If President Muhammadu Buhari is thinking that only fellow politicians are shuddering at the implications of his comments on ballot box snatching, he had better think twice. The anti-hate speech campaigners in Nigeria are no less up in arms against a declaration they perceive to be dangerous as the comments only suggests the penalty without clearly stating the agency or body responsible for executing the punishment. The Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) which has been at the forefront of the campaign against hate speech has issued a statement stating concern with “life costing” threat which it fears could also be abused as to spark violence in itself.
“The danger we foresee in the comments is that some people may engage in violent acts against other people on the basis of ballot box snatching”, said CITAD in a February 19th, 2019 statement by Hamza Ibrahim, its Coordinator, Curbing Hate and Dangerous Speech Project.
While strongly condemning ballot box snatching and any acts capable of disrupting or jeopardizing the conduct of credible elections, CITAD is not sure the president needed to go outside the provisions of electoral laws to deal with ballot box snatching, arguing that decreeing death as punishment is absolutely wrong.
Coming from one of the most organised anti-hate speech campaigners in Nigeria, the position of CITAD strongly points to one of President Buhari’s problems with governing Nigeria. It is that his language of disapproval for whatever he frowns at always comes in a manner that horrifies modernists. Ballot snatching is repugnant to electoral democracy but so also is the president’s approval for instant death for potential ballot snatchers. Instant death save in extremely grave situations is not only strange to the pastoral dimension of state power, it also conflicts with the principle of all suspects being seen as innocent until proved guilty.
It raises the question of whether the president shares his thoughts with anyone at all before he steps out to public functions. Or, is it possible that, being much older and being a General, no aides can say to him, “Sir, you cannot say that thing that way without it becoming a problem immediately oh”
That way, the content of the video clip below might have been avoided: