Hate Speech as agent provocateur and precursor to insecurity in Nigeria

Challenges to the rule of law

Term Paper, 2017

21 Pages, Grade: 1


Table of Contents


Literature review



Cases of hate speeches and their effects





Hate speech is an agent provocateur and precursor to insecurity any where in the world. The recent interest of the Federal government of Nigeria to criminalize hate speech in Nigeria seem to be inappropriate for many Nigerians and it shows the level of unawareness of a number of people. Those that understand the need to criminalize hate speech intentionally twisted and misinterpreted the good intentions of the government for selfish reasons. To political critics, the leadership of the country was sliding into dictatorship without considering the fact that the enectment of such a law will guide both the government and the governed.

In a multi-cultural country like Nigeria with different religions and diverse ethnic settings, inflammatory statements are very sensitive that if not contained, could lead to ethnic and religious clashes. Record has shown that hate speeches made by respected citizens have heated the polity and resulted in the loss of lives and properties. Though most religions preach peace and love persons, part of the same religion advocate distancing from those persons who do not practise the same religion. In order to keep this distance, hate speech could be an applicable element. Christians have been admonished in the Bible to love your neighbour as yourself[1] yet it is also written in the Bible that Christians should be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness [2]

On the other hand, Muslims are instructed in the Quran to ’ ...hold fast, all together, by the rope which Allah stretches out for you, and be not divided among yourselves’[3] It goes further to declare, "O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness."[4]

The height of a litany of hate speeches was leashed on Nigerians by prominent persons who heated the polity between 2011 and 2015 before and during the elections for their self-serving ambitions. The media was equally counter productive as they quickly published such speeches. In other cases, they quoted the hate speeches published by other news agencies in cases where they were not connected to the source of information.

It was contradictory when Femi Fani- Kayode former Nigerian Aviation Minister who became a national critic against the government of President Buhari, wrote that when Nigerians referred to former President Jonathan Goodluck as "incompetent", "weak", "gutless" and "clueless" Nigerians did not realize that it was hate speech. According to him, it has become hate speech to insult the current President Buhari. Such misinterpretation of the definition of hate speech was clearly directed at fanning the embers of fiendish divisiveness and calculated to make people see things from a wrong point of view. This was as a result of the fact that the former Aviation Minister was facing corruption charges under the government of President Buhari. Additionally, he was also bitter because his principal, Jonathan Goodluck who was the opposition Presidential candidate lost the elections to President Buhari.

Nigeria has been operating without specified laws to specifically check hate speeches despite the fact that such a law has existed as a part of international law for decades.

It has been observed that most of the hate speeches in Nigeria were made by prominent persons in the society who desire to use their respected positions to sway the people and manipulate their thought pattern. Some of such speeches go beyond hate speech to treasonable utterances.

Hate speech is different from freedom of expression as enshrined in articles 22 and 39 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), in the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) or in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights (Cap. 10, LFN, 1990)

Such public speeches as related to discrimination, threats, violence, spread by written, audio, video, media, banners or slogans whether used in politics, cultural, sporting events or forms of manifestations fall into the category of hate speech.

The limit of freedom of expression was crossed in 2005 when cartoons of Mohammed was published in the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. Muslims all over the world were infuriated and they reacted violently when it was further re-published in Norway, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France. ’Syrians sacked and burnt the Danish and Norwegian embassies. Protests in Afghanistan and Somalia claimed several lives’[5] Though democracy thrives when a vibrant political opposition constructively checks a ruling government for ineptitude, such criticism is different from casting aspersion or insults on a person under the guise of being a 'vibrant' opposition.

Hate speech is that despicable hate song from an unknown female artiste from the northern part of Nigeria to disparage the Igbos of the east and incite genocide against them; it is the statement by the Oduduwa group of western Nigeria which gave ultimatum that citizens of Nigeria who are originally from the northern part of the country should leave the west. Hate speech is embeded in the ultimatum that Nigerians from the Igbo-speaking tribe should leave the northern part of Nigeria by 1 October 2017. Hate speech is when Nnamdi Kanu of eastern Nigeria who tried to lead his people to seccede from Nigeria referred to Nigeria as a zoo and that the rest of Nigerians who are not originally from the South east are animals. Hate speech is when you refer to all Yorubas as ritualists because a Yoruba ritualist was arrested. It is referring to all persons from the Igbo tribe as drug trafickers because one of them was arrested with drugs; or when you refer to the Urhobo-speaking tribe as ’Urhobo wayo’ which means that the Urhobos are tricksters! Hate speech instigates and incites people to destabilize a village, city, state and country. Negative speech is different from hate speech if it does not incite.

The Office of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination[6] noted that hate speech includes:

(a) all dissemination of ideas based on racial or ethnic superiority or hatred, by whatever means;
(b) incitement to hatred, contempt or discrimination against members of a group on grounds of their race, colour, descent, or national or ethnic origin;
(c) threats or incitement to violence against persons or groups on the grounds in (b) above;
(d) expression of insults, ridicule or slander of persons or groups or justification of hatred, contempt or discrimination on the grounds in (b) above, when it clearly amounts to incitement to hatred or discrimination;
(e) participation in organizations and activities which promote and incite racial discrimination

Though the government of the federal republic of Nigeria has taken a step towards enacting a law to check hate speech, the casualties of hate speech has been recorded in Nigeria when the speeches of Nnamdi Kanu led to a failed secession attempt which resulted in the loss of human lives, arson, and huge threat to national insecurity between 2014 and 2017.

Hypothesis: When rights are absolute, respect for human dignity diminishes. There is a need to uphold human dignity by restricting the rights of others below the line of hate speech if conflicts and intimidations must be prevented.

Hate is quicker to express through verbal, written and electronic transmission. However, the human voice is one of the strongest medium and could be independently used without restrain especially in an age when technology offers the opportunity for mass and intantanoeus transportation of information materials.

The impact of hate speech is susceptable to diverse standards of measurements as a result of its effects both on the instant or cumulative, short or long run.

Literature review

Hate speech has been defined as that speech which attacks, threatens, or insults a person or group on the basis of national origin, ethnicity, color, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or disability[7] it has also been simply defined by Kayambazinthu & Moyo as wars waged on others by means of word [8] Though they did not eleborate on the nature of the ’war’, it is easy to imagine that it is that heated slur or argument of calumny couched in hate - as there is no good war.

Though no law in the Nigerian constitution categorically mentioned hate speech, there are related laws which checks hate speech. Offences which are of criminal defamation, criminal intimidation, published statements, rumours, false publications and statements that incites breach of peace are embeded in the criminal code within sections 59-60, 373-381 and sections 391-40, 417-418 of the Penal Code in such a way that they attract penalties such as fine or imprisonment. Section 95 of the amended Electoral Act 2010 ban political campaign slogans with abusive, slanderous language or innuendoes and insinuations. When we do not react against individuals or groups who use words of hate as if they are normal, it becomes dangerous for society. Allport posits that As soon as we allow, however, for a ’range of tolerable behavior’ we are moving toward a more individualistic point of view [9] Such point of views are may be detrimental to society and dehumanizing to individuals.

However, when the sponsors of hate speech are challenged and made to face the wrath of the law, its spread is arrested. Allport goes further to state that Hostility towards out-groups helps strengthen our sense of belonging, but it is not required.[10] Most religions preach peace and cordial communication amongst persons. Just like some parts of the Quran, Biblical injunctions also contain some of the oldest injunctions against hate speech which warns that ’You shall not curse a deafman, nor place a stumbling block before the blind’ [11]

Eric Heinze states that the bans are necessary because hate speech is commonly connected to hate-based acts of murder, battery, rape, assault, and property theft or damage[12]

In the situation mentioned by Heinze, there is need to punish hate which is the root cause of the mentioned crimes in order to avoid escalations.

From the above positions, arguments for the recognition and punishment for hate speech is stronger than otherwise. This makes it imperative to embark on this discourse in order to x-ray the malaise, its attendant impact and legal redress. ’You shall not hate your fellow countryman…’[13] ’Mockers stir up a city, but the wise turn away anger’ [14] However, not everyone observes religion as a way of life. Atheists and other persons practising any form of religion may choose to act independently irrespective of what is proper.
Though some persons have argued that laws banning hate speech is an attack against those that speak democratically against poor implementation of social infrastructures by government, there is a limit to freedom of speech. In awareness of this desirable limit, four internet and social media giants- Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Google jointly agreed on 31 May 2016 to abide by the European Union code of conduct obligating them to review "[the] majority of valid notifications for removal of illegal hate speech"[15] posted on their platforms within 24 hours.


Many Nigerians seem not to be fully aware of the real meaning, implication and their rights to seek redress whenever they find themselves verbally attacked with the prejudices that comes with hate speech which is loaded with intentions to seclude and dehumanize. A country and its citizens must respect the rule of law in order to enhance mutual co-existence.

