A Lagos-based constitutional lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Chief Mike Ozekhome, has warned President Muhammadu Buhari not to take away the freedom of speech the same way he has allegedly taken food from the mouths Nigerians.
Ozekhome was reacting to accusation by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, that the nation’s media was “promoting hate speeches” and not supporting government.
The senior lawyer pointed out that a report could not amount to hate speech when the media was accurately narrating events that took place.
Fielding questions from Sun, Ozekhome explained, “You are merely narrating an event that took place and in the write-up, some of us told the President what to do.
“For instance, we told him to relocate the Inspector General of Police and send the military there because the police do not have the capacity to curtail the issue.
“The military should be redeployed to states, like Benue, Taraba and Plateau the way they were taken to Umuahia when IPOB was exiting.
“So, if you make a comparative analysis about what is happening, how does it amount to hate speech? Except if they want to finally take away our freedom of speech in this country because they have already taken away the food from our table.
“If they want to take away our God-given freedom of speech, then they have to tell us.
“The media is the fourth estate of the realm and it is the only entity empowered by Section 22 of the 1999 constitution to hold the government accountable and responsible to the people of Nigeria.
“The media’s job is to keep the government on its toes. Did the media not keep Goodluck Jonathan’s government on its toes and he was subsequently removed, in preference to President Muhammadu Buhari?
“The All Progressives Congress (APC) leveraged and used the media effectively to oust Jonathan; so, why are they suddenly getting touchy about how the media reports events? Do they not know that what goes around comes around?
“The media was carrying out its constitutional responsibility and when Jonathan was overwhelmed, he threw in the towel even before the last results were announced.
“The government would be joking to expect every media in Nigeria to support it.”