The federal government has warned political and religious leaders to stop “spewing incendiary rhetoric” capable of setting the country ablaze.
Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, gave the admonition while speaking with NAN on Wednesday on Sal Island, Cape Verde.
According to NAN, 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 event, the minister also cautioned the media, particularly broadcast stations, to abide by broadcast code 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,” he said.
“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.”
The minister said the government is trying to curtail the security challenge in the country, and that what it needs is support and encouragement from stakeholders,
“We agree that there are challenges but the government is doing its best in addressing insecurity, banditry, insurrections and fixing the economy,” he said.
“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 National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) and other regulators will ensure that broadcast stations abide by statutory laws and ethics.
He said any station that violates the broadcast code and ethics will be “shown the red card”.