, with the various political agitations, the multiplicity of calls for regional autonomy, or calls for restructuring of the federation or outright secession from the country has given birth to emergency nationalist agitators.
“What is definitely wrong is that these individuals and interest groups hide under the constitutional-guarantee of freedom of speech and association to threaten fire and brimstone. All Nigerians should love their country”.
On his part, the director general of the DSS, Lawal Daura, vowed to deal with individuals and groups that threaten the inviolability and sanctity of the Nigerian state.
He said the unity of the nation is a “sacred trust” that links security with governance.
While recognising efforts by some well-meaning individuals to maintain peace, the DG said the Service is worried by the “toxicity” of ethnic agitations.
His words: “In recent times, centrifugal forces have been at work in our great nation, trying their utmost to pull us apart. They have vainly leveraged on our ethnic, geographical and religious cleavages- the key factors that constitute our very rich tapestry of cultural treasure and diversity- to ignite hate speeches and stoke ethnic cum religious tensions nationwide.
“Sundry youth groups and individuals, with diverse subversive agendas have latched unto this latest manifestation of ethno-religious divisions to afflict the national stage and consciousness with their atavistic and retrogressive utterances as well as infantile threats.
“Undoubtedly, these utterances and threats have spawned, in their wake, considerable anxiety among law-abiding, ordinary citizens residing in different parts of the country”.