By; MOHAMMED KAWU, Bauchi
The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has said that it will soon launch a voluntary declaration by politicians against hate speech which, it observed, is primarily centred on religion and ethnic diversities.
To this end, the centre called on political parties to not only shun hate speech but also sign up to a voluntary campaign declaration that will disqualify any politician seeking nomination on their platform for elections for engaging in hate speech.
The Executive Director of the Centre, Ya’u Zakari Ya’u was speaking in Bauchi at the annual evaluation of hate speech project supported by Mac Arthur Foundation aimed at promoting public understanding about hate speech.
The centre noted with dismay that more than before, the country is becoming more divided and unless all stakeholders walk against this trend, it would continue to expand as Nigerians move towards the 2019 general elections.
Such expansion, CITAD observed, if not properly checked would make the forthcoming elections become violence thereby compounding the situation already seeing many communal clashes in the country, in addition to the continuing mayhem by Boko Haram in the North East.
The CITAD director therefore stressed the need to effectively address the prevalence of hate speech with the understanding of its dynamics, generation and spread which requires the identification of its key drivers, the channels through which it propagate and the response or lack of it by relevance agencies that have the responsibility to stop its spread.
He gave major drivers of hate speech in the country to included perceived marginalization by different people and communities, failure of government to carry on with its anti-corruption agenda in a transparent and impartial manner, and the denial to citizens have access to information at their disposal.
Other drivers, he said, are the rising poverty in the country that is pushing many people to the marginal space of hopelessness and criminality, the inability of government to help communities to resolve communal crisis and conflicts such as the farmer/herder conflicts.
Ya’u Zakari Ya’u also cited another driver of hate speech which was the deliberate capitalization by some politicians to profit from the current difficulties in the country by encouraging hate speech.
CITAD suggested that government must be consistent, impartial, transparent and consultative in the way in which it carry out its own programmes, including the anti-corruption agenda, with people who commit corrupt act be they in government or opposition be prosecuted.
The director also call on the media regulatory bodies to wake up to their responsibilities to ensure effective and full implementation of all the laws, regulations governing media practice so that media organizations, individuals and advertisers who deploy hate speech are properly sanctioned.
He stressed the need for a review of the national peace architecture to provide for the establishment of a national peace commission with the mandate to promote peace building, apprehension and resolution of conflict, and engendering culture of community dialogue across different communities in the country.
CITAD similarly advocated for a law that will regulate preaching and provide clear framework for the teaching of religious studies in consonant with national aspiration of a peace and united country with only qualified teachers are deploy to teach religious studies.
Ya’u also recommended for the mainstreaming of peace education in the civic education curriculum of secondary schools education with the components focus on peace so that students understand the rudiments of peace building and conflict resolution, among others.
He called on the media to not only join the campaign against hate speech, but also ensure that they did not provide space for hate speech to be carried and propagated in their own spaces.
CITAD urged the national human rights commission to continue with its hearing and documenting cases of filed cases against politicians who deployed hate speech in the 2015 general elections with a view to prosecuting the accused persons and involving them in a book of shame so as to become disincentive for politicians who practice hate speech.
It however maintained that hate speech catalyze into violence only if citizens indulge in it or provoke by it, and called on people not to indulge in hate speech or be provoked by it as the key principle for inoculating people against hate speech, and ultimately the most effective antidote to hate speech in the society.