Chief Olusegun Osoba, former governor of Ogun and chieftain of the All Progressives Congress (APC), has lent his much-needed voice to the groundswell of criticisms and condemnation of the death penalty Hate Speech Bill currently before the national Assembly.
Osoba, a veteran journalist and one-time Managing Director of Daily Times and defunct Sketch newspapers, said it was a disservice to media professionals who fought and won the hard battle for democracy using the leeway of freedom of speech and the press.
Noting that politicians rode to power on the crest of free speech, a key ingredient of democracy, Osoba said: “I am against the bill aimed at stifling free speech. Those propagating hate speech are not based here, so ordinary Nigerians will become victims.
“We (the media) fought military dictatorship to a standstill, colonial masters and other forms of oppressions and authoritarian rule by decrees that stifled free press particularly during the dictator, Gen. Sani Abacha.
“Tell magazine editors and reporters fled the country to continue to publish, Guardian editors were jailed, Punch, Sketch were closed down, all in the fight for freedom of expression and speech.
“We do not deserve this treatment and bill from people who enjoyed free speech and press freedom to champion their cause and to get to power.’’
“It is sad that beneficiaries of all these are the ones pushing for control of the social media and gagging the people.’’
Osoba spoke as the guest lecturer at an event commemorating 160 years of journalism in Nigeria held at Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library, Abeokuta, Ogun state capital.
The title of the lecture is,“Reinventing the Practice of Journalism in Nigeria With Emphasis on the influence of the Social Media.’’
The lecture which was organized by League of Veteran Journalists, Oyo and Ogun state chapters was attended by Gov. Dapo Abiodun, the Alake of Egbaland, Oba Aremu Gbadebo, former governor of Bauchi, retired Navy Capt. Rasheed Raji, octogenarian veteran journalist, Mr Felix Adenaike among other dignitaries.
According to Osoba, Nigeria does not need another legislation to punish offenders of the laws of libel and defamation as there are enough laws to deal with it in the statute books.
“Those injured or whose rights are violated should go to court. I have gone to court several times to sue for libel and I won,’’ he said.
On the standard of journalism practice in Nigeria, Osoba said it would be virtually impossible to produce the old hands in the industry again, describing the old generation of journalists as passionate, courageous and dedicated and had better exposure.
He, however, pointed out that the new generation of journalists are better trained and are ICT savvy.
The senior journalist said no journalist can function in today without the contemporary technology and therefore called for a re-orientation by old journalists to embrace technology to become relevant.
“Circulation of hard copies of newspapers in the country and worldwide is dead. E-vendors is what can fetch newspapers money as readers will subscribe and read online on their phones using the internet.
Responding to a question, Osoba also called for an overhaul of journalism and mass communication curricula in the nation’s tertiary institutions to accommodate new trends such as social media, citizen journalism and others.
Earlier, Oba Gbadebo recalled that Ogun is the custodian of journalism as it started in Abeokuta in 1867 with the publication of “Iwe Irohin’’.
He urged media professionals be continue to educate themselves by acquiring new skills, saying “you cannot educate people beyond your level of education.’’
Persecondnews recalls that ex-Military President Ibrahim Babangida had described the bill as wicked, crude, anti-people and free speech-muzzling.
He also called it an “eye service” by the sponsor of the bill, Senator Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi from his state, Niger.
The bill has scaled first reading on the floor of Senate and last week, Abdullahi, in the midst of the heat, promised to remove death penalty clause from the piece of legislation.