Lift the ban on Twitter

The recent ban on Twitter by the federal government and attempts to extend the same to Facebook is uncalled for and should be rejected by all lovers of democracy. The ban on Twitter was as a result of taking down President Muhammadu Buhari’s controversial post on insecurity. But should the presidency be “angered” by the actions of the American publisher he has no control over? Should his anger stand in the way of other citizens’ right to information and freedom of expression?

The ban on Twitter shows the federal government’s resentment for the media and free speech which is the fundamental principle of democracy. If we are really in democracy then freedom of expression and the right to information is non-negotiable. 

Even if the president’s perception about the media has not changed since 1984 when he promulgated Decree 4, his aides who are communication scholars should have told him how tragic it will be to gag the media in this jet age. 

The presidency should learn from other democratic countries that faced similar issues. For example, “former United States President Donald Trump was suspended indefinitely not only by Twitter but also by Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for his alleged role in the Capitol Hill insurrection on January 6, 2021. The American government didn’t order an indefinite suspension of these platforms simply because the most powerful man in the world had been taken off their platforms.

The insensitive decisions hastily taken by our political leaders have grave consequences on our economy and the manner foreign investors and the world look at us. Twitter the microblogging giant decided to locate its African headquarters in Ghana; reasons were that Ghana was ‘a champion for democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the open internet.’ We can only imagine the opportunities our youths have missed, despite having a larger Twitter population than Ghana.

Moreover, Twitter has been a source of livelihood for many social media influencers. Many young Nigerians have invested their time and money to build huge audiences on the Twitter platform and help advertise brands, goods, and services for different companies. This set of Nigerians has now joined the already impoverished ones roaming the street. The current unemployment rate, according to the National Bureau of Statistics is put at 33% which is one of the highest in the world. This ban has no doubt increased the unemployment rate.

 We urge the federal government to lift the suspension of Twitter. It doesn’t speak well of our democracy. It is not part of the tenets of any civil society. Nigerians should resist this act of dictatorship. We owe it to future generations to protect and secure an egalitarian society where freedom of speech and expression matters.

Hannah Joseph Smith, 

Mass Communication Department,

University of Maiduguri