The ban on Twitter by the Federal Government over deleting President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweets on secessionists and other matters the government says it has with the social media organization is quite unnecessary. Apart from being illegal, the government’s action is unconstitutional, immoral and done in bad faith. What the government has done is an attack on free speech and freedom of information. The ban will send wrong signals to foreign investors, countries and tourists that all is not well with the country. In a period of heightened insecurity, ethnic tensions and other wars, adding the Twitter war will be too much for the government.
Presidential spokesman, Garba Shehu, has explained government’s action. According to him, “The temporary suspension of Twitter is not just a response to the removal of the President’s post. There has been a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where information and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequence. All the while the company has escaped accountability.” But there are other fine ways to seek for redress instead of outright ban slammed on Twitter. And I believe that the federal government has not exhausted those channels of redress before banning the media outfit.
With the ill-conceived and ill-advised action, the government has embarrassed itself. To even think of prosecuting Nigerians using Twitter accounts is also illegal. The government’s action has been condemned by many Nigerians and foreign governments such as United Kingdom (UK), United States (US), Canada, Norway, Ireland and European Union (EU) Delegation to Nigeria. Also, the opposition Peoples Democratic party (PDP) Newspaper Proprietors’ Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) and International Press Institute (IPI) have all condemned the ban.
Unless we are descending into a banana republic or fascist regime, the ban is uncalled for. If the ban has anything to do with the removal of Buhari’s tweets on secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and other separatist agitators, then the reaction amounts to media intolerance and utter abuse of due process. If the government has any issue with Twitter, there are other ways, including due process, to seek for redress instead of rushing to ban the social media outlet, through which many Nigerians sell their products and services.
The government must be aware that Twitter is a global social media platform with its rules and regulations which all subscribers, including our President must obey. I hope that the government is not expressing its anger over Twitter having its African office in Ghana instead of having it in Nigeria. One of the reasons that made Twitter to have its office in Ghana is that Ghana is more democratic and it is a good promoter of free speech and good governance than Nigeria. Most foreign countries and institutions will prefer to do business with Ghana than Nigeria for obvious reasons.
The ban, which the government says is temporary, is indirectly making a mockery of our democracy and values. Is the government aware that millions of Nigerians carry out their businesses on Twitter? Is it aware that most businesses in Nigeria, including banks, media organizations, and others have Twitter accounts? What government has hastily done will affect many businesses and seriously jeopardize the ease of doing business in the country, which at present, we are not doing so well compared with other countries in Africa.
It is likely that the government didn’t consider the fallout of the ban before rushing to do so and even vowing to prosecute those who will flout the order. Even in good times, this government which came into power through social media campaigns has never hidden its disdain for social media and indeed the media in general. It has also not hidden its hatred for opposing views. Recall that some bills have been sponsored in the National Assembly to control the social media in the life of this administration.
Fortunately, vigilant Nigerian press and patriotic citizens have risen to the occasion and vehemently opposed such draconian bills. This government has blamed Twitter for fake news and other things bad with the country including insecurity and terrorism. It blames Twitter, CNN and other media outfits over their reports on Lekki Toll gate killings of last year during the EndSARS national protests. The government even threatened to ban CNN from Nigeria.
It is sad that the government will always blame the media for its failure in certain departments of governance. Its Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, has always blamed Nigerian media for de-marketing the country. I wonder how the media can de-market the government if it is performing brilliantly well. Let those in government advise it to stop the needless media wars. It is a war that it can never win. Such wars are better avoided because they are both unwinnable and unsustainable. The more it engages in such fights, the more it wounds itself.
It will be better if the government can seriously face the numerous challenges facing the country at present such as mass hunger and starvation, food insecurity, poverty, unemployment and ravaging insecurity and leave Twitter alone. Banning Twitter or any another social media cannot solve of our existential problems, which many of them are man-made. Instead of blaming others, this government should blame itself for what has become of the country today.
The Nigeria we have today is the handiwork of the present administration, which many critics regard as clueless and visionless. It is paradoxical that a government that rose to power on the mantra of change has refused everything that has to do with change. The government must never resort to kill an ant with a sledge hammer by banning Twitter use in the country. For sake of emphasis, if the federal government has any grouse with Twitter, let it complain to the organization and resolve the matter amicably without resorting to applying undue force.
No matter government’s reason or reasons for the unwanted ban, the reality is that the government has deprived millions of Nigerians from using Twitter, the medium through which they carry out their trades and businesses. And this is a country which has become the poverty capital of the world and where government is daily struggling to lift millions of its citizens out of poverty. Any government’s action that is injurious to its citizens is not worthy of any consideration at all.
Like other patriotic Nigerians and our foreign friends have advised the government, let me add that it is not yet late for the government to swallow its pride and lift the ban on Twitter forthwith. Doing so will show that this government still has a listening ear and that it cares for her citizens.