Twitter’s suspension: The slide into tyranny

The National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity) is appalled by the news that the Federal Government of Nigeria has suspended the operations of the microblogging social media platform, Twitter in Nigeria. In similar bizarre manner; it also directed the Nigeria Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to commence the licensing of ‘Over the Top’ (OTT) and other social media platforms in the country.

The government had explained that its decision to suspend Twitter was “because of the persistent use of Twitter for activities that were capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence”.

We condemn this decision in its entirety as this latest development sadly buttresses the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government‘s trademark predilection for suppressing free speech, stifling the Nigerian civic space and trampling on the fundamental rights of Nigerians. 

Interestingly the statement from the Nigerian Government which attempted to justify the suspension raises several questions of logic, due process and respect for democratic ethos.

Firstly, we are invited to believe the absurd assertion that Twitter as a news platform is being used to undermine Nigeria’s corporate existence and the Nigerian government did nothing to checkmate the news platform and was only spurred into action by the legitimate deletion of an offensive tweet by the President’s Twitter handle. This is clearly ridiculous and would be a remarkable dereliction of duty if it were true. Of course the President’s tweet was offensive, insensitive and divisive, and the deletion was wholly deserved. One would have expected the Nigerian government to take up any issues it has with Twitter directly rather than drag the entire country into this personal vendetta like human shields.

Secondly, the precipitate nature of this suspension illustrates a habitual arrogance of power and misconception of the apparatus of the state as unanswerable tools for the promotion of personal agenda and private endeavours.

It is rather saddening that the Nigerian Government took this unconstitutional and thoughtless action without considering its adverse effect on the image of the country and the destructive implications for the ease of doing business, and, government’s continued abysmal disrespect for freedom of speech, due process, free enterprise and economic development.

This knee-jerk reaction by the government is a futile effort to suppress the debates that are necessary to interrogate our common existence as a nation, and a failure to accept that disagreements about the substance and process of that engagement, including criticism of the President’s recent inelegant and unhelpful contribution, are a necessary part of building a democratic culture.

Patriotism does not imply a requirement to supine obedience and servitude. Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy and any action that is inconsistent with democratic norms and principles would be resisted through legitimate actions.

The Nigerian government should immediately rescind its retrogressive step and abandon this futile and anti-democratic repression of dissent, including moves to gag Nigerians through the regulation of social media platforms by the NBC.

Abiola Owoaje
NAS Capoon

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