By Omidiji Olamilekan
The recent Twitter ban in Nigeria has raised different concerns from many citizens and other parts of the world. To some, it’s an issue of human rights as the ban is just one of the means to silence the growing citizen activism and social movements- many of which started on the microblogging platform.
Thus, the ban might just be a dose of the social media bill termed the “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation and for other related matters bill 2019”, which seeks to give the government regulatory control over conversations on social media platforms.
While to others, the main concern regarding the ban isn’t about human rights or freedom of speech; instead, it’s an issue of transparency and administrative focus. A matter of transparency because the government should always carry the citizens along with any decision and not just take steps haphazardly. This is the core fundamental of democracy, being the people’s government by the people – unless Nigerian democracy is different.
The presidency had argued that the temporary suspension wasn’t because of the Twitter deletion of the President’s tweets but rather because Twitter, according to them, has long been accused of spreading “misinformation and fake news”, which can have “real world violent consequences.” One significant instance often cited is the carnage in Lagos after the Lekki “Massacre” in 2020. However, if this was the main reason, Twitter could have been banned immediately, but why is it coming now?
Just a little flashback, the president tweeted in response to the increasing agitations and unrest in the southeastern region with a threat to use “the language they will understand” against civilian protesters. The particular tweet was deleted shortly afterwards by Twitter for violating its policies. Two days later, the Minister of Information announced an indefinite ban on Twitter, saying it’s “capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
If the only concrete instance to justify this move was the #EndSARS protest, why is the ban just taking place? How is it possible to say the suspension is unconnected to the deletion of the president’s tweets? Can we, perhaps say this is not an attempt to silence the citizenry that found, through Twitter, an unfettered speech and a way to hold the government accountable?
At a time when over 550 students have been kidnapped within a year and more than 400 killed, what matters is banning Twitter – depriving several e-commerce and youths who earn a living through the microblogging site.
A few months back, when Twitter Management announced setting up its African headquarters in Ghana, the Minister of Information and Culture, who was pivotal in the recent ban was also the one who said Twitter couldn’t bring its African headquarters to Nigeria due to unpatriotic citizens in Nigeria, alas! The unpatriotic citizens are government officials who take decisions haphazardly without considering the immediate and proximate consequence on the citizens as well as foreign investors.
In all, Nigeria, as a democratic nation, should always embrace the core principles of democracy before taking any decision by putting citizen interest at the central point of all actions. This implies that the Nigerian government should always act openly, with citizens’ knowledge of the decisions the officials are making.