Presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the February 23 election, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar has described the Anti-Hate Speech Bill before the National Assembly as an abuse of the legislative process that would violate Nigerians’ constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech.
The bill is proposing death penalty by hanging as punishment for violators, if passed into law.
Atiku, in a statement by his media adviser, Paul Ibe, reminded those behind this bill the fact that Nigeria’s democracy “survived its longest incarnation, because those who governed this great nation between 1999 and 2015 never toyed with this most fundamental of freedoms.
“It is prudent to build upon the tolerance inherited from those years and not shrink the democratic space to satisfy personal and group interests.”
The former vice president stated that freedom of speech was not just bestowed to Nigerians by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) but it is a divine right given to all men by their Creator.
“History is littered with the very negative unintended consequences that result when this God-given right is obstructed by those who seek to intimidate the people rather than accommodate them.
“We should be reminded that history does not repeat itself. Rather, men repeat history, and often to disastrous consequences.
“Nigeria presently has too many pressing concerns. We are now the world headquarters of extreme poverty as well as the global epicentre of out-of-school children.
“Our economy is smaller than it was in 2015, while our population is one of the world’s fastest growing.
“We have retrogressed in the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, from the position we held four years ago, and our Human Development Indexes are abysmally low.
“It, therefore, begs the question: should we not rather make laws to tackle these pressing domestic challenges, instead of this bill, which many citizens consider obnoxious?” Atiku asked.
He wants the lawmakers to prioritise the nation’s challenges “ahead of the whims and caprices of those who do not like to hear the inconvenient truth.”