The Federal Government has admonished political, religious leaders and opinion moulders to stop spewing incendiary rhetoric capable of setting the country ablaze.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, gave the admonition while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Wednesday in Sal Island, Cape Verde.
NAN reports that the minister is in Cape Verde to attend the 64th Conference of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) Commission for Africa and the Second Edition of the UNWTO Global Tourism Investment Forum.
Speaking on the sideline of the global events, the minister also cautioned the media, particularly broadcast stations which are the purveyors of incendiary rhetoric, to abide by broadcast codes and other regulations guiding them.
“In the last few weeks, the country has been awash, especially from the broadcast media, with very incendiary rhetoric which has created a sort of panic in Nigeria.
“The incendiary rhetoric that comes from political, religious leaders and some opinion moulders have the capacity to set the country on fire.
“This is because the rhetoric is pitting one ethnic group and religion against the other and overheating the polity.
“Our serious counsel to stakeholders is that they should understand and remember that leadership comes with a lot of responsibilities, tone down the hateful rhetoric because they are harmful for the country
“They should remember that every war is preceded by these kinds of mindless rhetoric, especially when it comes from otherwise responsible people who the people have the tendency to take seriously,’’ he said.
The minister recalled the incident in Rwanda where a radio station and one extremist magazine set the stage for the genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in 1994.
He said the cacophony of hate and incendiary rhetoric from various radio stations and online publications in recent weeks was capable of causing panic, further divide the country along religious and ethnic lines.
“We agree that there are challenges but the government is doing its best in addressing insecurity, banditry, insurrections and fixing the economy.
“What one expected from these leaders at this trying period is support and encouragement.
“It is, however, quite disturbing that they have thrown caution to the winds and it is no longer about leadership and maturity but about who can say something that can break this country.
“Certain words that we were afraid of using before such as genocide and ethnic cleansing, are now taking over the media waves.
“That is why it is important to call everybody to order to appeal to their sense of patriotism that they should understand that because there is a country called Nigeria, that is why they are leaders.
“If what they are praying for happens, they will no longer be leaders but servants in other countries,’’ he said.
The minister said the National Broadcasting Commission and other regulators would ensure that broadcast stations abide by statutory laws and ethics.
He said any station that violated the broadcast code and ethics would be “shown the red card”.