Freedom Of Expression Is An Illusion


Image credit: Voice of Wuche

A final year student of a private university was expelled on account of a Facebook post that was deemed to be a campaign of calumny of sorts against the authorities of the school. The post which took a swipe at the management and officials of the higher institution was scathing enough to earn Debo Adedayo, the writer, an expulsion from Redeemers University. Mr Adedayo had concluded his exams and wrapped up his final year project when he was handed what has been widely adjudged to be a harsh punishment by the school.

I agree with the vast majority that the management of Redeemers University used a sledgehammer to kill a fly. But, I am also of the opinion that anyone who says Debo was not referring to the management of the school in his little tirade is only being smart by half. Names do not necessarily have to be mentioned before one can decipher if a comment is directed at them. It’s however unsurprising that the student cum actor denied his penned shots were fired at his school. From the moment he was summoned by the school authorities, he must have sensed trouble looming.

Nevertheless, this doesn’t negate the sheer ludicrousness and high-handedness Redeemers University has demonstrated by choosing to expel the student. Let’s even assume Debo had expressly mentioned the school in his post. Even if he had named one or two officials, is the school suggesting that an individual should be punished for stating their opinion or expressing their views as they deem appropriate? Does the constitution not state the freedom of speech and expression as one of a citizen’s fundamental human rights?

And if the argument is that the school has its own rules which do not support students making comments that suggest the school authorities are not doing right by them; can the authorities of Redeemers University affirm in good conscience that expulsion is the appropriate penalty for Debo? A stellar student who held several leadership positions, was president of his graduating class, and from all indications a good ambassador of the school until he butted heads with them via his controversial post.

It’s the same situation the average Nigerian is faced with everywhere he turns in this country. As much as we all quote the constitution and go on to shout ourselves hoarse about how everyone should be able to freely express themselves without having to worry about the possibility of encountering prejudice or repercussions, deep down we know the reality is different.

People have been fired for criticizing their organisation. And when that doesn’t happen, they are victimized or frustrated to the point where they have no choice but to bow out. Peaceful protesters are picked up and threatened to keep them silent. Only recently, a social commentator was yanked off air on the radio because they dared to talk about the Asaba massacre.

Time and again, the system attempts to shut down any sort of communication it isn’t comfortable with. Every day people are bullied into silence. Even the number one citizen issued a warning about crossing “red lines” with respect to social media posts. However, it’s unfortunate that a higher institution of learning which should encourage unstifled speech is found to be a proponent of the opposite.

And that’s one of the issues I have with private universities – their penchant for treating undergraduates like kids. We all know this sort of thing could not have happened in any federal or state university. In fact, the authorities of those schools are accustomed to being criticized and even insulted by students on a regular basis. Does it make right? Not necessarily, but what is leadership without criticism? What leader or manager assumes a position expecting not to be scrutinized or misunderstood?

Because of the kind of society we live in, and the length of time it takes to get justice, I believe Debo should have been more cautious in expressing himself. A little emotional intelligence would have saved him the trauma he is currently going through. He could have at least waited until he had collected his certificate before criticizing the institution openly. Now, even if his “sins” are forgiven and he is recognised as a graduate of the school, he’ll never experience the joy of attending his convocation like he had looked forward to.

Nonetheless, it is imperative that the authorities of Redeemers University rescind their unpopular decision. If only based on the fact that it is an institution founded on the Christian faith, which preaches forgiveness. It is time for the school to exhibit the Christ-like love they profess and encourage others to show.

But in the meantime, if all entreaties fail, Debo and his family need to go ahead and sue the school for all they are worth. It’d be nice to test the system, and possibly make an example out of Redeemers University. There’s no other way to describe the unforgiving nature of the punishment meted to Debo other than to conclude it’s callousness of the highest order.

The quagmire the young man has suddenly found himself is one of the reasons I’m not favourably disposed to putting everything on social media. Somehow, there’s always the tendency that our comments may come back to hunt us.

And as much as it hurts to admit it, true freedom is still only a figment of the imagination. “Freedom” of speech and expression comes with consequences.



11 Replies to “Freedom Of Expression Is An Illusion”

  1. Totally unacceptable! Would love to see the position of the school authority at the end of it all. From all indication, there’s really no freedom in the school’s constitution. PMB should have then jailed everyone that has spoken ill of him in the country.

    1. Thank you. I really wish the school would make a public statement on this issue. Their current stance on the matter is totally absurd!

  2. I stand with Debo. He will get through this… It is time for the school to exhibit the Christ-like love they profess and encourage others to show

    1. Thank you Wale. I definitely stand with him too. However, it’s important that he learns crucial life lessons from this occurrence.

  3. I’ve never considered ‘freedom of speech’ to be a human right. It’s always got question marks when it comes to certain issues not only in Nigeria but other parts of the world.

  4. Lolade, nice write up!….Analysis was critical and well balanced. I know the University shouldn’t have expelled him for freedom of expression but on the other hand, the popular english expression goes: “When you are in Rome, you act like the Romans”…….The religious Universities are not autonomous in Nigeria, they mirror the founding Churches;the schools and church are more or less the same…..You don’t or are not really allowed to question authority in Church…Authority is from God….How can you question God!?…Churches function with doctrines…Debo was in their school…..An indoctrinated person is expected to follow and not question or critically examine the doctrine or rules they have learnt….Religion is quite sensitive and complex!….Well done!!!

    1. Thank you, Biola. I honestly don’t know if I agree with the concept of not “questioning” God. I mean…if he’s our father, shouldn’t we be free to express ourselves to him? But that’s a conversation for another day.

Drop a comment, will you! I appreciate them.