Hate speech: Death penalty is antithetical to development ― Methodist Archbishop

The Archbishop, Methodist Church Nigeria, Ibadan Archdiocese, Most Rev’d Muyiwa Odejayi, has warned both the Federal Government and the National Assembly that the bill currently before the National Assembly, recommending the death penalty for hate speech is ‘antithetical to development.’

The hate speech bill was sponsored by the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi, representing Niger North, and has already passed the first reading at the Senate.

Odejayi stated this in an interview with journalists in Ibadan, on Saturday ahead of the sixth annual harvest of Ibadan Diocese of the Methodist Church, that will hold Sunday at Agbeni Cathedral, Ibadan.

He described the “bill as a grand design, possibly to ensure people don’t react to issues that affect the nation.”

He further warned that the hate speech palaver is a distraction for this administration, and advised it to focus on programmes that will impact directly on the life of Nigerians.

According to him, “it is just like when you place an embargo on the press. There is an aspect, where you would expect the press people to dwell on, or make comments on; probably you are not expecting them to comment on almost everything.

“You don’t want people to react. You don’t want people to condemn. You want people to always be in support of whatever is being done in the country. If we do that, that may not be okay in our country. It is a way of silencing people. It is a way of saying that people cannot be making comments on almost everything.

“Though I am not talking on defamation of character, even when it comes to defamation of character, I think there are some ways by which we can approach this, rather than saying it must be death sentence.

“There are so many things happening in our country, which I believe the Federal Government must concentrate on doing. There are so many things that are still not going on well in the country, which the government should be able to improve upon, rather than trying to say something is defamation of character.

“But I think it is not only about the defamation of character, but they may also have some things, which probably they are hiding, which they would not want people to know. But I think it is really wrong. You cannot be killing people because they react to issues affecting the government.

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“If the government is not doing what it should be doing, I think the citizens of the country are expected to react on any issue affecting the country. If the economy is not too good, people are expected to react to it. If the security of the country is nothing to write home about, the people can react by saying it is not good enough. If the security of the country is not too good, how do you expect investors to come over to Nigeria and establish businesses? How would you be able to establish a business in an environment that is not peaceful?

“Some people may not agree with what I have said, but I just felt that in an egalitarian society, we have gone past this. Government should be able to do what is needful, things that people will be happy for, things that people will commend them on, things that will make people make remarkable comments, and they will be happy about it.

“If you go to other developed countries, they expect you to make comments. They feel making comments will b able to help them to know whether they are doing well or they are not doing well.

“I have observed that in our country when you make comments that they are not doing well, people don’t want it. What they want is if they are not doing well, just say they are doing well, and they will be okay with it.”

Odejayi noted further that though Nigeria is not in the military era, there are some things being done under the democratic setting that are synonymous to military era, saying: “I think one of them is the death penalty, which the government wants to introduce for hate speech

Fielding questions on the alleged travail of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and the sack of 35 among his aides for reduction of cost of governance, Odejayi stated: “We spend money on irrelevant things in Nigeria. If you want to reduce the cost of governance, it should not be those attached to the office of the vice president alone.

“I think there is more to the explanations being given by the presidency. If those people have done anything and you think it is inimical to the progress of the country, I think you should come out and explain to everybody, to let us know. But if you say it is about the reduction of cost of governance, it is surprising.

“What can we say about people in the House of Representatives and Senate? Do you know how much Nigeria spends on them? The most expensive democratic system in the world is the one being practised in Nigeria. Have we been able to address that? Why is that it is the office of the vice president that you have chosen to start reducing the cost of governance?”

It is quite unfortunate that the vice president himself is not helping matters. He is not making much response on some issues.

“Prof Osinbajo is somebody I respect so much because I know he is very intelligent. He has the ability and he has the capability, and something of that nature, you don’t know how to address it, even if you are going to address it diplomatically, I think he should, rather than keeping quiet.

“It is possible, maybe some people have told him that he should not make any comment. You know the politics in Nigeria, don’t make comment, once that is done, just forget about it. But for fear of what the Federal Government might do, he may not want to make any comment. If he (Osinbajo) is not ready to give any satisfactory explanation, he has no option then than to resign.”

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