By; KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
Worried by the heated polity following electioneering campaign activities ahead of the 2023 general elections, the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) has tasked the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), to stringently enforce the Electoral Act to stem hate speech.
This was contained in a statement signed by the Secretary General Arewa Consultative Forum, Murtala Aliyu, made available to our correspondent on Sunday November 13, 2022.
“The fact that hate speeches and acts of violence and aggression are rife in this campaign season can only mean that the laws are not being enforced. This hasn’t come as a surprise considering the fact that the National Assembly has so far chosen not to enact the law that will see to the birth of the Electoral Offences Tribunal.
“In the meantime, INEC has a responsibility to act and enforce the Electoral Act as amended. It should impose the harshest punishment possible on politicians who think achieving their personal ambitions is more important than national peace and harmony. Such persons are unfit for any form of leadership at whatever level,” it said.
ACF said that although Nigeria is already facing severe life threatening challenges arising from lack of security and the growing economic crises, it would seem that there are many desperate political leaders and other self appointed community champions that will not hesitate to add more fuel to the fire.
“As shamefully, most are driven by blind ambition or plain hatred. No one can fail to notice the alarming rise of tension and lawlessness as the election campaigns and contests gather pace. There are reports that some politicians are engaging thugs and violent persons to attack their opponents, spreading terror and fear every where.
“Of much greater concern however is the resort to hate speech, insults and threats of violence being issued by the political leaders including by State Governors. They seem to be pathetically unaware that the distance between hate speeches and violence, even genocide, is a very short one,” it said.
ACF said that hate speech, for whatever, covers many forms of expression, but all incite, promote or justify hatred, violence and discrimination against an individual or group of people.
“It poses grave danger to the unity and stability of a democratic society, protection of human rights and the rule of law. Unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale.
“We have to say that we were relieved to hear of Governor Samuel Ortom’s apology following his outburst in this regard. The Governor’s hostile comments on Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the PDP, dominated discussion in the country for much of last week. The Electoral Act as amended and for good reasons, prescribed heavy punishment for infractions such as this,” the statement said.
The Arewa Consultative Forum therefore, called on leaders at whatever level to exercise restraint in their utterances to enable Nigeria have a peaceful election and transition to the next governments.