The Oasis Reporters
January 4, 2021
It is expected that any self respecting politician would think of leaving a decent legacy after his tenure. That’s why it is nice that towards the last year of a tenure, efforts ought to be made by the handlers of say, the presidency to begin to mend fences and build bridges for a smooth transition into statesmanship when a leader leaves office.
Former president Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was acutely aware of this fact and he utilized it smartly.
Press freedom that ought to come with responsibility was handed down to Nigerians by Jonathan.
Yet on June 5, 2021 (only a week before Democracy Day commemoration and celebrations) , the Nigerian government officially put an indefinite ban on Twitter, restricting it from operating in Nigeria after the social media platform deleted tweets made by President Muhammadu Buhari warning the south eastern people of Nigeria, predominantly Igbo people, of a potential repeat of the 1967 Biafran Civil War due to the ongoing insurgency in Southeastern Nigeria.
The Nigerian government claimed that the deletion of the President’s tweets factored into their decision but it was ultimately based on “a litany of problems with the social media platform in Nigeria, where misinformation and fake news spread through it have had real world violent consequences”, citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
The ban was condemned by Amnesty International as well as the British and Canadian missions and the Swedish Embassy in Nigeria.
Two domestic organizations – the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and the Nigerian Bar Association – indicated intent to challenge the ban in court. Twitter itself called the ban “deeply concerning”.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump praised the ban. “Congratulations to the country of Nigeria, who just banned Twitter because they banned their President”, Trump said.
Nigeria’s Information and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed stated the ban will be lifted once Twitter submits to local licensing, registration and conditions. “It will be licensed by the broadcasting commission, and must agree not to allow its platform to be used by those who are promoting activities that are inimical to the corporate existence of Nigeria.”
Six months have gone already and there are no noticeable acts that point to a thawing of the ice. Year 2022 shall be Buhari’s only full year as a president. By the election year of 2023, he would have just five months left before he leaves Aso Rock, just like Jonathan did in 2015 and Obasanjo also did in 2007.
But this low-hanging fruit of a Twitter ban might become a ripe one for the opposition party contestants to pluck once electioneering campaigns kick start in a few months. And it might upend all of Buhari’s legacies in his presidency.
One can almost envision an opposition candidate saying something like, “Great Nigerian youths, kindly be patient. Less than 30 seconds after handover on May 29, 2023, I will unban Twitter. First, use your PVC wisely and throw out the archaic ruling party !
“Our good leader, Baba Goodluck Jonathan gave us sweet press freedom. Nobody. I say, nobody can take it away from us. No more arbitrary dictatorship…..”
The politician on the soap box would then go on thus:
…”On Twitter Suspension, Ogbeni Seyi Makinde our affable builder of Oyo who pays salaries regularly even counseled Buhari to ‘Go Beyond Emotional Reactions To Issues, Think About The Impact Of Your Actions On People’ on June 6 of 2021 as reported by The Oasis Reporters. Yet he was ignored.
Governor ‘Seyi Makinde, counseled the Federal Government of Nigeria not to hamper the operations of thousands of businesses and services with its recent suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria.
He further stated that this action by the Buhari administration is capable of affecting investors’ confidence in the country.
Governor Makinde called for due consideration from the government on the implications of its action, saying that “Twitter has become the platform for young people and indeed all Nigerians to exercise their fundamental right to express and publish an opinion.”
The governor, who has a strong presence on Twitter, said it became imperative for him to make the statement as the country debates the ban.
He, however, warned that the decision, apart from having grave implications for the image of the country, will hamper thousands of businesses and services, which Nigerian youths promote and influence on the platform.
He said: “It has become imperative for me to release a statement regarding the suspension of Twitter’s operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government.
“As leaders, we should go beyond emotional reactions to issues and think about how our actions will affect the people we lead and our international ratings socially and economically.
“Twitter has become the platform for young people and indeed all Nigerians to exercise their fundamental right to express and publish an opinion. They use the platform to complain, argue and give feedback to government and its agencies who in turn, use these to improve policies. This is a fundamental point that should be kept in mind as we debate the necessity of this suspension.
“We should also remember that Twitter has gone beyond a source of communication for many of our hardworking youths in Nigeria. It has become a source of livelihood for many, irrespective of their political affiliations or religious leanings. Nigerian youths and digital communications organisations earn a living from being able to use the platform to post communications on behalf of their clients.
“Others who may not have physical stores also rely on Twitter to give visibility to their products and services.
“Furthermore, I believe the Federal Government should be actively interested in how certain policies and actions will affect investor confidence. I, therefore, use this medium to appeal to the Federal Government to reverse this suspension for the greater good of Nigerians”.
The campaign message would unmistakably woo Nigerian voters. For a good legacy to be sustained, let the government do, as a new year goodwill gesture unban Twitter. The lingering spat won’t help it, no matter the righteous nature of the government’s case.
Written by Greg Abolo.