The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), yesterday, reviewed the controversial advert placed in some major national newspapers in the country by Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose and concluded that the material amounted to “hate speech.”
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This emerged at a stakeholders’ roundtable organised by the NHRC for civil society groups, mainstream and social media partners in Abuja.
The hands of the NHRC are however tied as Fayose currently enjoys immunity and cannot be arrested for prosecution by the commission. However, the governor may be recommended for appropriate sanctions once he leaves office.
Chairman of the NHRC, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, who addressed journalists at the forum, decried the publication by the advertiser, saying it offended public decency and violated all known norms of decorum.
According to him, the governor, who is a member of the National Council of States, which makes decisions for the security of the country, should have exhibited caution and statesmanship in sending out the message.
Oginkalu noted that the governor went too far in his controversial message not minding that even the children of the former Northern leaders he showed to have died in office might feel bad while the same party also expected them to cast their votes for them in the forthcoming elections.
He stressed that the governor’s advert was not only in bad taste but it also violated Section 95 of the Electoral Act and should be made to pay for such open infraction.
Section 95(1) and (2) of the EA says: “A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to incite religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.
“Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or insinuations or innuendos designed or likely to provoke violent reaction or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.”
The commission also reviewed the pronouncements of the Parish Priest of Adoration Ground, Rev Father Ejike Mbaka, for using his pulpit to canvass support for and against President Goodluck Jonathan and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Odinkalu said Mbaka breached the Electoral Act by first prophesying to the First Lady, Dame Patience Jonathan, last November that Jonathan would win the 2015 election and later predicting during his New Year day preaching that Jonathan should resign and leave the stage for Buhari for not doing enough.
The NHRC chairman said that the action of the Reverend Father breached Section 95 (3) of the Electoral Act, which states that “places designated for religious worship, police station and public offices shall not be used for political campaigns, rallies and processions or to promote, propagate or attack political parties, candidates, their political ideologies or programmes.”
The cleric may be prosecuted by the commission in due course.