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Some years back, one of my colleagues and the Deputy General Counsel of the Joint Legal Action Aids, (JLAA), Mike Egbune, drew debates when he wanted opinion on the then proposed bill before the Nigerian Senate that is titled ‘Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019’ sponsored by Mohammed Sani which I had then passed the first reading at the floor of the House.

Now again, the National Assembly is agog on plans to restrict freedom of speech on social media through strict social media regulations laws.

The sponsor of the legislation had argued stridently that it will curb fake news on the internet amongst other merits. But I held and still hold a very different perspective and disagree with this bill.

The bill seeks to assume that the state cannot accommodate contrary opinion expressed freely on the internet without the dreary contamination of the preening eagle eye of the state invariably playing a supervisory role of knowing beforehand whether such criticism amounts to falsehood or otherwise.

The challenge here is what constitutes falsehood. Is it defined from the perspectives of the Nigerian state machinery that is sworn to official secrecy and policy-falsehood or the dare devil activist who is left to draw up conjectures from the body language of a literally tight mouth government?

I think it is suicidal and a clear aberration for the state to seek to help promote and regulate social discuss and gossips on the World Wide Web.

This is because the State cannot, at least in my view, assist the creative writer and activist. The Creative Activist and Writer must have freedom, and often he will be a rebel, discontent not only with society as now organized but even with the act of living.


For instance, it would require an ironist of the supreme order to portray Jonathan Swift applying for censorship before he could “tweet” his story of the regression of his generation into savagery in his days assuming there was internet then.

The social activist it can be admitted has had to face changes in the whole structures in the society which have increased his problems.

Furthermore, there are these strange consequences of improved conditions of communication that has broadened the variety of the human experiences. Social media has placed the universe at our disposal. The young boy in Ogbomosho, West of Nigeria, surfing the internet today has opportunity to compare his conditions and environment with the poshed kid in Silicon Valley in India and the United States. The resulting discontent is inevitable.

Noteworthy is the fact that no law can cage the human desire for freedom because from the beginning man was first created free. The attempt to checkmate man and curb his freedom arose from the corruption of wealth and the inadequacies of modern governments.

In conclusion, a critic cannot hurl out the criticism of his choice. He must rail out. Any attempt to cage him would turn him into a rebel with a cause.

An activist would have loved to be a normal person like the rest, seeing and unseeing at the same time.

Unfortunately, activism is like poetry. A poet can cannot write the poetry he wants but only the poetry within him. So also, is the activist. He would be a deviant. A square peg in a society full of round holes. He cannot help himself and society must accept him because he means no harm. He is “the voice crying in the wilderness” and calling men back to a simple life devoid of the elegance of the corruption of wealth and the inadequacies of government.

See also  Re Mohammed v. AGF {2021}: When an Appellate Court May Alter the Sentence Passed by a Trial Court - By Carrington Osarodion Omokaro

Kingsley Ughe is the General Counsel of the Joint Legal Action Aid (JLAA) and Lead Consultant @ Greystone Solicitors


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