Chinua Achebe once said, “We cannot trample upon the humanity of others without devaluing our own.”
What makes us human? It’s the ability to think for ourselves, draw up our own conclusions and express them freely. In Nigeria today, that fundamental aspect of our humanity has been trampled upon. To give this some context, let’s flashback to a few days ago.
Nigerian leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, posted a tweet from his Twitter handle saying, in part, “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
We need no pragmatic analysis to infer the threat heavily embedded in that utterance. The President as good as announced that there’ll be a civil war.
Naturally, the tweet generated significant uproar as many Nigerians took to their Twitter handle calling for the removal of such war-inciting comment.
Twitter chose to delete the tweet as it’s an abuse of its behavior policy. For good measure, it also suspended the president’s account, leaving it in a read-only mode for 12 hours.
The response? The Nigerian government cracked down on Twitter, outrightly banning its use in the country for an indefinite period. This move is eerily similar to that of North Korea, China, and Iran- regimes that curtail citizens’ freedom of expression.
The bearer of bad tidings, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed announced the suspension in a statement that will effectively restrict Nigerians from accessing the platform.
The reason? He cited the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
To all intents and purposes, this action smells like a reprisal attack on the role Twitter played during the Endsars movement, last year.
As of today, Saturday, June 5, many people in Nigeria could no longer access Twitter unless extra measures are taken to bypass the restriction.
As it stands now, there are denunciations against the government’s unpopular act and calls for the government to review its position.
Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, described it as a “petulant gesture” that is “unbecoming of a democratically elected president”.
“In any case, this is a technical problem Nigerians should be able to work their way around. The field of free expression remains wide open, free of any dictatorial spasms!” he added.
We can be sure that if the Literary giant, Chinua Achebe, were alive, he would have had a lot to say about this as well.
Apart from the gross abuse of fundamental human rights of Nigerian citizens, this ban brings several implications in its wake. Consider the following:
Repression of civic space
CIVICUS downgraded Nigeria’s civic space from obstructed to repressed, meaning that the nation’s civic space is significantly constrained.
Through this ban, Nigerians are being deprived of a safe haven where they can vent their feelings and dissatisfaction over unfavorable governmental policies. As to what will happen next, we can only shudder in apprehension.
Negative message to the international investment community
Earlier this year, Jack Dorsey, Founder of the social networking giant, Twitter took Nigerians by surprise with his move to launch an office in Ghana.
Per Punch, foreign investors withdrew N39.05bn in February, up from N30.79bn in January, while foreign outflow fell to N9.82bn in April from N20.28bn in March.
In the space of two months, the total amount of foreign transactions decreased by 31.05% from N40.64bn (about $99.70m) in March to N28.02bn (about $68.31m) in April. Additionally, analysts said the total value of foreign involvement in April was the lowest in four years.
From the foregoing, the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria is but one of the series of negative messages Nigeria is sending to foreign investors and the international community at large with costly consequences.
Zero trusts in policies and policymakers
Trust is a very scarce commodity in Nigeria as far as the citizens and the government are concerned. Before now, lawmakers and their policies are viewed with no small amount of suspicion.
With this newest power move, is it still unclear that Nigerians are living under a reign of terror where their voices and their needs do not count? I think not!
Loss of income for online traders
In recent years, Twitter has been the go-to platform for small-time businesses to hustle. To survive, many would have to take their businesses to other online platforms or incur extra costs to circumvent the restriction of access to Twitter.
There’s no doubt that supporting the growth of Nigeria’s informal economy is not a priority for the government.
Don’t miss important articles during the week. Subscribe to techbuild weekly digest for updates.