I have followed with keen interest the barrage of criticisms that are greeting the new bill currently under review by the Nigerian Senate. One Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah has sponsored a bill titled, “A Bill for an Act to Prohibit Frivolous Petitions and other Matters Connected therewith” which seeks to mandate critics to attach court sworn affidavit to their petitions or face six months imprisonment upon conviction.
Of particular interest is a section on social media that says, “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media posts any abusive statement knowing same to be false with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000.00 or both fine and imprisonment.”
Commentators regard this bill, and the alacrity it has received from the Senate, as a deliberate attempt to callously gag Nigerians and deprive them of their well deserved freedom of expression. Clearly, this is a justifiable suspicion, particularly in an environment like ours where a lot of atrocities go on.
But wait a minute, who is afraid of this law?
You may disagree with me but, to my mind, this bill, when passed into law, will be beneficial to many people, most especially the social media critics who are currently fighting against its passage.
One, this bill will make many people become very popular. Two years ago, I wrote about the 6 Ways to Become Very Popular and later followed up with the 7th Way to Become Very Popular. This law will surely become another way for anyone to become very popular. Though, somehow, it has been mentioned as one of the six ways to become popular.
So, all you need to do is write – on Facebook, Twitter and what have you – and get picked up for contravening the law. Pronto! Others will broadcast the news – on social media, in newspapers, on radio, and on TV – and you will become a popular man or woman enjoying great publicity free of charge!
If they charge you to court, people will line up the streets to stage series of protests in your honour. Advanced countries like the US and UK will quickly pick interests. CNN will talk about you, BBC will criticize your arrests, and you will suddenly become an international figure. Who doesn’t like this? Please let the law be passed joor.
Did you know that some people have already started benefitting from this bill when it has not even been passed into law? Read the story of a certain blogger, Emmanuel Ojo, who was picked up in Ogun state a couple of months ago for writing nonsense about the wife of Ogun State Governor on Facebook. Did you know the guy before that time? I didn’t. But he became very popular all of a sudden!
And, by the way, if you happen to be a blogger, you will make a lot of money from the traffic that your site will start generating. Advertisers will clamor for a space, and Google Adsence will become your friend immediately.
Two, many lawyers will be happy about this law. That’s because it will create jobs for them. Expectedly, both the plaintiffs and the defendants will require the services of lawyers to defend them in law courts. So, our lawyers will become busy, they will earn more money, and pay taxes too – which will be a good thing for our country that needs every kobo at this stage.
Third, if you write and get sentenced to prison, more people will write about it and they too will soon join you in prison. Wouldn’t this be a good thing for our prisons and prison officials? Within a short period, prison yards will be extended and better facilities will be provided to accommodate the new guests. Since many people will be willing to go to jail, those prisons will start receiving the attention it has since been craving from the government.
Oh yes, lest I forget, our country will also become much more popular internationally. In fact, our President wouldn’t have to travel abroad to launder our image again because everyone will know us across the world. We will be known as a country that helps people to express their right to write, and benefit from it.
Please, let no one condemn the bill again. It is good for writers. It is good for lawyers. And it is good for our economy. It’s in defense of our right to write.