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When freedom of speech is abused.


Ignorant free speech often works against the speaker. That is one of several reasons why it must be given rein instead of suppressed ~ Anna Quindlen

Bolouere Opukiri

When I saw the caption of the story I was already shaking my head at the depth the government could descend to silence critics before I clicked on the link to read the details. At the 2nd paragraph, I paused and read the caption once more and started shaking my head again, this time, at how some journalists can willfully or otherwise mislead the reading audience with a caption.

There is a thin line between criticism and insult. Here is the 2nd paragraph below:

“In the July 5, 2017 tweet, Bolouere Opukiri described then-Acting President Osinbajo as ‘a novice’ for traveling out of the country at a time President Muhammadu Buhari was receiving medical treatment in London and tension was flaring between the executive and the legislature” ~ Premium Times

Firstly, the word ‘novice’ means neophyte, an inexperienced person and it was used in a derogatory manner. So the headline “Nigerian woman loses job after criticising Vice President Osinbajo online” by Premium Times is misleading. It should have been “Nigerian woman loses job after insulting Vice President Osinbajo online”.

As I read on I started recollecting the story. I follow the lady in question on Twitter, someone had retweeted one of her blog posts which I read and found interesting. She is a brilliant and witty young lady. I dare say she is also exuberant, opinionated and outspoken going from what she writes and her tweets.

On this particular incident, she totally lost it that day. She rancorously lashed out at those who abused her for insulting her employers and even some neutrals who tried to warn her of the likely consequences of her action were not spared her venom. At a point she bragged about her rich background, boasting that she never applied for the job and that if she’s out of job her dad could take care of her for the rest of her life.

Well, there you are according to Zebrudaya. The time is now. I didn’t expect the matter to be in the media, I had expected the young lady to be tweeting from Yale or Harvard in the company of fellow rich kids while arming herself with leadership skills that will be deployed to oust Osinbajo and Buhari next year. But here we are, reading about how she has been junketing and getting sacked again from another job.

This matter reminds me of the Igbo adage about a certain man who felt the orange tree in his compound bore fruits that were not sweet enough so he cut it down. Lo, and behold the following season he wanted to eat oranges but ended up screaming like a madman when he was told the price at the market. There is always that tendency to take something for granted especially if you didn’t sweat or struggle hard to get it.

I am one person that values loyalty, you can’t be working in an office that you not only condemn but also insult and expect a rewarding pat on the back, come on! I mean if she felt so bad about the same government she worked for she could have just resigned so that she can have all the freedom to call the Acting President names.

I also do not buy into the utopian definition of freedom of speech and expression. No no no, in the real world such freedom ends where the other person’s own begins, especially where there is a nexus and even more so when such person is your employer. Therefore her right to free speech was abridged the day she picked her letter of appointment.

Whats more there is no ambiguity in the relevant section of the Public Service rules. It clearly views “false claims against government officials” as a serious misconduct for which an employee should be dismissed as ultimate penalty.

Celebrities like Roseann Barr just lost her job last week for a racist tweet let alone some obscure staffer at the Amnesty Office who finds it delirious to insult her employers. Give me a break!

In any case, let me say that if she wants publicity with the obviously sponsored story, then she will get exactly that but in Nigeria stories like this which are a necessary distraction have a very short lifespan, they rarely last the week in the blogosphere before being relegated by another.

And if she wants public sympathy I don’t think she’s getting much from what I’ve seen so far, not with our proclivity for savage clap backs and epic responses, if she does get some love, however, it ‘ll be interesting to see how that will help in paying her buxom bills.

But if she wants to sue then I believe she should already know that likely outcome of taking such tedious path. The case of Yushau Shuaib who was dismissed by the previous government for criticising Ngozi Okonjo Iweala should suffice. It is also advisable that she should weigh that option meticulously and tread carefully. The grapevine is already filled with stories of her alleged involvement with a fugitive former presidential aide.

Only a ‘novice’ will not know the enormous powers at the disposal of a government and its agents. They can also be ruthless if they have to be and there can be no better example than this APC government. The young lady will be better off moving on, she is still very young and talented, and with determination, the sky can only be the beginning.

This is Nigeria!

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