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#Twitterban: Nigerian leaders do not believe in Nigeria by Abimbola Adelakun


Abimbola Adelakun

Until recently, I had believed that the biggest threat to Nigeria’s corporate existence was hunger. Following the shenanigans of the past week when the regime of Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) banned Twitter because he got his feathers ruffled, I concluded that the trouble with Nigeria is that our leaders are a collective of anti-social elites who have zero faith in the country’s prospects. They do not expect that Nigeria can ever thrive, so they do not put effort into building up the nation. Even worse, this unimaginative leadership class frequently and mindlessly pull down the organic initiatives Nigerians pull together to expand their chances of survival.

They are not only that cynical, they also do not even see a future for Nigeria. That is why their administrative comportment is always incoherent. There is no organising vision that drives their bureaucratic conduct; they just stumble through decisions. Since 2015, they have serially demonstrated that they do not believe the country can make it, and that lack of faith is why they keep undermining Nigeria’s potential. Do not let them deceive you that Nigeria’s corporate existence is threatened by external forces or “big tech” as professional Buharists are busy parroting all over the place. No, the people who systematically destroy Nigeria are none other than those appointed to lead it.

Just like that, they yanked off Twitter without even thinking about the consequences for the thousands of young Nigerians and small-scale businesses that make their living off that platform. They did not even stop to think of what the ban might mean to Nigerians who gather on that site. They take no care for the things that matter to you as a means of survival. Their perennial myopia will not let them acknowledge how much this tool had been imbricated into the structures of the social, economic, and political life before banning it. Nigeria’s global reputation did not even factor in their decision.

Social media has long been their convenient scapegoat, the demon they fabricated to distract from their gross incompetence. Such emotional manipulation is an old trick from dictators’ playbooks. To divert attention from your failures, redirect people’s energies towards an external enemy. You will galvanise their primal energies and also make them believe that what they are feeling is patriotism. Just announce that the fight is a matter of national pride, and you can be sure that some lemmings will agree to happily die with a Nigerian flag wrapped around their starving bodies. Currently, Nigeria’s economic indices and quality of life are at the worst ebb in decades. What better way could they have conjured to make people overlook their administrative incompetence?

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Recently, 136 children were kidnapped in Niger State by gunmen. You watch the videos of their parents wailing, and your heart breaks into pieces. These people do not want you to see that because it is yet another stark reminder of their failures, so they turn Twitter into a smokescreen. Just last Thursday, 88 people were killed in Kebbi State by bandits. That should have been enough to declare a state of emergency, but, no, our enemy is Twitter. On Saturday, while Nigerian leaders were busy hunching their shoulders against Twitter, about 20 people were massacred in Igangan, Oyo State. The videos of those attacks were horrible to watch. On Sunday, not less than 27 mourners were mowed down by bandits in Odugbeho, Agatu LGA of Benue State. Rounding off the weekend’s orgy of blood, 30 people were butchered in Askawa and Gidan Dannunu villages in Zurmu LGA, Zamfara State. All these do not even exhaust the degree to which Nigeria is currently bleeding. Rather than our leaders develop some shame, they outsource the blame. How many of those murders were organised on Twitter?

Let us get it right: Twitter did not say Buhari should not have been stern in his response to the crisis in the South-East. The issue was his language choice. It was the same reason they flagged Donald Trump when he made similar threats against those who were looting shops during the Black Lives Matter protests. Because we live in times when political leaders can speak unfiltered through social media, some of them tend to forget that political authority has a language of its own. They call that language “responsibility.” If a leader does not have self-restraint, a corporate organisation should exercise its corporate social responsibility by checking them.

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Organisations like Twitter have the duty to remind leaders that they embody the machinery of political power, and threatening people on social media can propel your foot soldiers to enact brutality on innocent folks. You may have freedom of speech as a leader, but you also have a moral duty to mind your language. It is frustrating that, in challenging which speeches are allowed on Twitter, these jokers compared themselves to IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu. Such poor sense of self-awareness that makes government agents imagine the weight of their responsibility and that a rabble-rouser like Kanu as coeval is quite telling. We are dealing with people who do not think that the entity they manage, Nigeria, is crucial enough to stimulate their sense of diligence and mental engagement.

Instead of hastily moving against Twitter, why not petition them properly? Deliberation is still an integral part of democratic culture. Twitter has more than 350 million monthly subscribers, and they do not know you personally. Their regulation mechanisms rely on public reporting. When people report people, they review posts to make decisions. Those who do the review might not be fully conversant with Nigeria’s history or nuances. What Nigeria should have done was to insist that Twitter employs Nigerians to undertake such tasks. Why go directly to ban? Does this regime have any other ideas about social management other than banning everything and punishing people? Which of their bans has ever produced anything worthwhile? They lack faith in Nigeria’s prospects, and that is why their instincts are never geared towards nurturing and building anything formidable. The only thing they know how to do is destroy.

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Finally, I must register my disappointment with the Association of Licensed Telecommunication Operators of Nigeria for meekly complying with the directives of the Nigerian Communications Commission to suspend public access to Twitter. ALTON’s decision shows not only moral cowardice but also a poor apprehension of their place as part of the fourth estate of the realm, with the concomitant duty to maintain Nigeria’s democratic structures. They could have stood up for democracy, rather than capitulate to the whims of anti-democratic elements in government.

How did it happen that nobody in their entire association had as much gumption to say, “Hold on, let us take this matter to the court and see what the law has to say?” I assume that the ALTON president, Gbenga Adebayo, who announced their decision to comply with the government order can recall that General Sani Abacha banned Radio Kudirat for exactly the same reasons the Buhari regime is advancing for banning Twitter today. If Adebayo does not remember, he should ask Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State for a quick history lesson. Fayemi was one of the rebels who ran Radio Kudirat from exile. Ironically, today, the same Fayemi is a part of the clique of politicians banning Twitter. Yesterday’s radicals are today’s oppressors. Such is life.

Thanks to all the Nigerians standing their ground in this very dark phase of the country’s history. I never thought the day would come that tweeting will be an act of resistance, but here we are. I hope the Nigerian broadcast stations also defy the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation’s DG, Armstrong Idachaba, who asked them to deactivate their Twitter accounts to demonstrate their patriotism. What are we? A communist country? Who is even Idachaba to define patriotism? He must imagine himself as a Kremlin bureaucrat. He should be ignored. If they comply with a rule that has no legal bearing, they will delegitimise themselves forever.