The media space went on an overdrive recently when the federal government banned the micro blogging site, Twitter in the country.
We recall that Twitter had recently deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet on their platform on the grounds that it violated some of its rules. The government in turn accused the platform of bias and insensitive to security situation in the country as well as allowing itself to be used in ways that tend to compromise national security.
This Newspaper will not join in condemning the president’s tweet without looking at the context in which he spoke.
Sadly, recently, there has been an upsurge in attacks against police stations and formations in the South East and South south. A dangerous dimension was added to it when offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) were also burnt in the two geopolitical zones.
Worried by the attacks, chairman of INEC, Prof Mahmood Yakubu alongside some of the officials of the commission briefed the president on series of attacks on facilities of the electoral body round the country. Prof Yakubu said that so far, there have been 42 cases of attacks on INEC offices nationwide, since the last general election.
The president in his reaction said: “I receive daily security reports on the attacks, and it is very clear that those behind them want this administration to fail.Insecurity in Nigeria is now mentioned all over the world. All the people who want power, whoever they are, you wonder what they really want. Whoever wants the destruction of the system will soon have the shock of their lives. We’ve given them enough time.”
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand. We are going to be very hard sooner than later.”
Clearly, the president was reading the riot act to arsonists, secessionist and not the whole of the South East region.
The president on Thursday also told the military to treat bandits in ‘the language they understand. Does that mean the president is threatening the north west and north east since most of the bandits are from the north?
Regrettably, the politicization and uproar over the statement without looking at the context in which the President said it necessitated Twitter’s deletion of the tweet. We feel, however, that the social media giant should have been more circumspect.
Regardless, we make bold to say the politicisation of security issues has been a major reason for the lingering challenges in the country.
We also find it suspicious that non state actors like the leader of the Independent People Of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, was promoting hate speech and inciting the people against the government and people of Nigeria but Twitter chose to look the other way. This is in spite of complaints by government functionaries as recently noted by the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed. It goes without saying that Twitter has been playing double standards in it’s activities in Nigeria and this has to stop.
This Newspaper also frowns at the posture of the United States, United Kingdom and European Union envoys who were subtly giving ultimatum to the federal government on suspension of the erring Twitter by the Nigerian authorities.
We also do not share the views that suspending Twitter is trifling free speech. This argument is, to say the least, pedestrian and mischievous.
It is gratifying to note that minister of information, Lai Mohammed said Twitter has reached out to the federal government seeking high-level discussion to resolve the issues. He also listed some conditions to lift the suspension of Twitter saying it must now be registered in Nigeria as a business concern. Apart from Twitter, the government said other social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram must be registered in the country.
Unfortunately, according to NetBlocks, an international internet watchdog, the Twitter ban has cost the country N6 billion naira. In a country already hemorrhaging under the ailing economy. This is sad and disheartening.
It is from these perspectives that we call on the federal government to temporarily lift the suspension on Twitter. The ban should be lifted because we have many digital entrepreneurs who make their living from promoting their products on Twitter .
We also believe the ban on Twitter is not a subtle way to ban social media in the country by the government. They should not thread that path at all. Suggestions along this line have gained traction in view of previous attempts by government, through the National Assembly, to outlaw social media under the guise of regulation. Such an action will be unpopular given the roles of social media in all facets of our lives today.
Nevertheless, we believe that the message has been passed that Nigeria should and would not accept the tyranny of the big technology companies.