WHEN LAI MOHAMMED GOT HIS BAPTISM OF FIRE

While the loquacious Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, was busy goading members of the National Assembly to speedily pass the “Hate Speech Bill” now before the Senate, so that anybody who made statements they did not like would be sent to the gallows, he did not know that some people were already waiting for him, to give him the treatment he never bargained for, he did not expect.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed who was known to always lampoon and abuse people at will, was paid back in his own coins at this year’s All Africa Music Awards (AFIRIMA) held in Lagos at the weekend.

At the event, the Minister was made an object of caricature, an object of ridicule or hate speech, the very bill that would criminalize Nigerians for legitimately airing their views, but not in accordance with the wishes of those in power, which Alhaji Lai Mohammed had helped to package and to sponsor.

As special guest of honour at the music award, the Honourable Minister was called upon to deliver an address. Beaming with smiles, he got up from his seat and started walking majestically to the podium to deliver his speech. But he did not know what was ahead of him, that some people were lying in wait for him.

As soon as the Minister mounted the rostrum, cleared his throat and began to speak, a deafening noise enveloped the entire arena, a cacophony of voices was heard. He paused for awhile to understand what was happening, but the noise kept increasing in intensity, drowning the entire place. He was confused.

He could no longer find his own voice. What to do? Is it to end the address, or to continue for whatever it would be? He chose the latter and continued his speech.

But then it had become clear to Alhaji Lai Mohammed that nobody he was hearing what he was saying. He was being heckled, jeered and booed right, left and centre. But he was man enough to continue with the speech. Even though nobody had heard him, nor understood what had said.

On the other hand, the noise that came from of the background, the cacophony of voices from his assailants, was very clear and audible. They called him “a liar”, “lie lie”, and many other sorts of derogatory and unprintable names, and told him to “go and sit down”.

At the end of what was called an address, the organizers made efforts to apologise to the Minister for the embarrassment, but Alhaji Lai Mohammed did not wait for a minute, nor did he return to his seat. He made straight away towards the direction where his vehicle was parked and drove off.

On the other habd, those who heckled the Minister, who made caricature of him, were unapologetic. They continued to shout and to attack him even after he had gone. They said that Alhaji Lai Mohammed was lucky enough to have escaped their wrath, otherwise they would have treated him more than the Ekweremadu way, when the man went to eat yam in Germany.

They accused the Minister of a whole lot of things and said that he was responsible for all the things that were happening under the present administration. They called him “architect of hate speech” who now would want all Nigerians have padlocks placed on their lips. That is the irony of life.

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