Hate is unacceptable in any society intent on progress. Especially multi-ethnic societies like many countries in Africa where former ethnic biases have lead to the deaths of millions of people. The Rwandan genocide is barely 24 years old, it was sparked off by hate fueled violence, same as the 2017 xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other Nationals in South Africa. Hate speech has been criminalized in every society because its ability to incite violence is unrivaled. Nigeria has first-hand experience of how hate speech can snowball into hate crimes and civil wars, we are still working through the aftershocks of the Biafran War and some people are speaking up.
One of them is Ochereome Nnanna the Editorial Board Chairman of Vanguard Newspapers. Last week, a Facebook user made a post about the June 12 declaration by President Muhammadu Buhari. In it he said;
“I use to think the South-West was very sophisticated, I was wrong. They are the most gullible. They fall for every poisoned carrot dangled at them”
Ochereome Nnanna replied to this with: “Sophisticated morons more like”.
Nnanna’s reply immediately set social media on fire as a barrage of criticisms were hauled at him and the Vanguard brand which he represents.
Few hours later, Vanguard released a terse statement where it dissociated itself from the unfortunate hate comment by its Chairman, informing the public that it does not represents the views of Vanguard. Nnanna also tendered an apology, but his attitude revealed his apology as a subtle way of repeating his earlier stand. The disappointing part of this saga is the continued stay of Ochereome Nnanna in office. Findings shows he has always made hate laden speech against officials of the federal government by attacking their ethnicity and using ethnic stereotypes to back up his hate speech.
In a daring reply to those calling for his resignation, he insisted he won’t resign his position as he has done absolutely nothing wrong. The actions of Nnanna and Vanguard Newspapers by extension has shown that just like our politicians, our private organizations do not hold their employees to a higher standard of excellence and civility. The statement by Ochereome Nnanna would have received condemnation and further demands for resignation by people like Nnanna if it was made by a politician but he has failed to tow the path of honor while his employers too have given him a protective shield.
This has set a bad precedence for future offenders. Hate speech is inimical to the continued unity of Nigeria, we should guard against it.