Your Excellency, President Goodluck Ebele Azikwe Jonathan GCFR, I Salute you Sir. I hope you will take this article as a mere expression of what I feel about a pressing issue and not just another social media critic. I come to you as an independent Nigerian and a political blogger with great passion for the development and progress of the our dear GREEN-WHITE-GREEN nation. I am writing this article in a way it would seem an eye to eye chat with you. For once, let us relate in abstract without being too serious or throwing tantrums.
Sir, as the year gradually winds down with the new year around the corner, one naturally would expect to hear cheering news of projects and policies, not condemnable government sponsored bills.
According to a Daily Trust Publication on the 4th of December, 2013, the Nigerian Senate was said to have reached an advanced stage to pass a bill that seeks a seven-year jail term or N5million fine for social media critics found guilty of inciting the public against the government. In the last couple of days, this has become a major topic of discussion which responses you might not get to hear due to your busy schedule. Though a second thought cropped up at the possibility that Your Excellency choose to ignore the comments, as you and the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, get busy on mapping out strategies to defeat the All Progressives Congress, APC, at the 2015 general elections.
Considering that we now have Freedom of Information, FOI, it would be most unfortunate if this outrageous bill is passed. As a leader of a country that claims its people enjoy liberty and rights, do you think it is appropriate for the legislature to enact a law that would gag social commentators? As public office holders, do you all realise that tenure of offices will end someday? What if you become aggrieved during future administrations.
Section 13 subsection 3 of the bill proposes that: “Anyone who intentionally propagates false information that could threaten the security of the country or that is capable of inciting the general public against the government through electronic message shall be guilty of an offense and upon conviction shall be sentenced to seven years imprisonment or N5 million (fine)”. While the above statement is explicit, I beg to throw light to its layest meaning. The bill is indeed proposing that any Nigerian who gets frustrated by state of the economy, corruption, election rigging, insecurity, etc., be handcuffed!
I wonder if the bill means that the next time Aunty Stella Oduah decides to use our money to buy bulletproof head tie, we should remain silent forever because of the fear of being locked up in Kirikiri or get our N5million ready. I also wjy you are yet to reach a verdict on Madam’s contoversia N255milion cars till now; why the delay? Any reason for this? Or are we about to drop the case and sweep it under the carpet like other day light political robberies?
Sir, why have you not deem it fit to sponsor a bill that would ensure that both former and serving corrupt public office get 15 years minimum jail term? How come nothing has been said about indicted corrupt government officials? Why so much energy on a bill that seeks to put us behind bars for expressing our opinion? In his reaction, when I asked his take on the draconian bill, Chief Dele Momodu said he will not “lose sleep over such Narcolepsy”. On checking the dictionary, what I found was not so good. You may check too Sir.
However, the question at this point is: Can you or the government really afford do away with social media platforms? It is a rhetoric but the answer I bet is glaring enough. Soon, campaigns for the 2015 elections would kick off and many candidates including yourself, if you decide to run, finds the platforms vital channels to interact with millions of the people. Is it not ironical that you spur us on to salute and proclaim your achievements, but the moment we lament or complain with bitterness over misgivings in our country that need urgent attention, we are sent to the guillton for 7 years in prison or forced to cough out.
Obviously, the Social Media is the sole target of this Bill as it appears the print and broadcast media are non-targets. Do we then conclude that those outfits can be bought with dirty money. If otherwise, what is the rationale for leaving them out?
Sir, this bill as crafted, is nothing but willful suppression of critical thinking, constructive criticism, participation of the citizens in the decisions that affect their lives and an attempt to create a Nigeria peopled by Mumus. It therefore, must be thrown to the dustbin of history as an anti-people bill.
Finally, if it becomes law, do you think the social commentators will go hide in a hole just like that. We sure will not keep quite when things go wrong because we all have a stake it the Federal Republic odf Nigeria. As bloggers and other critics, it is better for us to discuss and critcise openly rather than do so anonymously. In the words of the US Supreme Court, “anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority.”
I hope you will reconsider your stand of this clearly executive-sponsored bill. Whereas the people get frustrated daily on happenings in the nation, the last thing a responsible government should do is plot to deny them freedom of expression in a country the fought hard to keep as one. We will not keep quite; the messenger may die, the message lives on.
Twitter Handle: @ayobamiladipo