The Alaafin of Oyo, Lamidi Adeyemi, on Thursday criticised the National Assembly over the re-introduction of the anti-hate speech bill by the Senate.
PREMIUM TIMES recalls that the bill, which seeks to regulate and punish people who make unguarded statements was recently re-introduced by a senator, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi.
The bill has been criticised by Nigerians as another attempt to curb freedom of expression.
The monarch while speaking at a book presentation, as part of activities marking the 70th anniversary of the Nigerian Tribune titles, insisted that anyone who doesn’t want to be criticised has no business in government.
The event was attended by former Chief of Army Staff, Theophilus Danjuma; foremost Afenifere leader, Reuben Fasoranti; legal luninary, Afe Babalola; former Governor of Ogun State, Gbenga Daniel; former Secretary to Oyo Government, Michael Koleosho; Group Managing Director of Odu’a Investment Company Limited, Adewale Raji and a host of others.
The monarch challenged lawyers and other professionals not to allow the bill to sail through, saying death penalty should not be the punishment for criticising the government.
“If I have not killed anyone; and I give an opinion that is contrary to the government’s, will it be a sufficient reason for me to be charged for death penalty? Where are the lawyers in Nigeria? Constitutional lawyers in Nigeria, where are they? Can’t they speak up?” he said.
He also said if a public official does not want to be criticised, he or she has no business in governsnce.
He also went down memory lane on the need to defend free speech and right to education as past Nigerian leaders fought for.
“My friend, Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe has a peculiar character and I wish he could continue to learn about the constitutional lesson from Chief Obafemi Awolowo in his reply to Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. We have quotation and quotations from this literate man.
“During the Constitutional conferences that held in the 50s at Lancaster House, three giants from the country postulated different approaches to the Nigerian Independence. Sir Ahmadu Bello said North is for Northerners; East for Easterners and West for the Westerners. Azikiwe said, there should be one Constitution, one Country, one destiny.
“Awolowo rose up and said No!. We are not talking about the Constitution that will be suitable for Nigeria. But what is suitable for Nigeria is when you have a multi lingual, multi national and multi religious country with diverse races. That before independence the whole school we had on ground was 123 for the whole of the North while the South had 5,000 schools. There is no way. That illiterate will continue to govern the literate people. It cannot work and it will not work.
“Awolowo projected what will be the question of North-east, North-central. That of you don’t educate the people, the Almanjiri will become bandits. Today, in Zamfara and Yobe, the governments are now subjected to banditry. And they are exchanging these bandits, giving them money. How can government give bandits money? That is a collapse of governance and government.”
He harped on the need for the government at all levels to educate the citizenry to curb the insecurity ravaging parts of the country.
The monarch also commented on the insurgency in the North-east.
“Just three days ago, Governor Ganduje said that Kano has the largest number of out of school children. How can we have stability in the country when half of the country are governed by illiterates? When banditry has taken over the governance? Surely there cannot be peace in the country. And tell me, Editors are here. When you said you have technically defeated Boko Haram, what is the technicality in defeat?
“Either we agree we have not been able to subdue them and admit it. Now, they are quoting United Nations figures for us. And our government is telling them we are not under America or UK but we are going there to loan money from them…”