Opinion

Twitter ban and the unknown government

Once upon a time (as the conventional opening of a children’s story goes), Aisha Buhari, whose husband` told us that she “belongs to (his) kitchen and living room and the other room,” sneaked out of these rooms (like Cinderella), and warned us in a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) interview that her darling husband’s government has been hijacked from “the power room”.

Asked to name those who had committed this horrendous national and democratic misdemeanor, and turned our dear president into a figurehead, she retorted, “You will know them if you watch television.” If… From the days of this remark until now the nation of Nigeria suffers hijacking of power and the hijackers of power take their spoils by force. And we keep watching them on television. Like watched them undertake the tyrannical banning of Twitter.

Through watching television we now know those who have taken power hostage. We may not know all of them but certainly the man who posted the tweet on behalf of the president (I mean the tweet that Twitter deleted) is presumed guilty until proven otherwise.

He set up the chain reaction which led to this current national dance of shame. You would remember that after this Aisha Buhari’s warning, the social media platform, Twitter, provided the arena for the emotive discussions which attended her remark. Now it appears that the hijackers of power have a memory like the fictional character “Shehu” in Cyprian Ekwensi’s, “Passport of Mallam Ilia.” Shehu was said to have a vengeful memory like an elephant – he never forgave and he never forgot. Most hijackers of power are like that.

They may have been miffed that Twitter did not allow the remark to rest in the kitchen, the living room and the other room. Now they have taken their pound of flesh. The hijackers of power are behaving like the man who set his seat on the fire in the cinema hall and ran out screaming “Fire! Fire! Fire!!!” Any one who is as close to Buhari as I am (I see him on television from time to time) will tell you that he does not have the time or temperament to sit down, browse the internet and post tiny little bits of threats on Twitter or on the internet. “Wetting concern our president with Internet”! Someone took advantage of our having an unknown government run by hijackers to post his thought to Twitter as the president’s post.

Not a terribly bad thing, since in every government you have people paid by the taxpayer’s money to put all kinds of words in the president’s mouth. When Twitter queried the post and deleted it, the unknown poster was evidently upset and next comes the charade of a ban by the cabal who have hijacked power. You may have heard of the name of Abubakar Malami. Though you would not have missed much if you have never heard of him.

He may be one of them. He is a very good charge-and-bail lawyer who, as a justification that wonders would never cease, ended up as the Minister for Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. You would have expected him to advise the powers that be that such action could not be undertaken without an act of parliament, right? Wrong. Charge-and-bail lawyers specialize in bail cases – they are not too versed in democratic matters. You would also have expected him to be concerned about the violation of the rights of Nigerians who use Twitter for commercial purposes. To be concerned about Nigerians who use Twitter for networking in the light of the Corona Virus pandemic.

But poor Malami is doing his best within his level of skill and knowledge, and you must understand that there are three sorts of able lawyers – the able, the unable and the lamentable. Most government lawyers belong to the last category. Now the lamentable lawyers are threatening to sue Nigerians who have defied the Twitter ban and are still using Twitter. Did the ban stop Nigerians from using Twitter or it banned Twitter from operating in Nigeria? If I tweet from my bedroom to my wife that “I love her” how would that constitute a ground for criminal prosecution? What law would I have broken? By the way are laws not supposed to be made by the National Assembly?

Or is our dear president and his cohorts now making laws from the kitchen, living room and the other room? One would surely be interested in hearing how Malami would argue the case in court that a man tweeted to his wife in America that he loves his wife and should go to jail for it. Now you see why the Buhari administration had always come up with policies which resemble an oily paper parcel wrapped in driving rain – porous, unreasonable and ineffective. The government is leaving the substance and attacking the shadow. Twitter is the lengthened shadow of public thought.

Banning it does not stop Nigerians from thinking. Twitter did not only delete many of Donald Trump’s tweets when he was the president of the United States of America, it eventually banned it from its platform. Yet the American government did not ban Twitter. That the Federal Government could take such an irrational decision and jeopardize the corporate and private interests of Nigerians who make gains from the platform daily is a sobering indication that the power has been hijacked by persons who did not take the oath of office to do good to all manners of people. Like someone pointed out, we have two problems in Nigeria – the unknown government (ever since this brouhaha, the president has not personally made any direct statement – only one Garba Shehu has been spitting sawdust and brimstone) and the unknown gunman. Between the two, the more dangerous is the unknown government.

 

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