The Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal, on Thursday, described the hate speech bill before the senate as draconian and an attempt to turn the country’s democracy to dictatorship.
The governor, however, asked the media in Nigeria to sustain opposition to the bill and save democracy from being threatened by such laws.
Also, a former governor of Ogun State, Chief Olusegun Osoba, tasked the media to struggle and fight against the hate speech bill.
Tambuwal said this at the opening of the 15th All Nigeria Guild of Editors’ Conference (ANEC) in Sokoto with the theme: “A Distressed Media: Impact on Government, Governance and Society.”
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that the governor urged the media to remain vigilant, educate and mobilise Nigerians to defend the country’s hard earn democracy.
According to the governor, the media need to shock Nigerians in the anti-hate speech bill that prescribed death penalty for offenders.
Tambuwal said: “There are enough provisions in our laws to deal with people whose actions can undermine national unity and cohesion. Such draconian legislation has no place in the constitution and democracy like ours.
“The media must therefore remain vigilant, you have a responsibility to educate, mobilise Nigerians to defend this hard earn democracy.
“We cannot operate democracy like a military dictatorship, the storms are gathering and we must join hands to checkmate anti-democratic elements and return our country to the path of constitutionalism, progress and development.”
Speaking further, the governor noted that the theme of the conference was apt as it came at a time when Nigeria is struggling to regain its economy balance.
“We face the challenges of dwindling resources, government at all levels are struggling to provide essential services.
“This has restated search for creative and innovative ways to boost Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) in order to keep afloat.
“The media is also feeling the heat of the harsh economic environment. It’s a testament for the firm resilient and creativity of Nigeria media that remains vibrant despite the huge financial challenges it is facing.
“I urge you not to despair, keep the faith and remain unbound, the difficult time would give way to a better time, to a better room for a prosperous future,” said the governor.
He added that the conference has come at a better time when Nigeria is striving to find lasting solutions to some of the problems militating against its political, social and economic development.
“Nigeria faces serious challenges of insecurity, matters of conflicts have been holding many communities hostage. However, the good news is that the Federal and State governments are doing their best to address the ugly situation.
“Seemingly injectable nature of the conflict has increased sophistication of kidnappers and bandits may however require overhaul of security architecture of the country,” he said.
Tambuwal also urged the delegates to feel free to move around and see the historical sight that would capture their imaginations.
However, Osoba, who the chairman of the occasion, appealed to the NGE to struggle and fight against the hate speech bill.
He said: “The social media are not part of us, so I don’t know why somebody wants to punish us for what we have not committed.
“In our constitution, there are enough provisions for us to go to court. Therefore, we should continue to fight this out and by the grace of God we will succeed.”
The acting president of Nigerian Guild of Editors, Mr Mustapha Isah, said the organisation was not in support of fakes and hate speech, saying “the Nigerian Guild of Editors is not in support and will never support fake news and hate speech.
”Our members are trained professionally. It is true that the social media space, like any other ecoystem, is being abused by some people.”
Isah also advised the government to work with critical stakeholders in the media industry to address the challenges relating to fake news and hate speech.
He said the guild choosed the 2019 theme of the conference, “A Distressed Media: Impact on Government, Governance and Society,” with a view to focusing on the media as a business.
Isah added that the theme was also meant ”to focus on Nigeria and the sustenance of our democracy because, without a robust media, democracy suffers.”
He said the current economic challenges had affected the business of journalism, warning that practitioners must survive first to perform their constitutional responsibility of holding government accountable to the people.
“The constitution gives the media an enormous responsibility of holding governments accountable to the people without providing for us the economic and the constitutional protection to do our duty.
”The media is passing through a tough phase. We are going to survive and we must survive. We will find solutions to our problems,” he said.
According to him, the Nigerian media has a rich history, having been in the forefront in the fight against colonialism and the struggle for democracy.