The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Most Revd. Matthew Kukah, on Tuesday, warned against stigmatizing the Fulani tribe, with unfortunate occurrences around the country.
He said such actions could be a preamble to a breakout of violent confrontation against the Fulani, adding that hate speech often preceded any genocide experienced in history.
Kukah spoke on Tuesday at a colloquium on fake news and hate speech organised by the Olusegun Obasanjo Centre for African Studies, an arm of the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) in Abuja.
According to him, “We have to be very careful” before the situation degenerates beyond control.
He however, likened the uproar and profiling of the Fulani to what happened to the Igbo leading up to the Nigerian civil war between 1967 and 1970.
“If it is Fulani today, yesterday it was the Igbos,” he said.
Speaking on the controversy that recently ensued over the picture of a herdsman on the Nigerian passport booklet, Kukah said he was almost misled by the fake news, before he got a copy of the passport himself.
The cleric who displayed his passport to illustrate the content debunked the insinuations that it carried only a picture of a herdsman.
“When I look at my passport, it has the coat of arm and map of Nigeria. Then right in front of the data page where all my information is, I have the Bini. I am not a Bini man, but I am eminently proud of this. I didn’t even know it was here, because I had to go through the passport page by page.
“When I opened the passport the first thing I saw was Zuma Rock, then I see Tiv dancers. Who gave them permission to put Tiv dancers? Then I got to next page, before I came to this poor Fulani man who is standing with his cows.
“Why is it exciting? It is exciting because this is not the time for us to ‘hate’, literally tag every Fulani as a herdsman. We are on a very dangerous precipice,” he said.
Kukah said it was time for those in positions of leadership to rise to the occasion and tame the situation.
“Those who lead us should better stand up and tell us where we are going,” he said.
The Catholic cleric also urged Nigerians to be each other’s keeper and avoid ethnoreligious profiling in dealing with each other.
To further tame the spread of hate, Mr Kukah called on media to sieve through in choosing who to give audience to avoid persons who propagate hate and mischief.
In his opening remarks, NOUN’s vice-chancellor, Abdalla Adamu, said liberalisation of the media space by technology provided opportunity for easy spread of fake news and hate speech.
He lamented increase in hate speech in the polity which, he said, will not augur well for society.
“What we see are labels over crimes. The moment you start talking about labels, you are breeding hate speech,” Adamu said.
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