By Musa Inuwa (Niger State Correspondent)
Former Publicity Secretary of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in Niger state, Jonathan Tsado Vatsa, has taken a swipe at his party and the 9th Assembly the Nigerian Senate in particular, for proposing a bill seeking the death penalty for anyone convicted for hate speech.
Vatsa wants the Senate to stop demonizing opposition voices speaking against what he described as bad policies consistently standing against the entrenchment of equity, justice, and fairness for the over 250 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria in the distribution of the commonwealth to the citizenry.
The former APC Spokesman, in a strong-worded statement in Minna, the state capital, insists that what the President Muhammadu Buhari- led APC administration is tagging ‘Hate Speech’ is the same instrument that the APC deployed to oust the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and nobody ever passed a death sentence on them.
If the APC administration is now convinced that it has failed in delivering according to promises, Vatsa said, it is only natural to apologize and not practically threatening Nigerians with a death sentence for speaking out.
The APC Chieftain reminds the National Assembly of more pressing needs or issues to Nigerians that the Senate should be looking into and address instead of wasting energy on a bill that will cause more pain than good to the citizens.
Vatsa who was a former Niger State Commissioner for Information, Culture, and Tourism and currently the Coordinator on Public Affairs to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, said the problem of the APC administration is the party's failure to deliver according to campaign promises, hence shouldn’t demonize Nigerians for speaking out against perceived injustice.
Describing the moves as not only laughable but a direct invitation to anarchy, Vatsa told the 9th National Assembly to also propose a bill that will apply for lands in the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja with the same zeal for Ruga to be used as a cemetery for burials of hate speech offenders who will be killed.
“I call on Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi to also propose a bill for separate cemeteries for offenders so that we can have it as tourist sites with the inscriptions ‘Hate Speech Cemetery’ because offenders may also include those of us who have benefited from the hate speech. What a shame!”, Vatsa fumed
He also wondered why the APC-controlled Senate should ever contemplate such a, “Draconian and unpopular law. We rode to power in 2015 through hate speech. We, APC brought hate speech to Nigeria politics and I am one of them”.
Vatsa stated that the "than opposition used what is now being considered to be a law and capital punishment as penalty to command hatred of Nigerians against the PDP. As a Publicity Secretary of the APC, I know how we used hate speech to mobilize Nigerians against the then ruling party”.
Vatsa who said he is regretting the situation of things in Nigeria today argued that demonizing the PDP before the generality of Nigerians was the strongest weapon of the APC. “And it paid off because Nigerians eventually hated the PDP”.
While cautioning on the implication of using force against the wishes of the generality of Nigerians in the countdown to the 2023 general election, Vatsa reminded proponents of death sentence against opposing voices that, “Before 2015, Nigerians did not know anything like hate speech”.
“In fact, since the return of democracy in 1999, we are just hearing this hate speech thing. The APC, as a political party, brought hate to politics in form of propaganda. If the truth must be told, we (APC) are the architect of hate speech and nobody complained about it. We enjoyed it and it worked for us”.
He said, “If we think we have failed Nigerians in our change promises, we should be bold enough to tell Nigerians that we are sorry, we couldn’t deliver, but to try to cage them by trying to introduce or recycle Decree 4 of 1984 in the name of hate speech is unacceptable”.
Blaming the Senate Deputy Whip, who is from Niger-North Senatorial district, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, for championing the proposed bill for the death penalty for hate speech, the former state APC spokesperson warned that the bill, ‘might consume all of us’.
He advised that rather than proposing the death penalty for hate speech offenders, Vatsa said the National Assembly lawmakers should be championing the cause for the death penalty for corrupt leaders because “Corruption and injustice gave birth to what is now being regarded as hate speech”.
“If there is justice, equity, fairness, and respect for the rule of law, there will be no hate speech. But when people are being marginalized and denied their rights, surely there will be hate speech. You cannot stop people from expressing their freedom of speech”.
“If the Senate is proposing death penalty for hate speech, then what will they do or what have they done to Boko-Haram, Armed bandits, kidnappers, oil bunkers and treasury looters among both politicians and civil servants? All these things are worse than hate speech”.
He wondered why the waste of time and resources on issues not targeted at ending the sufferings of Nigerians. “There are more pressing issues to Nigerians that the Senate should look into and address instead of wasting their energy on an unpopular bill like this one that will not see the light of the day”.
Vatsa however said believes there are more to the proposed hate speech bill. “If the rumor of President Buhari nursing third term ambition is correct, then I see why they needed death penalty for hate speech to silence everybody who will want to oppose him”.
“But the Senate should know that he who lives in a glass house should not throw stones because they cannot be there forever. When they leave the Senate, the law can catch up with them. Power is transient".
The outspoken Governor’s Aide called on Nigerians to resist unfavorable policies of the government, expressing regrets that those in positions of authority respect and pay allegiance to a political party and individual self above the place of service to the citizenry.
He suggested what could end criticisms against the government, saying "if the money meant for constituency projects are utilized for the purposes it was meant for and the people begin to see dividends of democracy, there will be no need for hate speech.
"People speak when they can no longer endure the sufferings. If the millions of Nigerian youths can have something to do to earn a living, they will not have time for hate speech. If people are allowed to elect leaders in a free and fair election, there will be no hate speech.
“So, something gave birth to hate speech and that is what the Senate should address”, Vatsa insists, adding that "there will be no hate speech if the government is acting according to the needs of Nigerian masses and if the lawmakers are making laws to solve the problems of the masses", Vatsa stated. NNL.