When on Wednesday the microblogging social media platform, Twitter, yanked off a tweet by President Muhamadu Buhari on account of violating “abusive behavior” policy, there was a sigh of relief by some Nigerians who had turned the social media platform into a battleground.
While the tweet had caused a hate-inciting discourse on many social media platforms, the deleted tweet had gained a tremendous tumult, with many condemning the civil war analogy tweet as ill-informed and bereft of the required statesmanship in managing the affairs of a nation in turmoil.
The deleted tweet had said, among others: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Biafra war. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.
“I think we have given them enough latitude. They have made their case, they just wanted to destroy the country. Whoever wants diversion or destruction of the system at this point, I think will soon have the shock of their lives”.
For those knowledgeable in conversational analysis, context and time are crucial in determining the meaning of words, phrases and sentences. The civil war analogy in that tweet is interpreted as denoting Buhari’s scorching scorn for the Ndigbo and a clear threat to deal with them over their endless agitation for self-determination. While the tweet may be aimed at a subtle reminder for the Igbos not to test the resolve of the government to crush rebellion as it did in 1970, the reference to Buhari’s 30-month participation resurrects the sad memory of mass killings of the Igbo race.
For a nation gasping under the threat of security challenges, some have linked ethnic sentiments with the president’s refusal to tackle banditry and bloodshed ripping across the North. For many Nigerians, insecurity had turned out to be an overriding reason that accounted for the defeat of President Goodluck Jonathan at the 2015 polls.
Over six years after he emerged as president, and two years to the end of his second and final term, not a few citizens are disappointed with the performance profile of the stern-looking General who had promised Nigerians ahead of the 2015 polls to lead the country from the front. In the face of massive destruction of lives and property, including incessant abductions and other crimes, especially in the Northern part, tackling banditry and insurgencies by government has been more in words than action.
There’s no gainsaying the fact that the reaction of Twitter and the subsequent deleting of the tweet and suspension of the official handle of the president @MBuhari for 12 hours on Wednesday was caused by an avalanche of complaints over the tweet. If the managers of Buhari’s official twitter handle had been exposed as blind men walking down a dark alley, the reaction of top officials of the administration has divulged the stuff they are made of.
Reacting to the removal of the tweet, the Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the president possesses the right to express his anger and opinion on the recurring violence in the South-east. Accusing the microblogging social media platform of double standards, the minister wondered why the hate-filled tweets by the leader of the indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was yet to be pulled down despite calling on his members to kill military and police personnel, among other crimes against the Nigerian state.
Leadership is a responsibility and those who seek to provide leadership must demonstrate unwavering resoluteness and calmness of the mind amidst raging storms. If President Buhari had actually issued such a threat behind closed doors, some have argued, it was only reasonable that such offensive words be deleted in order to avoid igniting hatred towards Ndigbo. The release of the video clip of the president’s meeting with officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where the offensive tweet emanated was not professional. The clip only added fuel to the raging rancour caused by the obnoxious tweet
Threatening Biafran agitators with daring consequences, while ignoring the horrifying cynosure caused by bloodthirsty bandits and insurgents is repugnant to any form of justice known to man. You can’t stand akimbo and look the other side while outlaws and brigands unleashed bloodshed of monumental proportion on helpless citizens in the North, but at the same time engage in threatening to deal with lesser criminals in the South and still claim to be treating them on equal terms. What is lacking in our country is consensus building among critical stakeholders in confronting national challenges. Unlike in the past when committed patriots were determined to pull all stops to stave off further decline to the precipice, Nigeria is presently famished of quality leaders that can save the nation from the brink. The legislative arm that should have checked the excesses of the executive arm has become more of slurping dogs that are completely sold out on the altar of their insatiable greed.
The destruction of a nation does not start and end in one day. With various parts of our nation now engulfed in crises, and with the absence of a consensus building process casting long shadows on our nation’s survival, Nigeria risks joining the list of nations trapped in irreversible crises. The drumbeats of secessionists are becoming louder, following the failure of national leadership to address some of the difficulties confronting the legacy of Lord Frederik Lugard that was created by the 1914 Amalgamation Act. Government’s resort to the deployment of force to cover up leadership deficits cannot resolve our predicament. Inclusiveness and respect for the rights of citizens have become the building blocks for modern states.
The prospects of the country rising from the ashes of its self-inflicted difficulties are dimming by the passing of each day. The deletion of that presidential tweet should send a clear signal that the world is watching us. No nation can survive the pangs of destruction unleashed on it by both state and non-state actors, while the government looks the other way unconcerned.
Those who still think that the clouds of uncertainties will simply fizzle away without patriotic efforts by citizens are yet to wake up from their reveries. The greatest threat against our democracy is the attenuation of democratic structures and promotion of blind loyalty to politicians. A democracy that is devoid of a vibrant legislature is akin to driving a car without a braking system.
Over 22 years after the inauguration of this unbroken democracy in May 1999, Nigeria’s failure to live up to the true tenets of democracy is linked to its incapacity to build and strengthen structures capable of upholding the rule of law that should serve as the fulcrum of representative government. Most of the challenges plaguing our country are tied to our strange form of democracy that is run for the interest of the exclusive few and their cronies.
Amidst national melancholy that has seen some calling for fragmentation of the country, balkanisation may not provide an easy roadmap to our Eldorado. The journey to developing modern states is not easy; it’s a journey of many centuries with several curves and times that “try men’s souls”. Firming up our democracy should never be left in the hands of politicians who most times are the cause of our problems and not solutions.
When a marriage is burdened with challenges, the option should not be an instant resort to divorce, especially when such union has produced children. What must be paramount is to facilitate improved communication channels to salvage the union. With Nigeria facing deepening crises in resolving insecurity and other challenges of development, getting all groups on deck to discuss our mutual fears and suspicions should be the ultimate objective. We cannot simply give up on Nigeria because of the troubling leadership deficits that are turning our problems insurmountable.
While we may thank Twitter for pulling down such an obnoxious tweet, thereby reducing the drumbeats of fiery rumbling discord, citizens must never be weary in forging common fronts and initiating building consensus processes to make our democracy serve its true essence of safeguarding the interest of Nigeria’s overall majority.