Mr. President, Twitter Is Not The Problem

The Nigerian President should face his real enemies – Nigerians who are increasingly tired of his policies and behaviour, and are desirous of the change he promised but is ill-equipped to deliver.

President Muhammadu Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari

Advisers pushing President Muhammadu Buhari to advance his war against Twitter are myopic morons.

It is a war he must certainly lose.

Every day that he fights, he looks like a tired tyrant trying to restrict the rights of his people.

Those who really love Mr. President will tell him to find a face-saving exit.

The entire affair portrays the level of incompetence in the Buhari administration, the same ineptitude that has turned the country into an economic and security tragedy.

The president’s men must stop the idiocy of fighting a medium that the former US President had fought unsuccessfully.

Does Mr. Buhari know that Twitter is not a Nigerian company that he can just beat into submission?

Twitter has a total market cap of $47bn and Nigeria is not even on the list of its top 20 countries by usage.

Buhari lacks the leverage to get what he is hoping for.

Instead, the Nigerian President should face his real enemies – Nigerians who are increasingly tired of his policies and behaviour, and are desirous of the change he promised but is ill-equipped to deliver.

His beef is with us his people.

The administration’s central claim that Twitter and other social media have become a threat to Nigeria’s corporate existence is both an exaggeration and a diversion of attention from Nigeria’s real problems and President Buhari’s failure as a leader.

The administration’s central claim that Twitter and other social media have become a threat to Nigeria’s corporate existence is both an exaggeration and a diversion of attention from Nigeria’s real problems and President Buhari’s failure as a leader

For the president to go on Twitter with a veiled threat to unleash the 1967-70 Nigerian Civil War treatment, in which millions of Nigerians died, shows how unskillful he is as a politician and leader.

Although the intention may have been to sound tough and match the energy of the secessionist agitators, the strategy backfired instantly.

Buhari’s statements violated Twitter’s rules and policies against references to mass murder, violent events or any kind of violence against individuals or groups, or where the intent is to harass or intimidate protected groups.

He does not own Twitter and they were right to kick him out.

The same Twitter which did not hesitate to ban the most powerful man in the world, former US President Trump, when he violated its rules, could not have been hesitant to delete the tweets of an African president with a bloated sense of self-importance.

And it did.

Not accustomed to being treated so ordinarily, the man from Daura took it personal.

Buhari and his advisers were livid with rage and sought a way to get back at the social medium.

Within days, Aso Rock barred Twitter from operating in Nigeria.

It also forbade Nigerians from using Twitter, directing public organs to delete their Twitter accounts.

Internet Service Providers were made to block Twitter, denying most Nigerians of the service and stripping many citizens of sources of income.

But Buhari was not done.

Realising that many Nigerians were still able to bypass his blockade using proxies, he finally threatened to prosecute any Nigerian who violated his orders, while banning media organisations from using Twitter as the source of their news.

Never before has any government told the media how to practice journalism.

Many Nigerians may take the unfolding events as just another misstep by the administration but it will be a mistake not to see the big picture, which is of a political leader becoming desperate, unreasonable and, unrestrained – eager to place restrictions on his citizens in order to have his way.

Long before the Twitter ban, the administration of the former military general who ruled through a supreme council many years before, had been plotting restrictions to speech as its policies grew unpopular.

When the appeal that General Buhari rode onto power diminished, it appeared he gave up and stopped trying.

Administration officials know that their ability to control the speech of Nigerians has been hampered by global communications, represented by the social media.

They have been seeking ways to limit freedoms but have not been able to figure out exactly how to stop Nigerians from speaking to the outside world.

The president’s men must stop the idiocy of fighting a medium that the former US President had fought unsuccessfully

The #EndSARS protest of 2020 further convinced the government the power that the government has often had is no longer there. Twitter was the platform on which the movement was executed.

For three years, Buhari’s political brigade has been guiding two dangerous laws through proxies in the legislature, which if passed into law, could turn Nigeria into a wasteland of democracy. The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill and the National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speech Bill were meant to turn Nigerians into zombies.

The bills were intended to curtail the freedom of speech, the same way Buhari tried to muscle Twitter into submission.

But who would tell Buhari it is no longer 1984? 1984 is not just the year in George Orwell’s book when human freedom was under assault, but a year when General Buhari actually placed Nigerians under his jackboot by severely restricting their rights.

He may have repented of his authoritarian trademark as a solider, but Buhari is behaving true to type as an intolerant and arrogant leader elected to power.

Nigerians need to resist the Buhari administration now, because the future of our democracy, our common decency and the protection of freedoms and rights lie in the ability to resist.

The fact that many Nigerian individuals and organizations are transacting messages on Twitter as if the Buhari administration is a fly is commendable. They are holding their ground against tyranny and oppression.

Our problems were not created by Twitter and will not be solved by Twitter; and the failure of governance cannot be blamed on any social medium

The ban has no force of law, is against the principles of our constitution and ought to be challenged in the court.

Citizens have a responsibility to disregard the orders of a bad leader. In fact, it is the highest duty of man to do what is right in the face of oppression and bad governance. Acquiescing to the Twitter ban would be a big loss of freedom and the democratic culture that Nigeria needs.

The defiance of the ban by the leaders of two of Nigeria’s biggest churches is instructive. It is a time to rally round all institutions that would stand up against this brute force to vacuum Nigerians’ freedom of speech.

Twitter is just a tool for the transmission of our thoughts; it is does not have any corrupting influence on our minds.

Twitter is not Boko Haram, IPOB, Miyetti Allah nor the sponsor of Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu.

Twitter has become our living room, town hall, town centre, beer parlour and barbershop.

It is where humans gather to exchange information and share views and ideas.

The ban on Twitter is a ban on our gatherings and an assault on our basic freedoms.

We must resist any attempt in 2021 by any leader to take us back to the experiences under military rule.

Our problems were not created by Twitter and will not be solved by Twitter; and the failure of governance cannot be blamed on any social medium.

An irresponsible government blames others for problems it is unable to tackle.

The advisers of President Buhari owe him a favour – to advise him honestly.

Part of that favor is to do a good analysis of why Nigeria is in such a mess, and proffer solutions to bring Nigeria back to where it was when their boss was given the job in 2015. If he can’t fix the problem, he can at least take us back to where he found us, which was much better than where we are today.

If President Buhari would be made to look closely in the mirror, he would see he is the solution.

When he gets better at his job, Nigeria will become a better place to live. When Nigeria becomes what it should be, Twitter will mirror the satisfaction of Nigerians.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.