The volume of especially online hate speeches by followers of the All Progressives Congress, (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) could undermine the peaceful conduct of the election, hate speech monitors have said. The Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), one of such monitors, is saying it has already tracked four hundred and twenty such utterances from different social media platforms-Facebook, Twitter, blogspots and websites of conventional and online newspapers.
Raising the alarm at a news conference at the Matho Crystal Hotel, Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital Wednesday, Mallam Hamza Ibrahim who coordinates the NGO’s observatory said there were every reason for the concern in the countdown to gubernatorial elections in Bayelsa State of Nigeria, starting with the speech category involved and which is as follows:
- Access to resources———————————————–97 (23%)
- Biafra-agitation related——————————————-16 (4%)
- Election-related—————————————————-64 (15%)
- Ethnic-based——————————————————-85 (20%)
- Issues of attention————————————————-40 (10%)
- Gendered hate speech——————————————–88 (21%)
- Religious hate speech——————————————–18 (4%)
- Others————————————————————–12 (3%)
Mallam Hamza argued that use of pictures of animals and derogatory symbols are continuously becoming common amongst members of different political parties particularly on social media platforms. “The volume of hate speech we are seeing as the election approaches is frightening and even more frightening is the fact that some influential voices are also involved in making hateful remarks/comments”, he said.
CITAD is particularly cautioning influential voices in the light of the need to avert the sort of post election violence that have occurred in African countries such as Rwanda and Kenya. It does not see why the election should be a “do or die” affair. While granting the right of numerous functional groups and the perfect acceptability of pages on Facebook bearing names and logos of PDP and APC as well as the individual candidates, it frowns at what it calls the disturbing content the medium allow in the canvassers to sell.
The NGO specifically appeals to the APC and PDP in Bayelsa State to sanitize their political statements/comments in verbal, written or any illustrative form; wants the managers of especially Facebook groups and pages of the APC and PDP in the state to study and ensure content they publish are not hateful or inciting; wants the gubernatorial candidates of the two main parties to take audit of the pages and groups that appear in their names on Facebook any volatile ones; appealing to all social media users in the state to desist from sharing hateful or inciting content.
It is equally urging the entirety of the people of Bayelsa State to shun acts that could jeopardize the conduct of the gubernatorial election scheduled for November 16th, 2019; calls on administrators of various page and groups on Facebook to critically read and ensure content are not hateful, inflammatory or inciting before posting them and, finally, would like religious and traditional leaders in the state to join it in cautioning politicians against hate speech and any form electoral violence.
It is a generalised assumption that hateful speeches can undermine peaceful co-existence among Nigeria’s diverse communities and threatens the political stability of the country. Consequently, NGOs such as the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) are focusing on implementing Countering Hate Speech Project in Nigeria with support from National Democratic Institute (NDI).