When hate speech is historicized in Nigeria, it shows the role that it has played in catapulting religious, cultural, political and economic differences to a level where uncertainties and tensions are brought to bear. Hitherto, hate speech was not entrenched in the Nigerian constitution until its effects began to threaten the peaceful co-existence of the country especially under the government of President Buhari.

This paper sets out to examine in details, how various persons have used hate sheech to achieve their selfish purposes at the detriment of national interest. It will analyse the intentions of such persons and profer solutions to ameliorate its divisive effects. It will go further to examine various ways through which citizens could easily seek cushioned redress.


I wish to examine some hate speeches made by prominent Nigerians with a view to finding their motives and the impact of such speeches. I will measure the aim and consequences of their hate speeches in order to find out the level of impact through discourse and their content anylysis.

I equally set out to also search for other hate speeches made by persons who are not prominent, with a view to analysing the consequences of such speeches. These shall be collected from various authentic news sources over the internet. In order to verify the authenticity of such speeches, I will find out how many news outlets published the same speeches and to find out the response or denial of the speaker after the publication of their statements. The internet will be relied upon in retrieving such speeches because they are usually published in newspapers, audio and other video sources.

From the hate speeches made, I wish to find out the political, ethnic, economic and social background of the speakers. This will form the indicators of the objectives of the speaker.

More elaboration will be given to the hate speeches of Nnamdi Kanu and the aftermath of his speeches because of its evolving multiplier implications and the innocent lives it claimed.

Recommendations will be made by assessing the causes, processes and reaction of the society towards hate speeches

Cases of hate speeches and their effects

Hate speech is when Femi Fani-Kayode, FFK said that „ The Igbos are collectively unlettered, uncouth, uncultured, unrestrained and crude in all their ways…Money and the acquisition of wealth is their sole objective and purpose in life.[16]

FFK was the Special Assistant on Public Affairs to former President of Nigeria, Olusegun Matthew Obasanjo between July 2003 and June 2006. He later became the Minister of Culture and Tourism from 22 June to 7 November 2006. His position was changed when he was appointed as the Minister of Aviation between November 7, 2006 to May 29, 2007. He later became an fervent critic and fire-brand opposition activist against President Buhari who defeated his principal Jonathan Goodluck at the Presidential election of 2015. The criticisms of FFK heightened when he was charged with fraud. He has been an unstable politician who spoke for personal interest depending on the period. For example, when he changed membership from the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP to the Action Peoples Congress APC, he chastized his former party and the leadership of the party on many occasions. He later went back to join the PDP and he turned to refer to the APC as a political party suffering from ’ineptitude and incompetence”.[17] The tone of his quoted hate speech against the Igbo was changed in 2017 when he saw that an Igbo man in the person of Nnamdi Kanu was challenging the government of Buhari which he was already criticized. FFK found a comerade-in-criticism and he quickly pitched tent with Kanu and the Igbos to attack President Buhari and his government in any way deemed possible no matter the credibility of their actions. It is therefore glaring that FFK criticized an opponent only with the aim of satisfying his personal ambition. Whatever his aims are, he has the mastery of words and writes many articles to further his goals which he uses in inciting the people against themselves. He went further to advocate for the break up of Nigeria and called for the Oduduwa Republic to secede from Nigeria. The question on people’s lips was why he did not say things like this when he enjoyed the benefits of office when he occupied juicy positions at the national level. His recent utterance was „ It is a call for separation and call to exercise the right to leave the federation…but without restructuring, this country will breakif we do not have region restructuring, let us prepare for Oduduwa Republic” [18]

The above analysis shows that FFK would prefer a break up of Nigeria if he does not get what he wants and his consistent ways of doing this is by using the divisive tools of hate speeches. Hate speech was when retired Colonel Ahmadu Ali said that „… Yorubas are ungrateful kind of people, who do not appreciate what others have done or them” [19]

To denigrate a tribe by collectively describing them as such is to stigmatize them in the eyes of the rest of the world. A description like this puts the Yoruba at risk whenever they find themselves in a place where decisions concerning their integrity and trust worthiness is brought to bear. Ironically, Ali held political positions under a Yoruba President Olusegun Obasanjo. It becomes even more significant because Ali is a prominent Nigerian with the national award of ’Commander of the Order of the Niger.’ He is from Kogi State which is in the middle belt of the Nigeria. Ali has held various respectable positions such as the first Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps, Minister of Education and Chairman of the PDP National Working Committee.

The Yorubas replied him through their Afenifere forum thus: „it is crystal clear that Ali lacks lessons to teach the Yoruba in the art of gratitude and his uncouth remark only portrays him as ill-mannered and foul-mouthed.”[20] Ali’s hate speech and the attendant reply set the tone for further ethnic acrimony.

