Former President Goodluck Jonathan on Thursday took a swipe at the move by the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to curb hate speech.
The ex-leader shared a picture of a quote he made on Facebook in 2014.
The post read in part, “I am the most abused and insulted President in the world but when I leave office, you will all remember me for the total ‘freedom’ you enjoyed under me.”
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo had said last week that thenceforth, the Federal Government would treat hate speech as terrorism, while the military said it would be monitoring comments on social media to tackle anti-government and anti-security views.
Jonathan’s re-post had elicited 3,190 comments from his over two million followers as of 8pm when Punch Newspaper reported
While some hailed the former President, others lambasted him for allegedly allowing corruption to thrive during his administration.
One of the followers, Ngweeh Anthony Klassik, said, “You are blessed GEJ. People now know what freedom really meant. During your time, we had every right to post and comment with all manner of recklessness. Today, we are being monitored on the social media with a death sentence hanging on us.”
Another follower, Raheem Abidemi, wrote, “To be candid, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan happens to be one of the most mature Presidents Nigeria has ever had. Despite the series of insults he received from the likes of Lai Mohammed while in office, he never for once used his political might on them. He was really a mature President and I will continue to applaud him for that.”
However, Falola Olayinka, told Jonathan to bury his head for failing Nigeria.
He wrote, “The freedom you granted Diezani to loot us dry; the freedom you granted all your cronies, including ministers and service chiefs, to empty the CBN vault. We have not forgotten how you killed unemployed graduates in the Nigeria Immigration Service recruitment scandal and so many other harm you caused this country.”
Khalid Adam wrote, “You should bury your face in shame. You allowed Boko Haram to kill people anyhow and Nigerian money to be looted with your comment of ‘stealing is not corruption.’ You are the worst president Nigeria ever produced.”
Speaking on the telephone with one of our correspondents, a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, described Jonathan’s re-post as a prophecy foretold.
Fani-Kayode, who was the spokesman for the Goodluck Jonathan Campaign Organisation in 2015, said the ruling All Progressives Congress got to power through hate speech and rigging.
He pointed out that it was hypocritical of the APC government to complain about hate speeches.
The ex-minister said, “Jonathan’s statement was a prophetic statement of fact. Those that wish to silence the opposition and dissenting voices by claiming that all they (opposition) are saying is hate speech shall fail.
“They came to power through hate speech and they will leave through hate speech. Jonathan and those who stood by him in 2015 have been vindicated because today, we have a government and a ruling party that cannot take as good as it gives.
“They insulted, threatened and rigged their way into power and all they have ever known is hate. Now that people are criticising them, they are labelling it as hate speech, which is not true. There is a distinction between vigorous opposition, harsh criticism and the expression of bitter truth on one hand and hate speech on the other hand. That is the lesson this government needs to learn.”
The President of the Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, Mr. Malachy Ugwummadu, said the re-post was a sign that the former leader regretted his inaction while in power.
Ugwummadu, a lawyer said, “The nostalgia that the former President entertains now is understandable. It is usually associated with people who had the opportunity to make history but failed to do it. I sympathise with him.
“He tends to make us to believe that the rights he talked about were given by him. The rights were not given by Jonathan, but were bequeathed by being human beings.
“The same rights are protected by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and other international human rights laws which Nigeria is a signatory.”
Ugwummadu, however, advised the President Muhammadu Buhari administration to handle its desire to tackle hate speech with the recognition of citizens’ constitutional rights.
“We recognise the need to moderate the rising incidence of hate speeches and their effects on social harmony and corporate coexistence of citizens of the country.
“However, the President’s desire (as handed over to the service chiefs) cannot foreclose the constitutional rights of Nigerians to freely express themselves as guaranteed under Section 39(1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended).”
The Executive Director, Coalition Against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, said it was not for ex-President Goodluck Jonathan to praise himself.
He said he did not use the tools of governance well, noting that it was under his administration that mind-boggling amounts of money were stolen by his lieutenants.
“I don’t know what kind of freedom he was talking about; maybe the freedom to steal, the freedom to violate people’s rights with impunity, maybe the type he gave his lieutenants to help themselves to the nation’s coffers. However, those of us at the receiving end of such freedom to steal by his cohorts are the ones that felt the pain,” Adeniran stated.
The activist said it was during Jonathan’s administration that the nation experienced several scandals, including the theft of billions of naira meant for weapons for the military to fight insurgency.
He said, “It was also during his time that several millions of dollars were ferried to South Africa; it was during his time that Diezani Alison-Madueke, the petroleum resources minister, had unfettered access to proceeds of petroleum products.
“Jonathan’s observation was that if $20bn was missing from the economy, the Americans would know. That was the dumbest statement anybody could have made. He said stealing was not corruption; so the kind of freedom he gave was disruptive to the lives of Nigerians and that is not what we wanted.”