Increase in Fake News Fine Unnecessary Says Onifade

In its bid to curb the spread of fake news and hate speech, the federal government in collaboration with the senate introduced what it called the hate speech bill, this bill according to the FG is to curtail the spread of fake news and hate speech as a result of the numerous news items flying on social media from different news platforms. This bill however received a lot of backlash and criticism from the media, the public and other stakeholders.

While the media saw it as a way of stiffening press freedom, the public also saw the bill as a way of gaggling the voice of the people and also kicked against the death penalty earlier attached to the bill. The bill is however pending with discussions ongoing around it and rights groups pulling strings to ensure the death of the bill.

However, it seems the Federal Government has not backed out of its acclaimed fight against fake news as it announced via the Minister of Information and Communication, Lai Mohammed, an increase in the fine for fake news from #500 thousand naira to #5 million naira at the unveiling ceremony of the revised National Broadcasting Code by the National Broadcasting Commission in Lagos, on Tuesday, August 4, 2020.

A prominent radio station in the country got fined as soon as the increase was introduced. According to the NBC, the station got fined for a statement made by a guest on its show implying that some Northern governors are sponsors of terrorism ravaging parts of the North which qualifies for hate speech. Meanwhile, there are still a lot of criticisms ongoing about the revised NBC Code and the need for some clauses contained in it to be reversed.

The questions then are why the sudden increase in the fine? What defines hate speech? Does the present administration abhor criticism? Speaking on the Liberating Nigeria online show, Debo Onifade, author of the book Liberating Nigeria: A Guide to Winning Elections and Reviving our Country stated that he believes the present administration runs an anti-criticism government. He said there was no need increasing the fine except if the aim is to gag the media and prevent media practitioners from talking for fear of a fine.

He said the harassment of the #RevolutionNow protesters also proves his belief. Recall that Revolution Now protesters were beaten and harassed by security agents across Nigeria in the different states the protest was held, Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina also went on National TV to describe the protest as a child’s play, he said “Well, was it really a protest? By my estimation, it just seemed like a child’s play because protests by their very nature are spontaneous things, mass things. These are just a sprinkle of people trying to be funny. As far as I am concerned, it is nothing to worry about.

“A revolution is always a mass thing, not a sprinkle of young boys and girls you saw yesterday in different parts of the country. I think it was just a funny thing to call it a revolution protest. In a country of 200 million people and if you see a sprinkle of people saying they are doing a revolution, it was a child’s play,” he added.

All these Onifade described as unnecessary, according to him, if indeed the protest was funny, a child’s play and nothing to care about by the government then there wasn’t need for security officials to interfere in the proceedings of the protest. He said, as much as he doesn’t advocate for revolution because he thinks it wouldn’t resolve the problem and would only cause violence he doesn’t support what the government has done.

Meanwhile, few weeks to gubernatorial elections in Edo state, the state house of assembly has been in array of drama, from security officers mounting gates to the building, to construction workers seen in the premises and lawmakers denied access to the building according to the spokesperson of the governor, Crusoe Osagie. There’s been allegations of plot by Adams Oshiomole to oust crookedly oust the incumbent governor, Godwin Obaseki so as to pave way for easy election of Ize-Iyamu as Governor in the gubernatorial polls.

Others also alleged that it was a plot to cause an uproar in the state so as to evoke violence during the elections thereby disrupting it and enabling rigging. Oabseki has however asserted that he will not tolerate any external influence or control in his governance of Edo state as well as during the forthcoming elections in the state.

On this issue, Onifade chastised Obaseki for falling out with his Godfather, Oshiomole. As an advocate of Godfatherism, He thinks that Obaseki could have done better in relating with his Godfather, he said he didn’t do well to prepare a favourable situation for his reelection. Even if he had issues with Oshiomole, he should have maintained peace with other members of his party who would have interceded on his behalf and he would have gotten the support of party members for second term governorship under the APC but he had issues with his Godfather, members of his party and even lawmakers which is not good at all for his political endeavour Onifade said.

He said all of the issues he has had so far is likely to affect his success at the polls sighting that he might not get the needed support from the party he carries the ticket, PDP and he thinks Ize-Iyamu is a popular figure amongst the people considering the fact that Obaseki won him by a hair’s breadth at the last poll.

Onifade added that Obaseki didn’t learn to work with bad people in politics; a skill new-breed politicians lack. He said learning to work with bad people and ensuring the interest of the public is done is a very important skill that you’d politicians need to learn if they really want to succeed in politics.

However, he opined that it’s unfortunate that the people of Edo are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, though he wishes there was a better alternative for the position apart from the two popular candidates.

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By Deborah Yusuf

August 19, 2020

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