Hate speech is contained in the statements of Ima Sadiq an Islamic cleric, when he wrote before the 2015 elections that ’Muslims, vote for Buhari. It is a sin to support a non-Muslim ’.[21] This religious personality used his respected position to intimidate his followers by teaching them that islam could be an effective tool in fighting other religions on the platform of politics.

Another form of hate speech was exemplified by Oba Rilwan Akiolu of Lagos; a highly reverred traditional ruler who made a scathing statement during the 2015 Governorship election in Lagos State against the Igbos that reside in the State. He compulsorily warned everyone residing in Lagos State including the Igbos, that they must vote for his Governorship candidate Akinwumi Ambode. He spoke thus to a gathering of Igbos in his palace: “… if anyone of you goes against Ambode, who I picked, that is your end. If it doesn’t happen within seven days, just know that I am a bastard and it is not my father who gave birth to me… The future belongs to God. I am not begging anybody, but what you people cannot do in Onitsha, Aba or anywhere, don’t do it here. If you do what I want, Lagos will continue to be prosperous for you. If you go against my wish, you will perish in the water.”[22]
Though Ambode won the Governorship election, the intimidating words that came from the respected ruler was indelible in the hearts of many. Akiolu is a trained lawyer who joined the Nigerian Police Force where he rose to the position of Assistant Inspector General of Police before he was coronated to the exalted Obaship position in 2003. His utterance cast aspersion on the Igbo people of Nigeria as he threatened them with a scary spiritual language while at the same time drawing a line of difference between different tribes and their geopolitical settings.


[1] Matthew chaper 22 verse 29

[2] 2 Corintians chapter 6 verse 14

[3] Surah 3:103

[4] Quran (9:123)

[5] BBC NEWS | South Asia | Muslim cartoon fury claims livesnews.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/4684652.stmFeb 6, 2006

[6] United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (2013) General recommendation on combating racist hate speech”, CERD/C/GC/35.

[7] hate speech. (n.d.) Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition. Retrieved September 20, 2017from Dictionary.com website http://www.dictionary.com/browse/hate-speech

[8] Kayambazinthu, E. & Moyo, F (2002). Hate speech in the new Malawi, in H. Englund (ed.) A democracy of chameleons: politics and culture in the new Malawi. Stockholm: Elanders Gotab.

[9] Allport, W. G, The nature of Prejudice, (1954). Massachusetts: addisson-wesley publishing company.

[10] ibid.

[11] Leveticus 19:14

[12] Eric Heinze, (2014) Nineteen arguments for hate speech bans – and against them. http://freespeechdebate.com/discuss/nineteen-arguments-for-hate-speech-bans-and-against-them Retrieved 20 September 2017

[13] Leveticus 19:17

[14] Proverbs 29:8

[15] Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Microsoft sign EU hate speech code. https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/may/31/facebook-youtube-twitter-microsoft-eu-hate-speech-code 31 May 2016. Retrieved 22 August 2017

[16] I am not a tribalist, says Femi Fani-Kayode.http:vanguardngr.com/2013/08/i-am-not-a tribalist-says-femi-fani-kayode/ 14 August 2013. Retrieved 22 August 2017

[17] May God forgive your ineptitude, incompetence, Fani-Kayode prays for APC https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/08/may-god-forgive. August 14, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2017.

[18] Video: Fani-Kayode says let us prepare for Oduduwa Republic. https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/09/video-Fani-Kayode-advocates-break-up-nigeria September 8, 2017. Retrieved September 21, 2017

[19] Interview: Yorubas Are Totally Ungrateful People- Ahmadu Ali. Pointblank news, 16 March. Retrieved September 21, 2017

[20] Afenifere Blasts Ahmadu Ali For Denigrating Yorubas… http://saharareporters.com/2013/03/18/afenifere-blasts-ahmadu-ali MARch 18, 2013. Retrieved September 21, 2017

[21] Twitter handle, Saturday, 27th December, 2014

[22] Anyone that does not vote Ambode will be thrown into lagoon – Oba of Lagos warns Igbos. http://dailypost.ng/2015/04/06/anyone-that-does-not-vote-ambode 6 April 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2017

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Hate Speech as agent provocateur and precursor to insecurity in Nigeria
Challenges to the rule of law
Doctoral School of Military Science
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Frederick Omoyoma Odorige (Author), 2017, Hate Speech as agent provocateur and precursor to insecurity in Nigeria, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/377632


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