The Catholic bishop of Sokoto, Matthew Kukah, has warned against currently enveloping the polity of the Nigeria, adding the country was on the precipice.
He said the blanket demonisation of herdsmen, especially of the Fulani stock was dangerous, warning that such actions could lead to a breakout of violent confrontation against the Fulani.
The Bishop said hate speech often precede any genocide experienced in history.
Kukah spoke 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).
He said Nigerians “have to be very careful” before the situation degenerates beyond control.
He 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.
Reacting to the recent controversy on the use of picture of a herdsman on the Nigerian passport booklet, Kukah said he was almost swayed by the fake news, before he got a copy of the passport himself.
The cleric displayed his passport to illustrate the content and debunk 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 cow.
“Suddenly, this is the only thing we have chosen.
“Why is it exciting? It is exciting because this is 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 the position of leadership to tame the situation.
“Those who lead us should better stand up and tell us where we are going,” he said.
The Catholic priest also urged Nigerians to be each other’s keeper and avoid ethno-religious profiling in dealing with each other.
To further tame the spread of hate, 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.