Arewa Consultative Forum, has cautioned politicians against the use of hate speech and thuggery against opponents ahead of the 2023 general election.
According to the ACF, the use of hate speech, threats, as well as thuggery, is a recipe for violence in the country, warning politicians to halt their usage of vulgar language and violence for the purpose of electioneering.
The group’s Secretary-General, Mallam Murtala Aliyu, made its position known in a statement released to journalists in Kaduna on Sunday.
The statement titled, ‘Hate speech and violence will be our death,’ also noted with concern the use of thugs by politicians against political opponents, urging the Independent National Electoral Commission to act by imposing the “harshest” punishment on politicians that indulge in such acts.
The ACF said hate speech, for whatever reason, covered many forms of expression, but they all incite, promote, or justify hatred, violence, and discrimination against an individual or group of people.
Moreover, the northern group declared that hate speech, threats, and other violent acts pose “a grave danger to the unity and stability of a democratic society, protection of human rights and the rule of law,” adding that if left “unchecked, it can lead to acts of violence and conflict on a grand scale.”
However, the Forum expressed relief owing to the apology of Benue State Governor, Samuel Ortom, over his “hostile” comment on the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, which, according to it, generated tension in the land.
The statement partly read, “Although Nigeria is already facing severe life-threatening challenges arising from lack of security and 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.
“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 everywhere.
“Of much greater concern, however, is the resort to hate speech, insults and threats of violence being issued by 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.
“Hate speech, for whatever reason, covers many forms of expression but all incite, promote or justify hatred, violence and discrimination against an individual or group of people.
“It poses a 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.”
It added, “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, prescribes heavy punishment for infractions such as this.
“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.
“(The) Arewa Consultative Forum, therefore, calls on leaders at whatever level to exercise restrain in their utterances to enable us have a peaceful election and transition to the next governments.”