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Was Buhari a Pepertrator of Hate Speech Prior to Presidency?

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Sahara Reporters claimed that some of President Muhammadu Buhari’s comments prior to presidency can be deemed as hate speech. 

Consequent on the broad umbrella of the hate speech bill, we deem this claim as TRUE. Findings reveal inciting comments by the retired General Buhari mid-2012; and although the particular comment cited was metaphorical, it passes the criteria used in the bill- inciting and threatening

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A recent opinion feature by SaharaReporters gave its two cents on the Hate Crime Bill. The publication accompanied a supplementary tweet which has already amassed 1,281 retweets and 2,104 likes. 

It has been a battle of words in the media space since the re-introduction of the hate speech bill by the National Assembly. Said bill apparently imposes the death penalty on hate speech offenders. This bill has elicited mixed reactions from several people. Among them, was Senator Sani who believes the bill promotes tyranny and is a threat to freedom of speech. Femi Falana SAN explained that the National Assembly has no power to make such law as Hate Speech is neither on the Exclusive Legislative List nor the Concurrent Legislative List. And well, Sahara reporters joined the conversation with their opinion piece.

The premise

The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill was sponsored by the deputy chief whip, Aliyu Abdullahi. The proposed commission is expected to enforce hate speech laws in the country and ensure the “elimination” of hate speech.

A report by Premium Times gave an insight into what the bill is all about. The bill was premised on ethnic or racial prejudice and harassment; earning a punishment of not less than N10 million fine and/or five-year jail time. Direct “hate speech” was not the only medium of distribution; but also included other literary materials such as publications or plays.


Dubawa’s findings revealed that there were so many reports- at different times- about President Buhari’s “hate” speeches. These occurred during his failed attempts to become Nigeria’s president- as far back as 2012

A Vanguard report quoted Buhari, the then Presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) using a not so subtle metaphor- albeit in Hausa. This was after he had identified “three types of Boko Haram” in the country, with the Federal Government topping the list.

“They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way. If what happened in 2011 (alleged rigging) should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood”

General Muhammadu Buhari (retired)

But was it “hate speech”?

Excerpt from the Bill

A succinct detail to note is the vagueness of the bill. It envelopes speech that stirs up ethnic hatred or is threatening, abusive or insulting. That is a whole lot of grey area, and several forms of media fall under it. Even propaganda- such as the likes of Buhari in 2012- can consequently be seen as hate speech; as it certainly was inciting and connoted violence. 

While we usually do not fact-check opinions, the exception made was predicated on the nature and importance of the assertion.

Ebere Agozie is a Senior Correspondent with the News Agency of Nigeria(NAN) with a staff strength of about 880, Joined in 2014 as a correspondent. Currently covering Agriculture and Environment beats from the headquarters of the Agency in Abuja. She had covered other beats including Culture and Entertainment, and Science and Technology, with reportage on different themes. Her works were aired on multiple networks through the NAN platform. She is also the winner of the 2018 COORDINATOR'S OPEN FORUM FOR AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY(OFAB) MEDIA AWARD FOR BEST PRINT REPORTER". Prior to joining NAN, she was the Operations Manager, AULIC Nigeria Limited, the concessionaire of the Lagos International Trade Fair Complex - 2012; Head, Public Relations and Corporate Affairs, Aulic Nigeria Limited from 2009 to 2012. She rose from the position of the Public Relations Officer to Head of Public Affairs at FABER Expressions, a Radio/Television Production firm – 2000-2009. She is a graduate of Mass Communications from the Institute of Management and Technology(IMT), Enugu, (HND) -1998. And holds a Master of Business Administration(MBA) from the Lagos State University (LASU) - 2007.

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